At 6 AM I finally surrendered to my insomnia and got up. It was quiet at the perfect chance to sneak out in the dimly lit dew with my pint sized new testament. I "washed" my face with an antibacterial wipe and set out towards the guest house porch. When I arrived at the front door I found it was locked and there was no key near by. Essentially I was locked in. We were all locked in (the man in charge had the key).
I instead opened one of the two windows in the small room by the door. The heavily screened window allowed just enough light for me to read the first few chapters of Hebrews. Since the generator was not on their was no opportunity to flip a light switch.
I am not a morning person but there is a stillness in the early morning that I quite appreciate when I am awake to appreciate it.
The calmness was soon interrupted by Carlos, one of our tip organizes, who ran through the hall singing a "Wake up, good morning", song. You won't find the lyrics of that song in the book "How to make friends and influence people."
By 800 our group of 20 was assembled on the front porch of the guest house, impressively only 30 minutes behind our original schedule. We passed around crackers and peanut butter and piled into our bus and a small taxi.
It took 1 1/2 hours until we reached the bridge, which was washed out, that would take us to the mountain. We climbed out of our vehicles, strapped on our backpacks, and waded over the river on a plank/log bridge. We then climbed a steep hill and made it to the bridges other side.
After some heated discussion on price, we arranged for four taxi's to take us to the top of the mountain, which was another 1 1/2 taxi ride.
We must have been stopped at least eight times. The UN/Liberian police seemed intent on making sure we did not reach the mountain. Our theme song, an adaptation from a Liberian radio classic, was "Nobody wants to see us on Nimba Mountain."
Our taxi's also had to pull over several times due to overheating or other mechanical malfunctions. (a side note, of the six people in my taxi, I was the only female. This occurrence is rarer than a simultaneous solar and lunar eclipse and I feel certain will never happen again during my Mercy Ship experience)
Finally, and I do mean finally, our taxi's could take us no further and we got out and hiked.
Mt. Nimba is Liberia's tallest peak and contains Iron Ore which was exported before the war. The mountain had lush, green steps carved into it's side and sat perched in front of a stunning green lake. The beauty was incredible. I felt like I was in an adventure magazine.
Most of the group planned on camping overnight, but I was on team turn around. We didn't want to camp so we turned around, took a taxi, and slept at the guest house in Ganta. There were many factors that influenced my decision to turn around and I am secure enough to say turning around was a beautiful experience.
Team turn around consisted of Dr. Russ, a retired eye surgeon, Vern, a Canadian plumber, Josh, a computer/IT guy, Becky, a fellow PICU nurse and kindred spirit, and myself. Quite the assortment of folk.
We drove the empty bus back to Ganta and enjoyed a lovely evening. I took a well appreciated bucket bath before heading for dinner at a local restaurant. Yea for rice and Coke in glass bottles.
That night we had a fire underneath a beautiful, starry African sky.
The next day we just hung out. We ate egg sandwiches, we crossed the Liberian border and went into Guinea, and we just enjoyed the general splendor of the African jungle. It was a lovely, relaxing day.
We waited to leave until our friends came safely back from the mountain. We left Ganta around 5 pm and made it to the ship by 11:30. We even sang a Kenny Rogers song during the taxi ride home.
The weekend was wonderful. It was so nice to get away from the ship and the constant pressure of living in a very structured environment. I was greasy, sleeping in mosquito netting, and taking bucket baths, but I felt more like myself then I had in a long time. You forget how little freedom you have when living on a ship. It felt great to be free.
The best part of the experience was simply being with other people. These kind of experience's force you to get to know those your traveling with. The fellowship and laughter was deeply appreciated.
It was totally worth going over 30 hours with no sleep.