Author: Chrissy Prydun,
GPS: S15.186;24.324, E028.86;18.307,
Total Distance: 16961 KM
Weather: It's usually sunny during the day or overcast and most days end with an afternoon storm.
Daily travel (route, road conditions): None
Since resting up here in the guesthouse at the Harhoff's, waiting for Col's pressure sores to heal up, we have slowly run out of things to do and Col has amazingly kept it together having rested up for his 8th day staring at the cracks on the ceiling. In any normal circumstance you would expect people to complain of boredom and go to sleep. Ok, so there have been moments when the guys have found the tedium a little aggravating but have quickly diverted their attention to something new to do to pass the time. Be it, clean the vehicles, take a drive to hang off a rock in the coffee plantation's nearby rapid's with a bungee rope, take a spin in Col's off road chair or spend a day in a cupboard. A what? You ask. Yep, this is no ordinary expedition team and Ben forever with a motor on his arse, thought it would be an ingenious plan to see if he could spend an entire restless day in the cupboard in the room where Col and I have been squatting on the floor like refugees.
At 10am on the dot he walked into the confines of his prison (a 100x60x200cm cell) armed with a book on expedition medicine, his water bottle, a floor mat and an empty bottle of gin which he would urinate into for the day and which I would dispose of on frequent trips to the loo to empty Col's leg bag. He also had the pleasure of Col's company, grinning inanely at him from his mattress on the floor, to keep him from going insane.
Obviously Ben would have to hold any pending number two's for the day as I assured him I would not be helping him dispose of those!! What's more, since it wasn't Col's routine day I thought it would be an ideal time to re-enact Woody's wheelchair challenge from the day before.
Yesterday Woody had spent an entire day in Col's wheelchair and after I too had assured him I would not be helping toilet him, the only time he got up for the entire day from the wheelchair was when he had to use the toilet. The day came to an end when a typically ravenous woody realised from his position on the chair it was too difficult to serve himself the delicious dinner that Kikes had prepared and left out for him when everyone went to bed. Miracles do happen!
Kiko had similarly spent an evening in the wheelchair a few days before. What's more she had acted as Vanessa's carer for the evening, helping push her around the place which was all the more amusing considering that it was pouring with rain and the two of them in their wheelchairs had indulged in more than a couple of alcoholic beverages!
While Ben spent the day in the cupboard, I thought I would take up the wheelchair challenge myself. I set myself the rules immediately upon crawling out of bed. I was allowed to use my arms to drag myself around on the floor (easy since Col was lying on a mattress on the floor) and get myself into and out of the wheelchair. I also was allowed to use my knees to weight-bear whenever I had to turn Col for pressure relief. Otherwise I would have to spend the entire day in the chair and went to the point of using my arms to transfer myself from the chair to the toilet and tying my legs together with straps and Kikoys so I could really make things more challenging.
Ironically, the day seemed atypically longer for Col probably because a fidgety, restless Ben sitting opposite him was finding that time was passing so slowly and counting down the hours methodically. I on the other hand was finding that time was flying by because simple tasks were taking forever to complete. A simple cup of tea would take ages to prepare. First I had to wheel around collecting empty cups scattered around the house. Secondly I had to wheel to the kitchen and find someone to fill up the kettle and put it on the hob on the back of the Defender. It was either this or fill it up myself but then I would have to get someone to help push me back up the big step to get into the house after the water was boiled. Wheeling with cups of hot tea was a bad idea and could only be achieved with someone's help or otherwise I would have to make round trips to the kitchen to pick them up one at a time, using my spare hand to wheel. I would pass Ben his eagerly anticipated mug as any event that would distract him from his position in the cupboard would be greatly appreciated. I would then park up the chair, put Col's tea on the floor and drag myself across the mattress to give it to him. Moreover, once the diuretic effects of the tea set in, the inevitable would happen. Col's leg bag would need emptying shortly afterwards as would Ben's gin bottle. I would then wheel to the toilet with the two bottles of urine, empty them and then transfer myself to the loo to take advantage of the trip.
Besides acquiring a set of tighter biceps, the day brought with it mixed feelings. Of course at times it felt like a toy and the novelty of whizzing around the house never fully wore off. I also sensed accomplishment from little things like devising a system of sweeping the floor by wedging a broom in between my knees and then wheeling the chair forwards. The time I managed to push myself up the kitchen step (I had previously needed help on) was a great feeling and I cheered as though I had won some big race, hereafter stubbornly refusing anyone's help, even if they would be standing behind me itching to pass by me busting to go to the loo.
The most frustrating part of the day was feeling a bit useless. Although, I felt I completed anything I, Col or Ben needed successfully in due time without frustration, I felt pretty useless to the rest of the team and sensed the frustration Col has felt before on the expedition due to the fact he can't help us do things like cook, set up camp etc. I believe this is why his role as chief driver is so important. I remember one time I wanted to clean the dishes after another delicious dinner our Mummy Matthews had stormed up from us, but after polishing off desert, making a trip to the loo on Col and Ben's behalf and wheeling over to the kitchen, the others had all but nearly completed the job, telling me not to bother at that point. Overall it certainly made me appreciate the patience and perseverance of people like Col, Vanessa, friends Luke, Davey and Milun and other people I have worked for or met who have spinal injuries.
At 10pm, a whole 12hours after jumping into the chair, our combined cupboard/wheelchair challenge would end. To celebrate I ran about the place, making multiple trips around the house doing a bunch of useless errands until I got the ants out of my pants. At this point I expected partner in crime Ben to practically barrel out of the cupboard in eager expectation. He almost did, but then as that trademark grin spread across his face you could see another idea formulating. He would resist the urge to end the challenge. Rather he would climb the shelves to the top of the cupboard and spend the night sleeping in there. He was now confined to a slightly wider, equally uncomfortable rectangular space in which we heard him tossing and turning all night in his attempts to get some shut eye. Since 10am the following morning we haven't heard him stop. He has been a ball of hyperactivity from here on in. I can hear him now, currently whizzing around in Col's offroad wheelchair at top speeds.
Ben said that his challenge was probably a daft thing to do and something he wouldn't do again but what he gained was a much greater appreciation of Col's tolerance. The fact that Ben found it so difficult spending 24hours in a 'tight' space has made him appreciate days on end where Col has simply had to lie on the floor staring at the ceiling. As an aside he also learnt one more important lesson that day: that care should be taken when peeing into a bottle in confined spaces!! On the same note I learnt that care should be taken to ensure the bottle-top has been securely tightened, before offering to transport other people's bottles of urine, whilst attempting to transport oneself in a wheelchair!