. . . LAND ROVER OVERLAND EXPEDITION

. . . AROUND THE WORLD 2001/02
     
Home
Africa 1999
Around-the-World 2001/02
 

The Team

Jeff Willner
1. Start: Recipe for Adventure
2. Zimbabwe: Hyperinflation
3. Namibia: Southern Circuit
4. South Africa: Circuit 2
5. Zambia/Malawi: Sketches
7. Kenya: Bandit Country
8. Ethiopia: Diary
9. Ethiopia: Border Run
10. Sudan: Across the Sahara
11. Egypt: Cape to Cairo
12. Jordan/Syria: Sept. 11th
13. Turkey: Hospitality
14. Bulgaria/Romania/ Hungary
15. Slovakia/Austria/Poland
16. The Baltics & Russia
17. Scandinavia
18. Western Europe
19. Brazil: Clearning Customs
20. Argentina: Revolution
21. Argentina: To Ushuaia
22. Patagonia Disaster
23. Buenos Aires Beautiful
24. Uruguay: Beaches
25. Chile: Expedition Life
26. Bolivia: Atacama
27. Peru: Transit
28. Galapagos: Gorgeous
29. Ecuador: Jungle Run
30. Knifepoint
31. Dubai: Lay over
32. Singapore/Malaysia
33. Thailand: Hospitality
34. Cambodia: Ankor Wat
35. Vietnam: Hanoi & Halong
36. Laos: Back to Basics
37. China: Beijing Tour
38. China: Shanxi
39. China: Western Province
40. China: Tibet
41: Nepal: Mountains
42. India: Driving Struggle
43. Pakistan: Dodging War
44. Iran: Overcharging
45. End: One Last Laugh

Sally DeFina
1. Cape Town: Robben Island
2. Zanzibar: Mike & I
3. Kenya: African Driving School
4. Sudan: Mud Crossing
5. Patagonia: Goodbye Max
6. Malaysia: Mike Update
7. Thailand: Ko Phangan
8. Cambodia: Phnom Penh
9. Vietnam: By Train
10. Laos: Vang Vieng
11. China: Meet Mr. Chen

Jody Finver
1. Start: Surreal Solipse
2. Great Zimbabwe
3. Brokedown in Kenyan Desert
4. Egypt: So Should I Hyphenate
5. Poland: Home is Where the Truck Is

Gulin Akoz
1. Start: Bits and Pieces
2. Zambia: Diaries
3. Egypt: Africa Memories
4. Turkey: For Your Information
5. The Team and The Bean
6. Somebody Else's Child
7. On My Own
8. Long Lost Memories of Childhood
9. The Tree and the Boy
10. Jealous
11. The Aftermath

 

Panamerican 2003
Various Trips
Planning an Expedition

 

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#11 - The Aftermath
Gulin Akoz, Jan. '01

The anatomy of an accident

As we started rolling, neither did my life flash before my eyes nor did I start praying. All I could think of was “What’s going on?” and a voice inside screamed “NOOOOOOOOO!”

Then there was silence…
---------------

As the tremor came to a stop, it was as if my mind had stopped as well. I could see the pool of blood right in front of my eyes, but it simply didn’t mean anything!

Blood keeps on dripping from some place…

Jody’s voice makes me wake up from the dream. “Gulin, are you okay?” “Yes, I’m okay.” Standing upside-down, jammed between the wheel, trapped by the seat-belt clutching tightly… my mind is trying to make something out of this. Then I see Jeff’s foot in front of me. Looks like it has come off.
“Jeeeeff! Jeff, are you okay?” “Jeff are you okay?” “Jeff are you okay?” Don’t remember how many times I gasped in horror before he feebly answered “Yes, I’m okay.” Does not sound true… I move his foot to check…. it moves but still I cannot tell if it is intact in it’s place or not.

Jody is out… She comes and asks again if I’m okay. Yes, but I’m stuck. “We got to get you out of there.” She somehow takes the seat belt off. I crawl out of the window which does not have a glass anymore. Jeff is out, too. I should be glad that we are all alive and one piece but I’m still not over the first shock. I can feel the blood in my eyes and face but who cares? All I can do is keep repeating over and over again “I’m sorry Jeff” like a broken record.

Everything was going to be so good and I ruined it!
“It’s only money” says Jeff.
“No, it’s not only money, you know that.”
“Plans are going to change, that’s all.”
No, that’s not all. We had dreams, we don’t any more…
I ruined everything.

I can’t even cry…

We’re in No Man’s Land, in between the Chili and Argentina border. Jody went to get help. Jeff tries to give me his jacket “I am cold, you must be freezing.” Yes, he is right but I don’t want it. I don’t want nothing but just to sit where I am, next to truck, and stay there forever.

“I’m afraid gasoline might start leaking. So we’d better get our stuff out before it does.” He is right. This is no time to repent. That can be left for later on. What’s done is done. Now is the time to take action and if possible be a part of the solution instead of causing more trouble. Reluctantly I force myself to get up and we start throwing things randomly into the bags we pull out from the wreck.

“All the tour guides in Africa turn Land Rovers over.”
“What do I care about other people? It shouldn’t have happened to me!” I think to myself but don’t put it into words. (now, as I am writing these lines, I ask to myself “Why shouldn’t it have happened to me?” but that question has no answer… just as that moment did not have any rationality.
“Land Rover’s are designed to roll over.”
What do I care?!!

Jody is back with an Israili group. They take us to the Argentina border. While the nurse is putting something on my wounds for it not to infect, from the room inside I hear Jeff asking if we could find a truck to tow our car. Huh???!! I thought we would just leave it there... that everything was over. They tell me to stay, but no, I’m the one responsible. I will go.

The merciless wind has not stopped. Five strong men struggle. Max does not want to move. Just like me, he wants to be left alone where he is. He turns out to be more stubborn than me. He resists with determination until finally the men give up.

Back at the border once again… Jeff says “You need to clean that blood.” He is right. But it has dried up. I first wash my face. It’s not that easy with my arm. I jerk it back the moment I hold it under the water. I look to see what is going on. There’s a small piece of glass in the skin. Jody says “We need tweezers.” Somebody goes and finds one. As the nurse is moving towards me with tweezers in hand, I stop him and say “I’ll do it.” And I don’t want the tweezers. Carefully and slowly I take the treacherous glass piece out. Jody asks “You want to keep this as a souvenir?” I shake my head “no” with a bitter smile.

I clean the blood with a wet towel. I then can examine the wounds. There are a couple of small but deep cuts.
“You think it will need stitches?”
“No, but we’ll put a bandage on it so that it won’t scar,” says Jeff
“It’s going to scar in any case.”
“But if you do it like this, it will scar less.”

They found a tractor to tow Max. Jeff again tells me to stay. This time I don’t object. I’m of no use anyway.

Jody takes a shower. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea for me with these cuts but I take a shower as well. Yes, water is always good. As I come out, Jeff is back. He takes a shower, too.

There’s nothing else to do now but wait.

How I wish I could go back in time…
Wish I could go back and replay…
There is no replay. Life is a one-way street.

My mind does it. I go back and replay. I take the curve more slowly, we again slide but come to a halt safely.

I rewind once more… A second replay… This time there’s a different scenario. Jeff’s leg has come off, or…or… NO! I don’t want to even think about it… what could have happened. How would I have gone on living with such a heavy burden?

I can understand people who have had a disastrous accident, losing their faith. Would I have lost mine as well? Would I have questioned God?

“There must be something that God wants to teach, there must be something He knows!” keeps going on in my mind. I believe there’s a purpose for everything. And that there is good in everything even if we may not recognize it. Is that a lie that I make up to comfort myself?

‘Always look on the bright side of life…’ I try to sing to myself.

My stories are my own enemies now. I keep remembering what I wrote “Winter never fails to turn into spring.” It doesn’t seem to be true.

I sit in a corner and shed silent tears for about an hour. Fernando (one of the soldiers) comes over and says “Don’t cry any more. Nobody is hurt, you are all okay.” Then Jeff comes and says “I’m going to change the body and get myself a blue one.”

It’s midnight. They’re preparing dinner. Jeff says “Even if you’re not going to eat, come sit at the table so that these people can feel that they are being good hosts.” He is right again! (I now apprehend how good it is to have someone who can tell you what you need to do at times like this.) I look at the big plate of meat on the table unappetizingly. “I’ll get a piece on my plate and play with it.” I think to myself. Of course I cannot say no when Fabio puts a piece on my plate and cuts it for me… himmm… it’s so tasty.

Everybody is in bed now. I look out the window. An endless prairie stretches beyond the horizon… it’s raining.

I sit opposite the fireplace and gaze at the fire with empty eyes.

Finally, even though I know I won’t be able to sleep I get in my sleeping bag. My leg hurts. I must have bumped it somewhere. I turn around… That hurts as well. Turn the other way… nopes… I have bruises all over my body. It takes a while to find a position where my arms and body is comfortable enough.

In the morning as I wake up, not a nightmare but the accident goes through my mind… how it happened. Jeff said “Don’t turn the wheel so much” and I spun the wheel around!!! What an idiot?!! As if he did not say the opposite!! How stupid am I?! Oh, but wait a second… No! That’s not my stupidity. That’s how the mind works. The mind does not take negative orders. It does not create an image and then put a cross over it. I had read it in a book. If you tell someone not to think of a pink rabbit, he will. A motorcyclist couple doing a round-the-world tour for 5 years said “On the motorcycle, if you tell yourself ‘Don’t tense up’, you will. Instead you have to say ‘Relax.’” Now I know that for a fact. But I cannot tell this to Jeff. If I do, he will think I’m blaming it on him although he very well knows that I accept life as it is. Things happen. If something’s meant to be, it will. We have a saying in Turkish, “The blood that’s going to shed, won’t stay in the veins.” I don’t care about anything as long as no permanent damage is done to health. As long as no permanent damage is done… life goes on. There is no guilty party.

It’s easy to accept things as they are when I am the only one involved, not so easy in this case. I am guilty!

Can I ever learn to forgive myself?

At the hotel, listing the things to be done Jeff asks if I am sore. I answer “Why should I be sore?”
I lied…
He says he is sore.
The correct answer is “You have the right to be sore, I don’t.”
If I were blaming him, I wouldn’t have thought that way.

At midday, I can make jokes about the accident.
Jeff did not like my US army backpack because it had lots of metal stuff on it. As I was packing I saw one of the soldiers looking at it admiringly and said “I can leave it to you if you like it.” He gladly accepted it and I went in to break the news to Jeff.
“I gave the backpack away! So that’s why we had the accident!” :)

I missed the excitement In Buenos Aires so I created my own adventure!

You are not considered to know how to ride a horse before you fall off of it, you won’t have learnt to drive before you turn a Land Rover over!

Who am I kidding but myself?.. I’m just trying to disguise the pain.

Jeff says there are big bruises on his body. I ask “Can I see them?” No. He doesn’t let me look at it. At night when he is cleaning his foot I go, stand and wait there to see if there is anything I can do. He says “I’m going to go to the toilet, so you have to leave now.” He is not going to let me do something so that I will feel some kind of comfort. It is worse not to know and to feel helpless. But I am helpless... There’s nothing I can do about it. So I just go out and wander in the streets…

Back at the hotel room, sitting down next to the bed, this time my tears turn into sobs.

I hurt… I hurt deep inside.

But you got to feel the pain to your bones before it can go away.

I need someone so bad. I need to know someone is there. Someone to just hold my hand. And all my friends and all the people I love are on the other side of the world.

I’m not so self-possessed as Jeff. Or rather I don’t feel the need to show it like that. I’m not a poser. I need someone, someone to hold my hand. I need to feel that someone is there. Jeff has Jody. I have no one. Jody has Jeff. Actually Jody doesn’t need anybody, she is the uninvolved party in this accident, she was telling merrily how she had the wind in her face walking to find help and that she got adrenalin.

I’m all alone!.. Being alone is hard work, only meant for God. What’s worse is that I am addicted to people. What’s the point of going on like this with the trip? Without a friend… Torturing myself… I really, desperately need someone.

Does that mean I can’t do it on my own? Yes, I can! And I will! It’s going to be hard. That’s all. But hard is good, makes you a man!

That’s true… yet easy is better :)

Time is the best medicine they say. And whether we like it or not, sometimes minutes may seem faster sometimes slower, but time goes by at the same pace as always. The pain will grow less in time… And some day, because nothing serious happened to nobody, these will definitely (not maybe!) be the best of times.

When I’m old and wise, I’ll think back and I’ll remember all the things I’ve done, all the foolish things I have done. I will remember the sorrows, I will remember the joy. I will feel the same pain again, over again, some with the same intensity, others not.

A warm smile on my lips…

====================

Before I started this trip I was thinking of a name for the book I was going to write afterwards. I found so many… summed and subtracted, weighed it emptied it, turned it over this way then the other, and at long last decided on “The Trails in My Palm.” See, I was doing a round-the-world tour and the world was going to be in my hand. Furthermore, I believe life is a journey in itself. You take one road, it leads to another, sometimes the roads meet, a slightly different turn takes you somewhere completely different, to a place where you had never planned to go, or never could have dreamed to go. I look in my palm and see that journey. Besides, don’t they read your fortune from those trails?!

The cuts on my hand
Are the brush strokes of fate...
Just like the trails in my palm.

Sometimes… when fate is tired,
He misspells the word
And trail becomes trial.

Starting this trip I had never calculated there would be trials. It was supposed to be all fun!

But that’s okay… as time bleaches the colors of pain, I smile at the wise old lady of the future :)

Copyright January 1999-2011
All rights reserved - Jeff Willner
Contact: jeffwillner@yahoo.com