'Who are you, what are you asking me, and why do you need to know?'
Once our demonstrations were done the craft was packed up and put on a truck for the 100 kilometre journey to Worri, another big oil town to the north west. Now 100k isn’t very far, so I was surprised when I was told we would stop overnight along the way – two days to do 60 miles? As soon as we got on the road in Ram’s car, I understood. It was a single lane road, full of potholes, jammed with traffic. After a few hours of slow progress, things just ground to a halt. After an interminable wait, the reason for the delay became clear. For several hundred yards ahead, the potholed road had been completely washed away and the result was a quagmire, a battle field of stranded vehicles, with overturned trucks and abandoned cars partially blocking any route through. A gang of blokes hung around the edge, demanding money to push vehicles through. If you didn’t pay, you caused more hold up as things got heated. If you did pay, there was no guarantee of getting through. Chaos.
Eventually it was our turn. We stood at the edge of the crumbling tarmac, facing the brown morass, surrounded by threatening, impatient men. Sunny, our driver, had the window down and appeared to be negotiating genially with them. After a short while, an agreement appeared to have been reached and the gang started drifting around the back of the car. Suddenly, without warning, Sunny floored it. The big, stately Peugeot shot forward, down the muddy slope. Angry voices shouted behind us as the gang of men made chase, desperate to touch the car and be able to say they had pushed. If we stop, I thought, this could get nasty. To his credit, Sunny kept the car going. We slalomed through the littered vehicles and big muddy puddles and slithered up the opposite slope. We were going to make it! The gang started to drop back and give up. But there was no escape. As soon as we were on tarmac on the other side we were back in a traffic jam again.