By: Yusuf M Hasan
AWBARKADLE (Somalilandsun) – In Awbarkadle a couple of kilometers from Hargeisa on the Berbera Highway unemployed youths sit idle most of the year.
Come the rainy season the youths acquire a new aura bred by temporary employment thus flash bundles of cash earned in sweat as they heave and push vehicles whose drivers are inexperienced to attempt crossing the flooding valley a few metres from the Awbarkadle village.
Come the rainy season Khat sellers mostly women jump for their record books and start calculating how much credit so and so has consumed of Khat the almost precious commodity in Somaliland.
As the now affluent youths come out of the valley, their clothes muddied but pockets full after pulling one vehicle after another out of the floods that emanate as far as Arabsiyo the beaming Khat sellers summon the ones owing for immediate payment.
According to Abdilatif Kamal a 19 years resident of the village, the fortunes of the youths change from the idle broke to temporary affluent during the rainy seasons because of three factors:
• The Awbarkadle Village is situated on the heavily trafficked Hargeisa Berbera Highway and
• The village is home to a big valley that intersects the highway a few metres from the shopping centre that floods to waist height
• The impatience of naïve drivers
So come the rains and the valley is flooded thus holding the prudent drivers stuck on either side of the road sometimes spending as long as 12 consecutive hours awaiting the floods to recede to manageable levels.
In the wee hours of the morning and as the drivers of the assortment of personal , public and cargo etc vehicles at times over 60, keep their cool awaiting the floods to minimize their comes the Khat transporters with their precious cargo that must reach all the towns big and small within Sahil, Toghdeer, Sool and Sanaag regions in time.
The perpetual fast drivers take a minute’s glance at the flooded intersection the vehicles and people trapped on both sides and smile before jumping back to the driving seat, reverse and in flash of water they are on the other side.
This fantastic showmanship of driving skills and daring goes on for around an hour before our naïve driver and soon to be employer of the Awbarkadle youths decide to make a crossing go similar to that of the Khat vehicle drivers.
Despite admonishing and being entreated to wait a bit longer, our naïve drivers intent on impressing the now comrades in distress claim to have been former Khat drivers thus endowed with similar skills and Alas there they are smack in the middle of the valley with vehicle swerving left and right.
For the very unfortunate and number have been reported the waters sweep their vehicles and passengers down the valley at varying speeds that results in extensive damage to the vehicles, serious injuries to passengers and sometimes even in deaths.
For the naïve fortunate they end up stuck in the middle of with waters seeping into the vehicle thus exacerbating the agony of the very frightened passengers who can’t do nothing apart from sit tight and pray.
As soon as the water recedes to knee height there comes the Awbarkadle youths who are adept swimmers soliciting their help as human breakdowns thus a bounty in payment by the embarrassed driver and frightened passengers.
“WE also earn big from ferrying individuals from one side to the other, especially from the Berbera side to Hargeisa one” informs Kamal
According to the youth a number of people trapped on their way from Berbera summon their relatives in Hargeisa and since vehicles cannot cross the youths are paid to ferry the in a hurry people to their other cars awaiting them at the Awbarkadle shopping centre.
Asked if their conscious does not disturb them for taking advantage of the misfortunes of others, the motorists, the youths retort no, this is scratch my back I scratch yours, while informing that sometimes they enjoy themselves because the hundreds of motorists moving at speed in every direction of the highway never even stop at their trading centre for a cup of tea!
As for me, the writer, who encountered the flooding while en-route to the east of the country the other day, the struggle was in balancing the pride of my driver and my fears for my life.
Once we arrived at Awbarkadle on Friday evening and found the valley flooded with numerous vehicles waiting on either side my driver Saeed Abdala told me to hold tight as we were not going to waste time while water for the water levels to go down while we can easily cross.
“Why don’t we wait like all the other people and motorists” I asked
“Because they cannot cross safely while I can” he replied
As I started reciting the various incidences of deaths or injuries that have been reported as having happened at the Awbarkadle valley and the other near Berbera Mr. Abdala got angry and told me “I have a reputation to protect” meaning his reckon as a driver of repute which is in fact the reason I hired him for the journey to Erigavo.
“I have a life to protect” I retorted arguing that we should go back to Hargeisa and sleep in our homes until the next morning only to have him, the driver, make bet which I thought lucrative and certain that he will lose thence accepted.
“To protect my reputation and your life let’s wait until 5.30 am (GMT+3) when the first Khat truck crosses then we follow and if I fail to take us through successfully I shall refund all the money paid for my services and the car and if we succeed you shall pay all my personal expenses until we return to Hargeisa’ waged Saeed Abdala
Mmmh, Yusuf, this is cool, I said to myself as I calculated how much it will cost me in meals and accommodation for six days, and to make it more lucrative was the fact that Abdala does not chew Khat.
I then sought Abdilatif Kamal my new found friend and after briefing on the bet asked his advice, “If you want me and a couple of my colleagues shall hang on the vehicle and in case of trouble we shall pull you out and swim to whichever side is nearer” he told me.
With greed of money I accepted the bet as well as payment to the Awbarkadle youths whether a mishap happened or not and swoosh we crossed and thus lost the challenge though the reputation of Abdala was enhanced and am safely ensconced at the Dallo hotel in Erigavo where we arrived late because the driver kept insisting on stopping at almost every trading centre from Dingal in Hargeisa all the way through Burao to Erigavo and for what a cup of tea here, a bottle of water there etc and of course at my expense.
The irony is every time we stopped for one purchase or another I kept castigating myself for not remembering thus adhere to the adage “WHEN THE DEAL IS TOO GOOD THINK TWICE”