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'Coyote' part 22 Escape
From the Author
Just a quick note to say welcome back to samir and Sara's story.
In a sense, this is the real beginning as they are having to make a 'dash for the mountains'
Actually, as I was finishing this part off, I caught a part of a news bulletin on Al Jazirah about a people in 'Myanmar', the Rajoush, they're Muslim, and because of their faith they're facing incredible persecution, right now, just over two hundred thousand have fled their homes into Bangladesh to avoid the persecution and fighting going on in their homeland.
To me, this isn't just the story of Samir and Sara, but it's the story of everyone who's had to leave home and family, and it's a bit of a challenge to us to help them make a new home wherever they end up.
Anyway, on with the story.
From the previous
“How far do you think it is?” Sara asked as they pulled out of the garage, there wasn’t a soul on the road. “To the border, that is?”
“In Kilometers, it’s not far” he replied as he eased the truck onto the road, “about fifty to the nearest checkpoint, but we’ll need to go a bit further east, maybe a hundred kilometers, the real issue is the time it’s going to take as the roads are pretty rough”
She didn’t like the sound of that, they were in a 4x4 that’s built to take any roads, if Samir was saying they were rough then what were they? But she chose not to say anything.
“They aren’t so much roads” he began again, “as farm tracks up the mountains, and in places maybe just donkey tracks, but hey” he stopped for a moment and looked over at her, she was white with worry, “We’ll make it this time, we really will Okay!” he tried to reassure her.
“How long will it take do you think though?” she asked the same question a different way.
“There’s a deserted village just this side of the crossing” he began, “If everything goes well, we should be there just before nightfall, it’s one the smugglers use, but they stopped their runs for the winter, we should be safe there for the night, and into Turkey tomorrow!”
Travel the road less trod
Into the mountains
The road was deserted, apart from the occasional farm vehicle, usually a mule pulling a cart, and the occasional tractor, a sure sign of winter approaching.
A fine drizzle started as soon as they left the town, the water just gently wetting the ground as they drove, it wasn't a good sign, of the rain was beginning in Zakho, it would be heavy in the villages, and snow falling in the passes.
“How far is it?” Sara asked again, he knew she was nervous, it was the third time in under a half hour she'd asked the question.
“It's not the distance that takes so long” he replied, “it's the fact that we're going to be driving over rough tracks, and in some places there aren't even tracks!”
“So how will you know where to drive?” the worry coming through in her voice, “I've heard stories” she began, he cut her off.
“We spent a lot of time in the villages with Op Mercy” he partly told the truth, they did, just not these villages! still, Sara didn't need to know that, “they told us about the routes through the mountains, remember the story Tariq told us about the bulldozer?” that actually brought a smile to her face.
Pretty early on, Tariq was new to the region when they got told , “it’s the fact that most of the trip’s over rough tracks, if there are tracks that is!” his reply wasn’t one she liked, not that there was a choice in the matter.
Further in, further up, the harder it gets.
Alongside the road, the country was bare, almost barren, except for the grass growing in the fields that is, but as each mile went, it seemed the trees gained in courage and slowly crept down to the road, eventually the trees were almost alongside when a dirt track intersected with it, Samir slowed down and began turning left, “Here’s where the challenge starts” he muttered to himself, he’d meant to whisper it so that Sara didn’t hear his uncertainty, her hearing was much better than he thought, but she chose not to say a thing.
At first, the track was pretty smooth, worn down by years of farm vehicles and the like using it on a daily basis, a few farmers still working in the fields could be seen in the distance, finishing off the gathering of the last of the harvest, mainly from the orchards at the bottom of the mountains, no one was looking their way, and that was a good thing.
“It’s getting cold in here” Sara said as little George whimpered, huddling up close to his mum, “Can we turn the heater up?” she looked over at Samir, she had no idea where the heater controls were, and was a little afraid to touch anything.
Samir reached for the controls, he knew they were already on maximum, but made the show anyway, “Try another blanket” he replied, she already had one wrapped around her and George, Samir had insisted on them taking as many blankets as they could fit into the cab of the vehicle, as well as buying the warmest clothing they could find, and they were still cold, and they weren’t near the snowline yet.
Roof of the world?
The cold, not the only danger
The track steadily got worse, what had started out as a pretty good road, firm with plenty of traction slowly became a mud ridden mess.
The Dodge was unusual, as ex military she had both two and four wheel drive, as well as high and low ratio, that way, she could put all the power where it was most needed. If they got stuck, Samir had the choice of putting the vehicle on into the four wheel drive, or if they were really stuck, low ratio would put all the power from the five liter monster under the hood to the two wheels with the best grip, but making sure they didn't spin.
The mud was getting worse, what had been puddles was now rivers where the tyre tracks were, Samir engaged the four wheel drive, but kept the engine revs low, they were still moving faster than walking pace, but not by much.
The rain had given way to snow, rivers of water given way to slush and sleet, but worst of all, visibility had dropped dramatically, he could see maybe fifty yards in front of the vehicle, and even that was beginning to look the same dull grey colour of the sky.
“There's a village about a kilometre up ahead” Samir spoke loudly, trying to be heard above the noise of the engine, “I think we'll need to speak the night there,”
“Why?” Sara asked, Iraqi women don't drive, and she'd never been in a blizzard before, she had no idea what they faced ahead.
They weren't in a blizzard, but Samir knew from experience that's what was ahead. “The snow will obliterate the tracks ahead” he replied, “it's essential we stay on the track, but if we can't see it, it would be dangerous”
“Oh” she sounded confused, “rocks and things?”
Landmines, they're still there!
- Iraqi Kurdistan faces challenges in clearing land mines
The Iraq-Iran war and Saddam Hussein’s campaign against Kurds have left behind millions of square meters of contaminated land in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the latter has been trying to defuse the land mines that cause many deadly accidents each year.
Landmines, their 'other' danger
“Landmines” he replied, “they're everywhere here, don't worry, the villagers have cleared paths through the minefields, but we need to stay on the tracks, we need to see where it is”
“But that means?” She began to ask.
“That means a night in the village?” she didn't like that idea, Sara only knew the people in the towns and cities, staying with a total stranger wasn't something she was used to.
“They're good people in this village” Samir replied, we helped them with their clean water, supplied the pipes and concrete, they did the work, remember that huge feast we went to about a year ago? this was one of the villages”
“That was a huge feast” she brightened slightly, remembering some of the women she met, simple folk, but really friendly, still, turning up 'uninvited’ just didn't seem right, “didn't they roast a whole sheep?”
“It was a goat, but yes, they did, a big ‘thank you’ to the team for the project” Samir smiled as he slowly came round the last bend, the village was totally screened by the trees, so they didn’t see it literally until they were almost in the middle of the place.
Respite in the storm
Respite, in an unusual place
If they’d had time to look, they would have seen poplars, cedar and even the occasional oak, but they were kind of distracted with the driving and the weather, they also hadn’t noticed that they’d been watched as they entered the village.
“Samir, my friend” a voice rang out just as he brought the vehicle to a stop, “what are you doing here, in the middle of a storm?” a man was coming towards them, he was carrying a Kalashnikov, but in the villages, if you’re a male, you’re undressed without one, his was slung over his shoulder as he walked arms outstretched towards Samir, “Really my friend, it’s the middle of winter, what in the name of the prophets are you doing here?”
“Mohammed” Samir shouted, not too sure what the man’s name was, but it’s a good chance it was Mohammed as many Muslims have that name, “Sorry to barge in like this”
“It’s Mahmoud” the man joked, “Forgotten me already?” he smiled, “still, you look tired, and what the heck are you doing out here, with your family in the middle of winter?” he already had a good idea what Samir was doing, and he didn’t blame him, but Samir, and Op Mercy had been good to the village, and maybe now they could repay a little. “Come, we have food and tea, you can stay with my family tonight!”