A Personal Encounter to Kg. Sungai Magandai by Dr. Shelly Bhardwaj

With the guts of ‘Rambo’ and the foresight of ‘Indiana Jones’, we the Barefoot Committee members comprising of Project OC, DJT, Deputy, Teoh See See, Geraldine, Dr. Shelly, Swepa’s photographer and video entrapreneur, Adam Tambakau, and Mr. Johnson, a lawyer by profession and Teoh See See’s husband, all set out for a weekend that was to be productive and fruitful in bringing back to KK 2 new greandmas chosen to be sent to India for the second part of the Barefoot Solar Project. So, as the sun rises tomorrow, Friday March 4th, we will awake with a
smile and an eager yearning to serve under the next phase of Swepa’s Barefoot Solar Project.


We arrived in Kota Maradu at 8.30 am and in 3 4×4 vechiles we left KM at 10.30am. The first vechile driven by Leo, co driver, Parasul from AFC , DJT and Dr. Shelly.  The second car driver, Gurd, and Adam Tambakau and Geraldine.   The third driver, Harris, co driver Bibi , Teoh See See and Johnson.  On the way to Kg Sungai Magandai, the first car ‘s axle broke down due to a very rough road condition and knee deep muddy tracks. We were about 2 hours away from the Kg when this happened. Luckily for us, Leo is an experienced Borneo rally driver and mechanic and he welded and fixed the axle in about 2 and half hours.  We reached our destination at 8pm after crossing Sungai Magandai with great difficulty and in the dark balancing our cars against the strong undercurrents of the river. Apparently, to cross the river can be a nightmare itself.



The next day, March 5th Saturday, was a beautiful day with the awakening alarm from the Kg’s rooster and the sounds of children laughing and playing. We had a very warm welcome by the folks of Kg. Sungai Magandai, and a productive dialogue with the Ketua Kg as well as Jabbal, who showed us the location of the new Solar Workshop to be built and Robin , JKK from the neighbouring Kg Benontunan Suyad who represented the Kg’s Council.


At 10.40am we succussfully conducted a medical camp with the aim to reach all children for a Dewormin Programme as well as to assess and treat nutritional deficiencies. Loading up our 3 vehicles just before 11am , we were ready to move onto Kg Sonsogon Magandai.We once again had to cross swiftly the mighty river with its strong currents and putting our lives in jeopardy. The first team reached the Sungai Magandai river at 11.15am and managed with great feat to cross the river to reach the other side only to bear even worse conditions as the narrow road was stuck with 3 feet of mud, a rocky cliff to the left side and a sloping rocky cliff to the right side. This skillful manoeuvring of our vechile SAA 7175 was done with precise accuration by driver Leo. Our car actually was on 2 wheels only and luckily flipped back to normal before being hurriedly driven through the tough muddy track before being parked on the slightly sloped road ahead. As we gathered our blessings, and as I continued to pray, we realized we were safe and stable.


Parked and waiting for the second vechile driven by Gurd to follow in the same way, we watched as the car crossed the river with some difficulty but the next incident was shocking as it turned to its side and fell over. our driver and co driver ran to help them and saw Gurd coming out unharmed but in shock and dismay. Their immediate concern was for Adam and Geraldine who were still stuck in the car as was our concern too. Being DJT’s son in the car, as any mother would do, our main concern was for their safety and so we too came out of our car to go to their aid. I came out of the car first , followed by DJT . Howver, as DJT was getting ready to jump, the car started to roll back and with the door opened, she jumped out and landed on a rock to take shelter from the car by covering her head with her hands. The car picked up speed as moving down and I leapt onto the other side when the car swerved to the side . At this time, 11.45am, our driver ran and jumped into the car to try to stop the car but to no advent. He was dragged with the car and as they both hit the river he was under the car and the car had toppled turtle. My heart sand and I feared the worst for him. As I rushed to his side, praying constantly to God to be merciful and not allow me to see a casuality. I was so relieved to see that Leo was crawling out from beneath the car and for minor glass cut injuries on his foot and a very soar back, he was Alive!  I turned my attention next to DJT who was thankfully safe and ok except for cuts on her legs and a massive bruise on her Right upper thigh. Thankfully no serious injuries but both were treatable.

Adam and Geraldine also scrambbled out the window and by God’s grace were alright.  We sat on the side of the Sungai Magandai in shock, trembling and watching as our things went into the river. Leo unfortunately lost his wallet and handphone. The car was a total writeoff , as the damage was extensive with the frame bent and broken, lights all broken, doors ajar, Our third car on the opposite side of the river had its axle broken down and so was under repair. At this time, another Hilux driven by Junaidi who was on his way from the Kg to K Maradu stopped and assisted us. We waited about 5 hours in the scorching heat as the cars were pulled back upright and alot of engine repair work done.  At this point, Parasul called off the mission to go to Kg Sonsogon Magandai and only wanted us all to be safely transported to Kota Maradu. Johnson left with Junaidi in the Hilux, and Gerd and Adam and Geraldine in their car. We formed a convoy and travelled with DJT and Dr, Shelly following See See in her car with Harris as the driver. All our belongings were distributed among the cars. As the pathetic 7175 car slowly huffed and puffed , it wasnt any surprise that it eventually completely gave up along the way. We 3 girls with driver Harris were stranded for the next 3 hours or so in the middle of nowhere pitch dark at 7.15pm.  The Hilux and Gerd’s car reached KM at 8 pm whereas we had to wait for Andy who had been S.O.S. by the help of a school teacher in Kg Sungai Magandai , Mr. Dixon to arrive with 2 more vehicles to help out. After Andy arrived and assessed the bleak situation, he again went back to find a tow truck to pull 7175. We 3 patiently waited and constantly prayed. We finally reached KM around 12.15am from an arduous journey like no other .

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