Africa – Part 4

I cannot believe I haven’t finished this yet!  It has already been almost 3 months since our trip to Rwanda!

So…here goes….the rest of the build….

Once we hung the swings, our structure really started looking like a bridge, which was pretty exciting for me.  Our work was really starting to look like we were making progress.  All that board cutting, drilling and pounding was starting to come to life.  It was actually pretty amazing that we could do all of this in such a short amount of time, without resources we are used to having.  (i.e. power and toilets)

Starting to look like a real bridge

Once we got the swings hung (which are the cross beams that hold the decking on) we started installing the deck boards, which make the walkway.  The walkway was basically 5 each, 2 x 10’s wide, so about 4-ish feet, depending on how crooked the wood was. 

Getting geared up

Here I am – ready to make the move to the top of the bridge and begin to place the deck boards.  I called this harness the death harness.  It was SO Heavy and uncomfortable, but it did its job and I made it through without incident. 

I wrote the work plan for the decking operation, so I had a pretty good idea on how this needed to be done…but what I didn’t take into account was how nervous I was going to be while hanging from the edge.  Even though I was tied off, my movements were really slow and shaky.  It was really difficult to get the boards to line up correctly, and you had to reach out 3 meters to the next swing, while hanging from the current swing…gah.  My stomach goes into butterfly mode just thinking about it (and we weren’t even that high in the air).  I don’t even think I’m scared of heights, maybe just nervous of heights?  This part was difficult for me.  I am  fairly competitive with myself and I don’t like to quit.  Understanding my limitations was hard for me at this point, but after an afternoon session of scaring the crap out of myself on the edge, I handed the reigns over to one of my team members who is about 15 years younger than me and not nervous on the edge at all.  I became the board mule (which I am much more suited for) and shuttled boards back and forth and helped line up boards, pre-drill, give advice, talk shit, etc.  Side note:  if we would have stuck to my decking production rate…we still would be working on the bridge.

3 bad-asses

We had a decking team that worked from each side, until we met in the middle and not surprisingly, everything lined up! 

The other bad-asses

The next thing we had to do was install the fencing, which was a giant pain in the ass.  All of the chain-link fencing had to be built on the ground and then hauled up to the bridge where we would have to man handle it so the curb would line up and drill into the decking.  The chain link fence isn’t the easiest thing to work with.  It shrinks and stretches with the links and is really hard to maneuver.  With lots of cuss words, we were able to get it set and tied into place.

Notice how there is no water under the bridge…by now the area is full-swing into the rainy season and that entire flood plain is most likely filled with water.
The smiles in this picture weren’t just because the camera was there…these were legit smiles,  We really did have a lot of fun working on this bridge.

Once we got the fencing up and tied, drilled, threaded, man-handled into place, we were could walk the entire length without fall protection and it looked like a real life bridge!

The finished product.

I haven’t mentioned the painting yet, because I really didn’t do any of it.  (not my area of expertise) but the colors we painted the towers matched the Rwandan flag.  This was such nice touch to add as the book ends to this bridge.

The team on our last day of construction.

Stay tuned for part 5 – the opening ceremon.

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