blog from chad

So Why Is Carlo Measuring Trees?? Why Indeed …

Measurin a village fence

Measuring a village fence

Up at 5.30am most mornings, and in the office by 6am, Carlo attends  the daily safety briefings given to the surveying teams before they go out on site.  A brief lull around 8am allowed him to dash back to the hotel for a first and much needed cup of coffee (after all he is a Belgian) and at 1pm for lunch.  This was the pattern for our first week in Moundou.

A GPS trainer,  from Paris, arrived that same week.  Let’s call him Monsieur B.  The idea was for Mr B and Carlo to teach the young, local surveyors how to measure using a GPS in a different way to normal.  They were given aerial photographs with various points marked on them and told to go to these points to measure their location.  That all sounds quite simple in principle.  Trouble is these points, identified from the air, were quite obscure, to put it mildly.  It could be a lone bush in the remotest countryside,  a hole in the road, or even the corner of a temporary grass matting fence in an African village.


Measuring a road sign!

Measuring a road sign!


Measuring a mark in the road

Measuring a mark in the road

Being a GPS exercise you should take the straightest line to the point to be measured.  That meant Carlo driving the 4 x 4 off road through dense forest bush, semi- desert and even mud.  If he tried to go around a village Mr B would yell ‘you’re too far off line, go straight!’.  Well straight often meant arrogantly driving through a thatched village and driving through someone’s living room in our terms!!  Carlo was not happy about this but our Parisian was insistent.  One of the young black surveyors, who spoke Arabic, had the unenviable job of explaining to the locals why this was necessary.

Measuring a log in the middle of a village courtyard

Measuring a log in the middle of a village courtyard

They measured trees on the left and...

They measured trees on the left and…

They measured it on the right side

They measured trees on the right side!

Mr B is a short stocky man, a bit abrupt but pleasant enough once you get to know him.  He’s unquestionably an expert in his field BUT a little out of his depth and nervous when it comes to being out in the wilds of Chad. This was not helped by the dictates from the French Embassy who advized the French against all road travel outside the capital of Chad.   He was nearly 500 kms from the Capital so a bit of tension was in the air.

On three occasions the vehicle, 4×4 or not,  ended up stuck in mud or deep sand and Carlo had to bribe local villagers (there are always some around no matter how remote you think you are) to help push and often to guide them back to the nearest road to get back to base!  Mr B normally stood back and watched.  Cadastral mapping work can be a challenge.

All the data collected on these missions is sent to Belgium where a company produces precise aerial maps which will then be used to establish cadastral  rights(property rights) for the Chadians.

Mr B’s attempts to  escape from Moundou at the end of his project and to get back to N’Djamena on schedule are a whole story in itself , one for another blog… a story of dust storms, Presidents taking over planes and much, much more.  It resulted in our Parisian announcing he was never coming back to Moundou!!

We were later told Mr B did get to NDJ by air and indeed even found a moment to do some final cadastral mapping, before flying back to Paris. When he set out to find the points he had to measure  five of them were in another country, across the border in neighbouring Cameroun.  One wonders sometime!



6 Responses to “So Why Is Carlo Measuring Trees?? Why Indeed …”

  1. Paddy Says:

    Ooo sounds a doddle should have lent Carlo my phone google maps would have it all sorted in a tick and then you could all sit back with a glass of chateau neuf du pap contemplating your flight home.

    Have a nice day


  2. achatfro Says:

    Hi Pad, Carlo says as long as you can get a 10cm accuracy you’re on!! Chateauneuf …… oh all a distant memory. We’ve had wine twice only since we’ve been here. That is out of character eh! Local beer is retty good and they love Guiness in this part of the world, suprisingly.

  3. Michael Shackleton Bailey Says:

    Rosie, you do write so well…I am looking forward to the book!

    What frustration not having your Canon (but at least it’s safe from conifiscation) … I imagine surveyors get a derogation…hence the photos.


  4. achatfro Says:

    Hello Michael, really appreciate your kind comments. Carlo uses his mobile phone to take photos and does it all under the pretext of needing them for work purposes. I am getting bolder. Apparently it is absolutely fine to take photos when at someone’s home or if the people agree which they usually do BUT the big no no seems to be taking photos in public places and of course of anything vaguely construed as strategic! The other big no no are military people or the police. I have some portraits I am about to put on the photo gallery which is as yet empty!!

  5. Nick Allan Says:

    Great pics Rosie – takes me back several years!
    Sounds like Carlo is having to be very diplomatic with his Parisian colleague ! 🙂


  6. Ailie Says:

    Loved reading about this.

    Guiness?? How bizarre.