Day 4 continued (26 Nov ’11):
(At this point, I (Leslie) have enough photos of the Tiida in rough conditions to complete an awesome ad campaign for Nissan, “Tiny. Tiida. Tough.” I hope I take a marketing class where it will come in handy one day.)
We continued along the B3700, the non-road to Kunene River Lodge, with similar boulders, rocks, water-over-the road conditions. A couple of motorbikes, a pickup truck met us from the opposite direction, answering our query as to whether or not our little Tiida would make the trip with, “Yes, you can make it.” Good news! It seemed like a very short while when Pete attempted the impossible swerve to miss a soft spot when, there we were, unbelievably, STUCK IN THE MUD. No joke. We had just passed by a bushman walking the path, so the girls went back to see if he could possibly help us through this dilemma. He agreed to recruit some friends, and eventually made it to our location. The friends included one guy with a machete and two women, one of whom had a baby strapped to her back! “…Okayyy…..,” as they say in Namibia. I, for one, was NOT getting into the mud. Leslie, Sarah, Peter, they all dove right in, knowing there would be no escape without all hands being on deck. My silent mantra was, “This will be okay. We will get out of here somehow. What in the hell are we doing here? Why didn’t I insist this road was impossible? This will be okay. We will get out of here somehow.” As dark prevailed, Machete Man was hacking branches from the trees, placing them under all four tires, making a road where there wasn’t one for the car to be backed out of. Um, great idea, but IT DIDN’T WORK. Now it is nearly dusk. There must be some other alternative. Leslie and Sarah decide the only option is to start to walk/run ahead to the Lodge, which we have no idea how many kilometers there are to go. In a little while they return with new friends, who say even if they ran, they couldn’t make it to the Lodge before 2 a.m. But these people have cell phones and the impression that perhaps if they all walked far enough in the opposite direction that they may find some service. Fine, I think, you go right ahead; sure; good luck! Sarah was gone for quite some time, and returned with the bad news of no cellular service. But these are legit bush people, they are solid and have promised that we can camp at their homestead for a good night’s sleep and then possible road assistance in the morning. My answer to this: you go ahead and camp if you want to, Dad and I will stay with the vehicle. Kisses, hugs, good night, good luck, see you tomorrow, LOVE YOU!!! Oh, and let’s everyone go rinse off in the river, since we’re in mud up to our thighs. “NO!” the helpers admonish, “there are crocodiles in the river!” I heard those tails flapping in the water all night!
(Sludge Hotel, hour 1.)
Pete and I settled into our “Sludge Hotel,” he on the low side, I on the driver side, seats reclined, and pretended to sleep. It could only have been 9:00 or so, TOTALLY DARK, windows cracked in hopes of some air circulation. Some time later we hear the voices of several people coming toward us, beautiful singing, happy voices. What in the world are these people doing walking in the middle of the darkest night, singing? We didn’t open our eyes to ask. They passed the car, stopped singing, and had a little conference about our situation. (Amazing what you can infer by tones of voice, they were not speaking English!) After a couple of minutes, they continued on and resumed the beautiful singing. Okay, we’re still safe. But if none of us gets out of this alive, KYLE INHERITS EVERYTHING. I don’t know why that was the thought that kept rising. A while later, Peter purring soft snores, but I wide awake, there is another group approaching, but they’re not singing, they’re joking, talking, and when they come upon us they also have a little conference about the situation. Then they continue on their way. I’m wondering what the name of this movie might be. By the time daylight arrived, there was another pedestrian approaching, then another and another. We could no longer pretend to be asleep. Finally we exited the vehicle and tried to converse with this team of helpers, who insisted finally that we must give them the opportunity to help them, and “by the grace of God, perhaps we can do it!” Well, “…okayyy….” If you’re going to bring God into the equation, then by all means, let’s see what you can do. 8 – 10 guys, all up to their thighs in mud/sludge, digging out first all the branches that the previous team had cut and placed under the tires, then digging out all the wet mud, down to solid sludge, before asking me to start ‘er up and back out of it all, DAMN, it worked! We were saved!! Paid them the asking price (NAM $50 each, a total of $1000 – Leslie said we should have negotiated it down to half of that) and went on our way. About one km ahead, “There’s our tent!” and the woman who had tried to find cell service the night before. Laughing, she explained the girls weren’t up yet, and poked around to rouse them. Two little heads peeped out; “You’re OUT!!” Yep, pack up your stuff, let’s get going. While they broke camp, left gifts of apples, we tried to make friends with the hosts. Soon, the Rescue Team showed up and we took their picture. A couple of days later I realized, they were perfectly clean, no mud on them at all! They must have known what part of the river they could use without crocodile threats!
(Team Himba: the car-digger-outers and the Kwanyama family the girls spent the night with.)
We continued carefully the remaining 26 km to Kunene River Lodge, arriving around 9:15 a.m., looking just a little the worse for wear, I’m sure. One nice thing about these parts, if you don’t make it in time for your reservation, there is forgiveness, a bottle of water, and an offer of a good breakfast! I’m sure the other campers took a look at us and were glad they had other destinations for the day. We were a mess. Not to worry! We decided on appropriate accommodations, unpacked, scheduled a rafting trip for the afternoon, sent the car off to be washed, and regrouped. From here on, there was promise of less adventurous travels. Well, we’ll see about that!
(Finally: Kunene River Lodge! Sanctuary in the middle of nowhere.)
(Sarah and Leslie pray to Mother Namibia from the lovetent for her blessings in further travel.)