Last weekend we decided to head to Botswana for the weekend to get some shopping done.
We found a little more drama than that, which has had me wondering whether I am prone to exaggeration, or whether we are still a little naive for Africa…or whether this was legitimately was quite dramatic. You be the judge.
The drive there was lovely, the border was quick, and I managed to get a good amount of shopping done on day one.
In fact, by 4pm we decided we would head into the famous Chobe National Park, and enjoy a spot of game watching while the sun lit up the African horizon.
So we set off, with food and water aplenty, in our Nissan Xtrail.
We got through the gate, turned onto the track, and instantly ran into a group of eles. They surrounded the car, crossing the road ahead of and behind us, while I watched in trepidation as a little bubba ele ran off after its mother. That part was actually also a bit comical- the way they run when they are tiny is SO CUTE.
Having made it through that encounter, we headed off again, into the main drama of the day; suddenly, the deep kalahari sand national parks called a ‘track’, turned into a trap for our ill-suited vehicle.
And the petrol light went on.
Will looked at me for the FIRST time in the bush in Africa and muttered repeatedly, without drawing breath, ‘oh man, this is bad, this is bad, this is bad’.
We rocked back and forward. We put the car in 4wd. We revved like crazy. Nothing.
Will was still muttering when I told him he would have to get out of the car.
“I can’t. You’re not allowed to get out of your car!”
“Well, you’re also not meant to get stuck,” I shot back. “We have to jam some sticks under the tyres”. Besides that, we had no idea whether another vehicle would be along that evening- it was the final run of the day for game driving. The park closed at 6.30pm.
I knew what Will was thinking. With its shady trees and plentiful shrubs, this was lion country.
He got out, while I kept watch, and grabbed some sticks to jam under the tyres. Then I tried driving while he watched.
“The tyres aren’t even turning,’ he said. ‘It’s like they’re not responding at all to the engine.”
Suddenly, the IT Crowd came to mind, and I asked Will whether we shouldn’t try “turnin’ it off and on again?”.
We didn’t have any other options, so we did. By some miracle, it ACTUALLY WORKED. Yes, advice from a British comedy show saved our backsides in the middle of the African wilderness. As I revved, the car edged forward, but then I didn’t want to stop moving incase it got stuck again, so Will was left jogging alongside the car yelling at me to stop while I tried to tell him to jump in.
In the end, it wasn’t as easy as the movies make out. Partially, I think this was due to the fact Will was trying to get into the drivers’ seat while I was still sitting in it. So, I had to stop, and Will got back in and managed to keep us going through the petrol-tank-scraping deep sands, which no photograph could properly capture.
By the time we reached firmer ground, along the river flatlands, both of us were so shaken that there was no way we would enjoy the game watching. We couldn’t quite work out where we were on the map, and we didn’t know if we could hit more sand on the way back. Also, the petrol light was, unsurprisingly, still on.
At this point Kepler proclaimed a need to pee, so we made him pee out of the door of the car, without getting out. It was still lion country. He did an admirable job given he is only three years old.
We drove a little further along, and tried to enjoy the stunning vistas of the Chobe flood plains, the stupidly tame wildlife (we basically had to nudge an impala with the bonnet of the car to get it to move out of the way), the elephant playing in the water and the almost elephant-sized hippo (seriously).
But that petrol light was bothering us, so we headed back to the sign pointing to the exit, and managed to make it back safely to the parks gate, where I promptly went and found the ladies’ room.
So there you have it- yet another park visit with too much drama for my liking. I’m pretty sure we are still a little naive for Africa and the Good Lord has his guardian angels working over time on us.