Okay, I came to Africa seeking adventure and a different lifestyle. Well this afternoon and evening I hit a home run.
It all started simply enough….early this morning as I was doing my traditional Sunday morning float in the pool along with a foot and half long millipede, Adrienne asked Natasha and I if we wanted to go on a self game drive with her at Mokolodi Game Reserve. She had never been and she is leaving a week from today to return home to the US. After the drive, she wanted to eat at the restaurant located on site which has a fabulous reputation.
Natasha, lucky girl declined but I accepted. Having been able to rest for part of the weekend, I was now ready to go out and have some fun. Occasionally I get a little more than I bargain for, but oh well, sometimes you just gotta live. As Adrienne is an archaelogist who has just finished a dig in northern rural Botswana, she is driving a 4 x4 bush ready vehicle. Her ideas was to do Mokolodi on a self-directed game drive and then eat at the restaurant afterwards.
In theory this sounded like an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon and evening. I would be sitting in a vehicle getting to experience wildlife up close and personal with no guide keeping their eagle eye on my behaviour. Plus, I would never miss an opportunity to eat at a highly recommended restaurant.
Upon arrival at Mokolodi, the first wrench in our plan materialized. In order to do a self-directed game drive, you must be a member of Mokolodi. All of the game drives were completely booked so that was not an option. Adrienne quickly decided that she would buy a membership as it was valid for a year and she would be back in about six months time. So once we were registered and paid off we set.
I guess that it is now time to explain it has been raining off and on since Friday. Now the rain here tends to come down slightly more torrential than it does at home. Even though it has been a hot dry drought for weeks and most of the rain is quickly absorbed into the parched earth, the rain had been coming down long and hard enough to leave sizeable puddles on the deeply rutted and rocky game reserve roads. In fact calling them roads would be a bit of an exaggeration. You move around the game reserve on tracks more or less. Sometimes they are sand, sometimes nothing more than rocks. Sitting in a bush ready 4 x 4 you really have to make sure that 1) you have a really good support bra on and 2) that you have visited the ladies room before you set out.
We were barely 15 minutes into the park when we had our first game find. Off to our right was a lone grazing giraffe. Adrienne promptly stopped the truck and out we got. I was determined to get as close as possible to the giraffe and we ended up not more than 15 feet from him as he chewed and watched us.
Giggling with delight, off we set to find more photographic subjects. We soon encountered a few Zebras but as I tried to get close enough to take their pictures… I was wearing sandals and dressed in bright pink skirt so stealth was not an option…they ran away. There were a couple of babies in the group so they were even more determined to get away from the brightly dressed noisy human invading their territory.
After that sighting sighting were slow and far between. But we were in a trusty 4 x4 and ready to travel the roads marked as accessible only by 4 x 4. Need I remind you again that there had been torrential downpours for the last 48 hours.
Shortly after turning onto a road marked 4 x 4 only we encountered a sizable puddle. By now we had travelled through numerous equally sizeable puddles or small lakes actually so we did not think anything different about this one. First mistake!!!! It turns out that this one was not negotiable even in a 4 x 4. Not even a 1/3 of the way into it we realized that we weren’t going any further and putting it into reverse didn’t yield any better results.
There we were sitting in the middle of a muddy lake on one of the most remote roads in the game reserve. I finally came up with what I thought was a brilliant suggestion of calling the front office of the game reserve so they could send someone out to rescue us. So a quick phone call was made and we were assured that help was on the way.
One hour later and dusk was creeping up on us no rescuers were in sight. So Adrienne called twice more. It turns out our trusty rescuers weren’t very bright and couldn’t find us. During our hour wait we had discussed several options for un-sticking ourselves. One was for me to get out and push. The other was for Adrienne to push while I drove. Now in most circumstances neither would be a big deal. Unfortunately thanks to an ankle that refuses to participate in normal activities both options were problematic for me.
Knowing that my ankle just doesn’t bend enough to operate a clutch anymore I chose to get out and push. Adrienne was horrified when I kicked off my sandals and jumped out barefoot….there was no way that I was ruining really expensive leather sandals by wading through a muddy mess. So barefoot I went. Well as soon as I stood in the muddy mess I quickly realized that my ankle does not like muddy any more than it does Canadian ice and snow. I wasn’t sure if I was falling face first or on my ass. Thankfully I was able to launch myself other enough that I made it onto dry land smack dab in a thorn bush in bare feet and a skirt…do I need to elaborate?????
Adrienne quickly determined that my pushing wasn’t really going to be a viable option so we quickly decided that I would need to suck it up and drive while she pushed. Now her pushing meant that she was almost knee deep in mud and slimy water. I walked barefoot around the back of the truck where the mud and water was not so deep and hard to navigate and in the driver’s seat I got. After several tries to actually get the damn truck into reverse….Adrienne said that it is difficult to find reserve in this truck, no shit sherlock! I struck gold.
So Adrienne pushed and I manned the clutch and gas. Three tries and nothing. We were stuck good and true and still no sign of help. Determined, I said let’s give it one more try, although I was worried that poor Adrienne standing almost knee deep in the mud would ended up covered in it. Fortunately, she survived relatively dirt free except for filthy feet. Well, I am not sure what changed other than both of us were incredibly determined to get out of this mess. After a couple more tries, out we were. So as soon I was backed up enough that we could switch drivers out I got. Adrienne hopped in and got the truck backed up and positioned for turning around…there was no way in hell that we were attempting to go forward. Meanwhile I walked off the spasms in my ankle that come from when bone grates on bone when I force the ankle to bend and move in a way that it simply can’t anymore.
Exhilarated that we were finally unstuck, back we went, shortly meeting up with our incompetent rescuers. After assuring them that we were fine just extremely muddy we continued on our way. As we were making our way back we came upon another group of giraffes who were incredibly interested in us. Across from the two that Adrienne was photographing were three more young giraffes who were equally curious. So while we stopped so Adrienne to take pictures the Mokolodi truck passed us and continued back onto the gates. Big mistake…..
It turns out that once the sun has gone down, the tiny road signs that guide you around the game reserve really aren’t noticeable. In fact, these signs even in the bright daylight aren’t that helpful or noticeable. So adventure #2 unfolded. It was pitch black (it is a game reserve so there is no lighting except the moon) and we are lost travelling through more crater like puddles and rocky terrain that were enough to make you feel like you were driving on Mars or something.
Based on our first attempt for assistance, we knew that we were on our own, except we both agreed that if we called Peter and Jetske we had no doubt that they would come and find us. Sheer determination and stopping at every intersection of road to check for signs eventually got us out. Whew!!!! So almost 5 hours after first entering the game reserve we were back out of it only to find that the restaurant had long since closed. Oh well, that just means that we can continue the adventure another day! I wanted adventure and today I certainly found it. I wonder what tomorrow might bring…..