If you think you’re free, there’s no escape possible. ~Ram Dass
Being LOST - We didn’t see a car for a few hours despite the fact we were still driving an ave 100km/hr + on the wide but slowly snaking gravel roads. I was told before the trip that Nam is the second least densely populated country on the planet, so we were not to expect much help along the way if you veer on to the road less traveled. Bring food, water and stop for gas where you see it, most importantly have a 4x4. Check, check, check and….well…we’ll make do. For the most part I felt lucky to be there, it’s a beautiful place seemingly untouched by people and development although the people we did meet were open and more friendly than most people’s mothers, for such a vast country it has a small town feel to it. The southern portion of the territory is a contrast of barren but beautiful, colorful and desolate. We have seen more ostriches, spring bok, wild horses and large lizards than people but even the sheer amount of animals you can still count on both our hands. You feel motionless driving along the almost never ending roads, speeding through the big valleys and endless sky, my co-pilot called it god’s bowling alley.
Being lost was my fault, we took a wrong turn after the gas station no more than a minute after crossing the nam border. It was an obvious mistake in hind sight, I don’t know how we missed it, but I do blame the restlessness and excitement at getting back on the road for one good reason: Being stuck at the border for over three hours. Unfortunately there is no one to blame but ourselves as Immigration were not overly slow but SOMEONE had managed to lock the keys in the car. I will not name this person.
A lack of keys but not common sense - We spent the next hour trying to get help; immigration, police, truck drivers and of course a few locals. Mostly we received sympathetic looks and the odd ‘sterkte seuns!’ With the heat, a lack of water, and patience in short supply, any time we made on the way up was now somewhat lost. Wallet: nope, cellphone: nada, the car had swallowed our city slicker essentials. Unfortunately for us the nearest town on our side of the border was about an hour away, the road trip hit a major snag. A call to their local mechanic wasn’t the answer: ‘sorry I’m not coming up there.’ We really were traveling to the dark side of the moon. Opinion was more or less universal among those we asked, straightforward and seemingly inevitable: ‘you’ll have to break a window.’ At that point we really weren’t prepared to break anything on the car so we went about trying to massage our way back into the silver bullet.
We managed to MacGyver our way out of the situation and as luck would have it, solely because the car had manual windows. Using the dip-stick and secondly a metal rod that holds the open the hood, we managed to pry open the driver’s side window a quarter of an inch (my navigator kept complaining his fingers hurt as he held the window a jar) and jam our newly transformed object-made-tools inside the car and push down on the window crank. Inch by inch, one curse at a time, sweaty and irritable, it was only a matter of time before we were back inside the human cooler on wheels and back on the road.
Back to being lost -After the gas station we travel some miles on our supposed main highway to find our road turns to gravel. We’re both somewhat confused but we’ve come too far to turn back (A simple equation of ego vs miles traveled) The road has been taking us west heading into the sun and our trustful avis map shows our road should be going somewhat north and a little east. Not wanting to backtrack we continue on the gravel. Our road thankfully leads to a turn off that put us back in the right direction, one that keeps us in a northerly direction with the sun to our left.
Maybe I should’ve heeded some wise advice before we left CT; do you have GPS? or a good map? My response: “This map from avis should do” this will not be the last instance when I could have made wiser decisions. I also neglected to think about avis’s logic; they don’t want their customers to drive on secondary/tertiary roads as they try to keep their cars in a decent if not respectable condition. Common sense would also dictate that Nam would have more than three roads in the entire country, Avis would says otherwise. Then again maybe a better map would have been a good idea.
A couple of hours pass on our desolate gravel road, zero traffic so far. Finally a mini bus appears on the road ahead with amazingly, some tourists. Much to the humor of their driver he gives us directions back to the main road. Photos are taken of the stupid tourists and we continue, pride a little bruised but at this point we’re happy to see anyone that knows where they are. Being the stupid tourists lost in the desert, we head off to explore the great yonder and find our main road.
45mins east we travel through Ai-Ais national park (pronounced: Aye Ice)and we are back to pavement. My sense of adventure is not diminished but I could have been a tad irritable by this stage. The situation also reminded me of my grandma’s timeless advice: as long as you have a tongue in your mouth you’ll never be lost. Day one was not actually over.
the obstacle is the path.
according to the map we’ve only gone four inches.