As I arrived the group of 8 to 10 wardens were finishing their dinner, and settling down to a well deserved rest. Of course having a tourist in distress was some sort of a welcome distraction, so everyone had to gather round and offer an opinion about what to do next. Some suggested a loose connection (but I had already checked that), a stuck starter (but I had also checked that), or simply tourist foolishness. Finally a couple of the guys decided to go get me out of the trouble I was stuck in, started an ancient 4-by-4 jeep truck, and we took off. I had asked if they had tools (I had a few, but no spanners) or an ax, but confidently they assured me that they were not needed; they had the 4-by-4 and a stout rope and that was all that was needed. “How about a radio or a cell phone?”, I asked. They looked at me like I had just landed from the moon; no, no radios of cell phones. “So what do you do if you get stuck in your rounds?” “Oh, we stay in the truck and in two or three days someone comes looking for us.” Great!
Once again I made the 50 km through the Kalahari in the dark back to the truck. My angels looked seriously at the situation, checked all cables and connections, tried to start me with a jump (to no avail), and then concluded that they were going to pull-start me. There were of course all sorts of bushes in the way (I knew we were going to need an ax!), but that didn’t face them. Indeed, with the 4-by-4 and the rope they promptly yanked out of the ground all the offending bushes. I was trying to make myself helpful, removing the branches, but one of them asked me to please not step out of the light: “Lions do not come into the light, but they like to hover at the edge of darkness to see what they can catch”, he explained. It finally dawned on me that lions are a real and present danger in the Kalahari, and the wardens have learned to live with the daily danger.
Finally we are ready to try. One of the guys gave my truck a long and steady pull, while the other directed operations: “Now”, he said, and the engine roared gloriously into life. My angel jumped into the passenger seat with me, and with the jeep following we headed back to the gate. In chatting with the warden I explained that my ultimate goal had been to exit the park through the west gate. “Oh, no”, he said, “the west gate is about 200 km from here. Lucky that your car stopped where it had, for otherwise you would have been lost for days in the maze of roads of the western Kalahari.” So you see, I had been lucky after all.
We got to the gate close to midnight, I turned off the engine (it didn’t start again, of course), and my angels assured me that they would push start me again in the wee hours of the morning, for my 150 km journey back to civilization.