Friday, 15 July 2011

Meeting and Greeting

Flat tyre outside Solitaire
We have just passed a massive herd of gemsbok running alongside the road when Hennie suddenly pulled up.  When I opened my car door I first thought it is a snake, as I could hear this very loud hissing noise.  Then reality set in and I realised we had a flat tire (or fast deflating tyre).  On the GPS it was 2km to go to Solitaire, our destination for the day.  Only 2 kilometres, or 2000 metres!  We were on an uneven dirt road with a car loaded to the roof (and onto the roof as well!).  I wanted to cry.  It was some kind of metal object sticking into the track of the tyre.  Luckily we had the compressor with us, so Hennie inflated the tyre (luckily at a slightly faster rate than it was deflating again, then we hopped into the car, me with the compressor on my lap as there was no time to put it away and made a beeline for the garage at Solitaire.  As flat tyres are a daily occurrence there, which fixed us up in no time. 

At Solitaire a few of our mates have already arrived and were enjoying the apfelstrudel that Solitaire is famous for.  Within an hour of the first car arriving, all the vehicles that were participating in the trip were there and we made our way to Solitaire Guest Farm, where we were staying the first night. 

Participants to trip

We met Kosie, our main guide, as well as his assistants.  They seem to be a fun, but competent bunch.  For Hennie and I this was the first night of pitching our tent in ages, and first night ever to see if the newly acquired stretchers fit into the tent.  They did.  But only just.  Big mistake.  The advantages of the small tent is that it could be pitched or collapsed in 5 minutes flat, it could even be done by one person (which came in handy later), and it took little space in the car.  The disadvantage was that with the stretchers in, there was room for nothing else, thus quite difficult to get dressed, and Hennie could not get out of the tent once he was installed on his stretcher for the night.

The participants seem to be all great people, with about one degree of separation between all of us.   On the manufacturer’s front Toyota was leading the pack.  Both the lead and support vehicles were Land Cruisers.  Then we had two rented Land Cruisers, one in an excellent condition and one in a very doubtful condition (but the vehicle made up for it being a bright orange emblazoned with Jagermeister branding and ironically a “Drink Responsible” (sic) bumper sticker).  One very old owned Land Cruiser.  A new Prado.  And of course the orphan of the Toyota stock was our Fortuner.  We also had a Pajero,  Jeep, Ford and LandRover to even out the numbers (ha-ha). 

Finally the moment of truth arrived and we were due to depart on our new adventure.  Everyone was very excited, and you could also see some nervousness in the drivers.  Very few knew what to expect.  Each vehicle was fitted with a radio to communicate with other vehicles, and shortly a radio-show was born.

Soon we entered the Naukluft park and had to deflate the tyres and engage 4x4 mode where necessary.
  Our baptism of fire was quite a longish winding hill.  Not very high dune but very deep sand.  With tight twist and turns and thoroughly spun out by other vehicles on previous trips, which made it quite difficult to keep momentum.  I am sure there were quite a number of sighs of relieve when the first vehicle got stuck, as it meant for the other 7 male drivers (not counting the guides), that they will NOT be the first one to get stuck.  Male egos!  Also, as the trip progressed the people started to learn what their vehicles can actually do in sand and no-one would get stuck on that hill again.  It was just experience that was required.  Also, there was not a single driver on the trip that either did not get stuck or had to attempt at least one dune twice.  That kept the egos in check.

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