Sunday, March 7, 2010

Enter the Samil

   I stood on the edge of a growing group of people. Naude encouraged me to talk to someone, but I hung back not quite ready to commit myself to the adventure I had signed up for. A black and white striped truck stood central to the waiting cluster of people. Two men stowed the adventurer to be’s bags in cubbies under the seating area; one a young white man heavily tanned from many days spent in the sun and the other quiet individual, black as night. My eyes moved from these two strikingly different men to our mode of transport. The vehicle was nothing like I had ever seen let alone ridden in. My home for the next two weeks was a Samil truck or overland cruiser. I suppose it was akin to an army transport truck for human cargo. It was big. There were bench seats facing each other in the back, with nothing but air and the height of the monstrous tires to protect us. Bulging rolls at the top of the windows appeared to be flaps for protection from the elements, if necessary. While I hoped it wouldn’t be, I wondered if those plastic flaps would give any protection from the animals that the brochures promised we would spy. Not likely.

   The truck appeared to be able to hold twenty people, but thankfully there were not that many milling about. I wanted to meet people, but was not keen on being over-whelmed right off the hop. By the looks of our guide and his assistant, plus the smiles on some of the faces around me I suspected that true adventure was upon me. The group was made up of a couple in their late forties, another in their early fifties, two young women (sisters) that appeared to be in their late teens or early twenties, another couple in their twenties, a tall blonde man in his late twenties or early thirties, a single young man, a single young woman and myself. We picked up another woman in her late twenties farther down the road to complete our band of adventuresome amblers. We were a diverse group collected from Austria, Germany, South Africa, Switzerland, USA, and of course Canada. With a final farewell bade to watching friends and family we all clambered up into whichever seat took our fancy. Our guides Karel and Masters swung into the front cab and with a rumble the truck was alive. With my passport tucked close to my body and a smile playing across my lips I waved Johannesburg goodbye. The next stop, Nata Lodge, Botswana.

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