Monday, September 26, 2011

On The Road


After driving through Rundu and Grootfontein, we ended up in Tsumeb, where I spent another night on the ground under chilly cloudless skies. My travelling companions were headed to Etosha to take in some game viewing, but I had had enough. While I would have loved to see Namibia’s premiere game reserve, I could not afford to continue with my new friends. My pennies were feeling pinched and the date on my airline ticket had me counting the days. So I bid adieu to my rag-taggle group, was charged for gas and rental fees while in their car, and departed from them N$122.50 lighter. At that rate, if I had continued with them, I would have been left in the middle of the game park to bunker down with the lions again! Egad!

So I struck out on my own again, this time with my thumb as my only travelling companion. It was a brand new day and my third in Namibia. It was about to get a little more exciting, but NOT in a way that I would have liked. In fact, it shaped up to be one of the scariest days that I endured throughout my whole  stay in Africa.

So after my rented ride roared off, with high spirits I plunked my backpack on the side of the road and stuck my thumb in the direction of passing vehicles. It didn’t take long before one of those motorists stopped. In hindsight, I wish he had not, but things happen for a reason and on that day, I climbed in with a gracious smile. For my efforts, a crooked smile was returned, before the driver aimed his car back onto the road. The word “aim” was the best description for what he was attempting. I quickly discovered that my driver was three sheets, or more, to the wind. He reeked of booze and swerved all over the road. Every time he talked to me, the car veered in the direction that his head was facing in. I was terrified. My smile turned from gratitude to horror, as I clutched at the door, bracing for impact with oncoming vehicles. I knew it was a miracle that the driver did not flip the car every time he grazed onto the gravel shoulders and manically thanked my guardian angels for every near miss. Their wings were fluttering like mad that day.

How I got out of the car, I have blocked from my memory, but suffice it to say that I did. I felt like I was down a life or two, but still had miles to go before I could call anyplace home. With a little more trepidation, I clung to the side of the road again, praying that my angels would forgive me my transgressions from months gone by. Cars zoomed by and I remained where I was. I was only half discouraged, as my last ride remained fresh in my mind.

The arrival of a young woman broke me from my train of thought. She appeared to be about my age, perhaps a little younger, maybe a little older. It was hard to tell and no common language could rectify that. She was obviously a local woman and travelled with a large bag, minus the live chickens that I had become accustomed to.  I remembered that I was in Namibia though, and life here was a little more progressive. While both of us were still hitchhiking, it was on a good paved road and lines even ran down the middle of it to define left from right. As it was obvious that we were going in the same direction, we both gravitated towards each other, despite our lack of verbal communication. A shy smile passed between us and that was enough to let us know that we were on the same path. So when a big rig applied his brakes and rolled to a stop, we both ran together to jump in for the next leg of our journeys. I prayed that this ride would prove to be less eventful.

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