Sand lovers[1]

As Tom and Chizuki were departing in mid-morning we left for an early drive to be able to return to camp in time for them to pack up. Lions had roared from the direction of Mana mouth so that was our destination.

The tracks in the area are reasonable with the occasional dry river crossing that normally do not offer any real challenge to a 4WD vehicle. The exception being some that actually have water, sometimes quite a lot of it making for fun driving (for me and daughter) and unnecessary risk-taking for my wife and son! Yes, the family is clearly split between wise and unwise (according to the wise) or boring and fun, according to us!

Because of his work, my father travelled daily to the rural areas of the Colonia Department in Uruguay from the 1940’s until his retirement in the 80’s. He did ford many watercourses during his time and he stated that “where there is water there is no mud underneath” so he would venture into the water without hesitation. He will drive forwards in his Willys Jeep when the water was reasonably low or plunged backwards when it was very deep. In this way he would open the water with the back of the car and the engine (petrol at the time!) would not get wet!

 

A river crossing with water at Mana Pools in July 2015.

Going back to our game drive towards Mana mouth, after a km or so of the river crossing we found a Land Cruiser pickup, probably the best bush vehicle there is. So good that in Mozambique they call them AKM in reference to the indestructible AK47 assault rifle (in Mozambique they know about this!). The pickup was not moving and there was someone standing next to it. We soon realized that they had just got stuck in the sand.

There is nothing wrong with getting stuck in the bush. However, they somehow had managed to do so in a patch of sand about two metres long! We waited for a few minutes, convinced that the car would move as soon as 4WD was engaged. Despite this, nothing happened and it only got deeper into trouble. Aware of the worsening situation we got out of our car and introduced ourselves to the lady standing and watching. She looked cool -with a Coke in hand- and clearly quite amused with what was taking place!

The driver was somewhere under the car frantically digging sand from under the wheels. “If you have a rope handy, I can pull you out”, I offered getting a smile from the lady and a grunted “no thanks” from somewhere below the car while sand continued flying out from under the car. After a couple of minutes we spotted him and realized that he was wearing the uniform of a tourist guide. His face was red showing an “I am upset and worried but do not want to show it” expression!

In view of the negative, we stood and watched the driver excavate more until he was satisfied and jumped on the car, clearly not enjoying being observed by some amateur tourists! He managed to get some action. The car jerked forward giving us some hope but it got lower into the sand. When this happened, the driver -wearing a very red face by now- jumped out again, still ignoring us, and proceeded to get under the car again to move more sand and enlarge the hole that, by now, had acquired an unnecessary large size!

We looked at the lady and she shrugged her shoulders so we quietly got back in our car and, aware that our time was short, drove around the “obstacle” and continued on our way. While passing by the pickup we said adios to the lady who shouted, “look, they are leaving”, and quickly added, “they are really going!” in the direction of a bottom wearing kaki shorts! The latter remained indifferent while the digging continued, probably for quite a while.

 

[1] Zimbabwe 2015, Mana Pools.

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