A Travellerspoint blog

Day Forty One - Beached

November 2nd 2011

sunny 36 °C

We drank coffee whilst we sat watching the distant ocean glow brighter as the sun rose on our backs. Today was a great day. We were to be shipwreck hunters again!

There were a few wrecks on our list that we hadn’t seen with Emma and today was the day we would get to see them. We pretended we weren’t on just another tourist trail. Wired with caffeine and the romantic notion of tracking down these once noble vessels that had come to the end on these inhospitable shores we gunned Redvers to life and the hunt began.

The first on our list was another ‘unknown’ wreck. It was five kilometres from the main road and so there would be some 4x4ing to do. We turned off the road at a position from which we could head due west, following another cars foot prints. The track was easy and two kilometres in we hit a rocky bank running through the centre of a large salt pan with what looked like fairly deep sand either side of us. With the bank as our bridge we were sailing, we were closing on the wreck and the excitement was building. (My mind was playing out the pirate impressions already as I’m sure was Somers’.) But plain sailing was soon to end. Our bank petered out into darker sand with from its appearance was fairly crusted. Somers slowed the engine and looked at me. I looked back shrugging. My words were, “Just gun it I reckon.” Somers took the bull by the horns and Redvers roared as we left our bank and hit a very thin crust beneath which lay deep, sticky but extremely slippy mud. Ten meters onto the pan we stuck. Redvers wheels spun as we gently tried to ease him out, reverse, forward, reverse, forward, spinning wheels, sinking deeper. We stopped, we needed a new plan.

Plan A was exactly as you’d guess. Despite my earlier words of encouragement Somers had been driving. I’m a boy, brash of mind and with confidence (misplaced) when there’s a woman nearby. I got in the drivers’ seat and fired him up. This’ll be easy I thought as I gently got Redvers’ wheels to spin on the spot just like Laura had. Hmmm.

Plan B was to dig our way out. This was never going to be a dignified affair. The folding shovel was unleashed as Somers became rock collector and I dug down to our wheels through wet/mud with the consistency of the thickest gooiest chocolate brownie you can imagine. I had to scrape the earth off the spade by hand as it stuck so firmly. In the dug-out trenches behind the wheels we placed rocks galore. Back in the car it was Somers turn to get us out. I was videoing. Spinning wheels going nowhere. Damn it. No good. Every time we attempted escape Redvers’ wheels dug in deeper. We were three kilometres from the road and a hundred and fifty from the nearest town. It would be embarrassing to thumb down a Toyota driver for help. We needed a Plan C.

The good news was that we’d anticipated this day long before I laughed at Mr Toyota stuck in the sand. Buying accessories we’d been like kids in sweet shop and so our toys weren’t just limited to a folding spade that carried with it an air of Chinese disposability. We had a high lift farmers jack, (made in China,) tow ropes, elastic recovery ropes and shackles (useless without a car to pull us out, probably made in China) and a pair of the finest sand tracks known to man (made in South Africa, but I’m highly suspicious they were imported from China and relabelled.)
We’d had two attempts already and we’d been stuck for about half an hour so this would be it. We found a big rock to put the jack on but even this just sank into the mud under the combined weight of the jack and vehicle. Using lots of rocks we managed to create a strong enough base to lift each individual wheel using the alloys as our lifting point; this was dangerous in itself as we didn’t want to crack one of the alloy rims.

Over the next two hours we tried various combinations: we dug deeper tracks, we dug out the wheels, we placed layers of rocks beneath all four wheels and then placed the sand tracks on top of these rocks, even putting stones in the sand tracks, each time we had a failure we adjusted something, lifted another wheel to put even more rocks down, placed foundation rocks for the smaller rocks, it was bloody hard work. When Redvers finally came unstuck and reversed out,( in true General Sir Redvers Buller style,) it was two o’clock and I had the best sunburnt builders bum since Eve made Adam do the weeding in Eden.

We settled Redvers on our rocky bank, ate a lunch of avocado, tomato and cucumber sandwiches, standard traveller fare, and set off on foot for the bloody ‘unknown’ wreck.

It turns out that my new scarf has yet another use. A pirates’ headscarf. I posed with my eye patch and headscarf with a mean grizzly face, I hadn’t shaved for a few days, you can only imagine the luxurious and full beard I now possess. (“There are at least six hairs,” said Somers. My hurt feelings made me ask just how she gets her teeth such a lovely yellow colour. That gave us some ‘quiet time.’) )

Walking back to the car we found another seal carcass whose flipper had rotted to just its sun bleached bones. Somers picked it up and pulled her sleeve down over her own hand so that the flipper bones became her new prosthesis. Cue an impromptu photo shoot with Somers performing model like poses with her freaky skeleton hand. We laughed to exhaustion and trundled back to Redvers.

Our hiccup had delayed us. We were supposed to be through the park gates by 3pm. It was 3.45pm by the time we arrived.

The gates to the southern entrance of the Skeleton Coast National Park are made with two huge skull and crossbones that are flanked by 15 foot high whale ribs. It was fairly spectacular but we had bigger fish to fry. I walked into the office, permits in hand, and looked for the man in charge. His name was Umshlongo and since we were late we couldn’t enter. No great surprise really, but by no means the end of our discussion. A short while later I had negotiated two options. One was to travel through the park and directly out of the other gate, the second was to stay with these rangers. We chose the latter and agreed it would be for free. Great stuff. As we unpacked the tent, we watched the rangers drive off into the National Park, fishing rods and tackle on the back of their car, straight past the ‘Strictly No Fishing’ sign. They obviously needed dinner and there must be whole load of fish waiting to be caught given no one else is allowed to catch the little fellas.

Posted by ibeamish 10:09 Archived in Namibia

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