When I lived in Namibia, I did different things and one of the things I did was worked as a travel consultant for some friends at their travel business. A friend of mine had come out to visit and we took a ten day trip around the country together, which was part-holiday, part-educational for me, to visit places we sold holidays to. It was one the best, but most disaster-prone, holidays I’ve ever been on.
One day, we were staying in a little desert homestead out in the middle of nowhere. (The night before, by the way, I had been driving in the dark because we got lost, which is extremely dangerous, and had hit a small deer. Already the disasters have started.) We decided to go and see the sand dunes the next day. The highest in the world, they are, very exciting. We’d been before but it was amazing so we were excited to go again. We jumped in the car and sped off. You might think I mean, we got ready, got our stuff together, packed a little bag, got in the car and drove there. No. What I literally mean is, ‘We jumped in the car and sped off.’
We got to the reserve and went into the little hut to get our permits to drive in. We had hardly any money between us and no ID. Of course, you need ID and money to get your permit. So we cobbled together enough for the entrance and managed to just talk the lady into letting us both in on the strength of my bank card! Ridiculous. It was just a card with a name on. I didn’t have anything else on me to prove whether I was the person who’s name was on the card or anything!
So we’re in, phew, we won’t be that stupid again. Never again. no, not us. We’ve learned our lesson. We get to the car park and park up. There’s a shuttle service out to the dunes. Which costs money. Of which we have almost none. We gingerly approach the shuttle driver man and present our measly few coins, not enough to cover the cost of taking one of us. I say I am a travel consultant and travelling around, experiencing Namibia, etc blah blah, you can imagine the nonsense I was talking. And talk ourselves onto the shuttle bus!! Great, we’re in! Phew, enough stupidity for today, we say to each other, rolling our eyes, and thinking how silly we are.
We arrive at the dunes. We can’t wait to climb Big Daddy, as the biggest one is affectionately known. We kick off our shoes and socks and dive in. Climbing it is taking forever, we’re hot and exhausted. I can feel my skin prickling in the burning sun, and that’s when I realise it, we didn’t bring any suncream! We came into the desert, on a burning hot day, and we didn’t bring any suncream. I’m also massively thirsty…. Well if we didn’t bring anything else with us, why would we have brought water?
Let’s get this straight. We’ve come to a reserve that you have to buy permits to enter. Which has a shuttle bus service. In the desert. In the morning sun. Without any money, ID, water or suncream. Ok. Are you with me? So you see what I mean about ‘We jumped in the car and sped off.’ Four stupid points to us.
We press on, reach the top of the sand dune, wow, amazing. Let’s jump down! This is SUCH good fun. Swimming in it, rolling, hilarious. I’m so at one with the world and with nature. I just love life so much. This is amazing. Everything’s amazing. Ahhh!
We get to the bottom, walk to the shuttle bus, sit in the back, sand is in every possible space, we laugh and joke about what a great time we’ve had. I’m digging my hands in my pockets, laughing about how they’re full of sand, and that’s when I realise it… my bank card isn’t in my pocket anymore…. it’s in that MASSIVE sand dune. It’s buried in the biggest sand dune in the world, that took me an hour to climb, and of course I wouldn’t have any idea which exact bit I was on. Five stupid points. I’m gathering them at an alarming rate.
Then my friend says to me, “Have you got the car keys?”
And I just knew.
I didn’t even put my hand in my pocket to check. I just knew. And that’s when I uttered the infamous words that she still reminds me of to this day: “We’ll deal with it when we get there.” And then I looked around at the lovely view and pretended it wasn’t happening. We’d be fine, my young confident self thought. It would alllll be fiiiiine.
We managed to get into the car easily. It was old enough that someone with the same make of car just put their key in and opened it! Then he tried his key in the ignition and it started! How lucky. You could take the key out and it would still run so I was ready to drive off straight away and head for the nearest town to get a new key fitted but the man wanted to check something. He turned off the engine. Then it wouldn’t start again. The steering wheel had locked too.
The shuttle bus drivers told us not to worry, they knew how to hot wire a car (comforting thought) and would just take off the casing around the steering wheel and get it started that way. Until no-one had the right shape screw driver. It was rapidly turning into a nightmare. We were stuck in the dessert with no money, no ID, no water, no suncream, no keys, no bank card, and a car we couldn’t start. Eventually some French tourists drove in and had the right shape screw driver and the bus drivers did their thing and showed me how to start it without the keys. I just needed something which had the right shape and I could start it up. Great. We were off.
The next day, nearing a town where we could get it all fixed, I stopped off for petrol. We couldn’t get into the petrol tank, could we? Because we didn’t have the keys. I also didn’t have a bank card to withdraw any money to pay for it. Thankfully, my nice friend put her bank account at our disposal for the remainder of the trip as I was financially stranded. A man from the garage came with a massive crow bar and levered the cap open so we could fill it. As we were getting ready to go, I put my house key into the dodgy unhooked ignition on the car, and the little piece of plastic in the barrel broke……..
I thought I was going to lose it. I felt like lying on the ground in the dessert and waiting for hyenas and lions to come and fight over my dried-up, un-watered, un-suncreamed body. I forget how we made it to the next town, I think the madness settled in and I blacked out for a day or two.
PS 20 days till exams. Still on Theft.