A Bump In The Road – Stuck In Namibia

We sat in absolute silence, our heads bowed down with embarrassment at all the Toyota cars heading past us in the opposite direction, the direction that we were meant to be headed. The only noise that could be heard from our vehicle was the loud crunching of gravel underneath the car’s tyres and occasionally a loud thud against the windscreen as stones got spat up onto our windscreen out from the car in front of us. Tow ropes were attached firmly to the back of their car and the front of ours, two heads just visible above their front seats, laughing and dancing to the music coming from their radio. The atmosphere in our car however couldn’t have been more different, the gloom and misery hanging heavy in the air.

Day Five of our three month expedition from Cape Town to Kenya and we are head to head with our first hurdle. To head backwards, in this case back in the direction of the South African border, on a trip of this magnitude is a little gut-wrenching. Every day beforehand we would relish in the distance that we had covered and bid farewell to the long and open straight roads of nothingness. Even more heart-breaking was that we were confident that the car was working better than ever, which in fairness, many parts of her are, but this problem according to Johan Strauss, whom I will shortly introduce, seemed as though it would have happened sooner or later.

We had just packed up our campsite at Klein Aus Desert Campsite and were en route to the highly anticipated Sossuvlei, and even more, to stay as guests at Kulala Desert Lodge, a place where the word ‘nice’ just doesn’t quite cut it. 15km down the dusty C13 and our Land Rover, Pumba, spluttered out what seemed to be her last sign of life. I assumed that it was a minor complication and most likely a quick fix, however after not seeing Ben’s head pop over the bonnet for over ten minutes, I opened my door to face the cold, blustery weather outside. I found him, his head cupped in his hands, eyes closed and his head resting on the edge of the bonnet.

It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later when two ladies in a Ford bakkie slowed down to ask whether we needed any help, and before we knew it, they were kindly towing us back to Aus, the little town from where we had just come, in order to see if we could try and source some help from there. Now, I’m taking it that most of you would have never heard of the town of Aus, and that’s completely understandable.

Aus is most famous for it’s wild desert-roaming Namib horses that were thought to have been let loose after the diamond rush in the nearby town of Luderitz post WWI, whereby the horses were used as workhorses. This, the ghost town of Kolmanskop and the coastal town of Luderitz, are the main attractions in the area. Apart from this, the town of Aus doesn’t have much going on. It consists of one tarred main road, maybe only 500m long before disappearing into gravel again, a police station, a hotel, a few houses and one garage station which is the local hang out for most of the locals. The gas station serves as the town’s ATM, food & curio shop. So finding a mechanic in Aus, on a Saturday, wasn’t looking very bright.
As Ben and I stared blankly into the oily engine bay in the hopes that this was all just a nightmare, two men by the name of Johan & Wim approached us. After fiddling around and having some man to man mechanic talk between each other, they both turned to us and said, ‘Johan Strauss. You need to call him”. Who is the hell is Johan Strauss you may be asking, well apparently he’s the best bloody Land Rover mechanic in all of Namibia. And after this weekend, I can vouch for that too.

It turns out that Johan Strauss happened to only live about 300km away from us. I say only because the distances between places in Namibia is FAR, with very little in between apart from open empty landscape, and so if there was any place that breaking down could have been a good idea, this was it. What were the chances that we were in such close proximity to this living Land Rover legend?!

Three hours later and we were sitting around Johan, and his wife, Ina’s, dinner table in their farm house. The smell of a home-cooked spaghetti bolognese filled our nostrils as we sipped on our hot coffee to combat the cold outside. Johan and his mechanic, Kobus, had already diagnosed our problem and told us that this problem, and most of the others on Pumba the Landy, were due to the shoddy workmanship of previous car mechanics who had worked on the car and proceeded throughout dinner to explain to us about what tasks lay ahead when morning came.

It’s now Sunday evening and I’m sitting in their kitchen writing this post. Kobus, the car mechanic, Johan & Ina are sitting on the couch with the TV blaring some Afrikaans soapie and my tummy is still so full from a delicious Sunday lunch.

The hospitality of these lovely people has blown me away. Coming from the city, we don’t often have experiences like this and our trust in strangers is often very little, yet Ben & I were invited into their house as though we were part of their family. I know that the quote ‘Things Happen For A Reason’ is super cheesy, but I couldn’t be more of a believer in this right now.

These are the experiences, as upsetting as they are at the time and trust me, I was very upset, that we will tell our friends and family first, letting them know about how our car was fixed by a bunch of magicians in the middle of nowhere in Namibia. It’s these experiences on the road that we will appreciate, the kindness of strangers is such a make or break aspect on a big trip, and with it only being day six, we certainly have a lot more to look forward to…thats if we make it 😉