“Eshe,” we hit a cow.
The English translation of the Setswana “Eessh” is somewhere along the lines of Crap, Darn, Ughh, and a few other four letter words one may use when colliding with a cow, well actually an enormous bull, at 60mph.
My much-anticipated trip to the Okavango Delta – one of the most sought after wilderness destinations in the world- was put to a screeching halt, quite literary.
After a quick stop in the diamond mining town of Lethakane, , Geoff was behind to wheel for the last leg of the trip. The warm oranges and soothing reds of the setting sun were fading and dusk was setting in. In a split second the tranquil serenity of the African horizon spiraled into complete chaos. I saw the enormous reddish brown cow crossing the road, Unable to find my voice, two abrupt gasps was all I managed before the crash. The next thing I remember is brushing off the tiny pieces of glass off my face and coughing from the dusty explosion of the airbag.
I kept my eyes closed in fear of the outside scene. After hearing the reassuring voice of Sophie, I slowly lifted my eyelids to uncover the scene. I asked if everyone was ok. My stomach untwisted a notch after I heard the voices of Geoff and Sophie, and little Liam in his car seat. The first of many small prayers of gratitude were sent to the heavens- we were ok. The next three hours were spent trying to organize a ride to the hotel and a tow truck. The periodic conversations of the friendly passerby helped pass the time. Their concern for our safety, or maybe it was for their dinner; many searched to find the large piece of meat we hit. Regardless of the motives the interactions lightened the mood and the kind spirit of the people of Botswana made us smile. As we waited for the police to arrive, Sophie and I chatted about the fortuity of life under the twinkling stars of the Southern hemisphere constellations.
Although I was deeply disappointed about the cancellation of my unique camping adventure, I was truly thankful for our safety. In addition the comedy of the following day lessened the blow of the setback.
After a deep sleep at the hotel in Lethakane, (side note- where I strategically covered my body with top blanket while avoiding contact with the rest of the bedding in fear what creepy crawly things that lay within. The top blanket was to shield off my body of mosquito bites as we had entered a Malaria zone with our northern travels.), I awoke to another sunny African day.
We spent a patient morning and afternoon at the hotel grounds while Geoff negotiated with the insurance company and configured a way for us to get home. And as fate would have it, we discovered a gentleman who was checking out of the hotel and passing through Mahalapye. He happened to be pulling his wrecked car home from his own car accident. We could use the back of his small truck to put the salvaged pieces of our vehicle and our camping gear. I would accompany this stranger on a four-hour drive back to Mahalapye as his truck could only fit one other passenger. Off I went with all of our luggage, keys to the house and bear mace (just in case).
My driver, Ontirotso, was a nice man and I thoroughly enjoyed our chat on the slow drive (due to the massive load his beat-up truck was hauling). Even at a snail’s pace the heavy load of the truck gain control and pushed the truck side to side. I think I said about 13 “Hail-Mary’s” along the way. Then we hit the police checkpoint, where I discovered my driver didn’t have or “forgot” his license, and we were pulled over. About a half hour of no progress I walked back to the police station to see what I could offer to the situation. Ontirotso sat on the curb, smoked his cigarette and told me the police refused to let us pass. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
With teary eyes, exaggerated gestures, Ontirotso’s broken translations, and about another 30 minutes of explaining, we were sent on our way. I think it was the phrase, “I AM A DOCTOR AND THEY URGENTLY NEED ME AT THE MAHALAPYE HOSPITAL”, that did the trick. They took my United States’ driver’s license information and passport info…and told Ontiorosoto we were free to pass thorough, or so I thought. As we walked to the car, Ontiorosoto pointed to the drivers’ seat. He told me I had to drive until we were out of sight of the cops. I was smiling as I climbed into the drivers’ seat…there were multiple reasons why I knew this scenario not end favorably.
- Lack of control due to the truck size and the weight and size of the rear cargo
- Driving on the opposite side of the road
- I had NEVER IN MY LIFE driven a stick shift
- Ontiorsoto’s broken English was hard enough to follow with slow conversation in the passenger’s seat, needless to say “101 of driving a stick shift” the language barrier would come into affect
- The watchful eye of the police a few meters behind the vehicle heightened the nervous tension
Poor Ontirosoto, he tried so hard to explain… but after stalling a handful of times, he unbuckled his seatbelt, mumbled something under his breath in Setswana (which I assumingly translated to “ Ah, who gives a damn”) and told me he would drive. I heard the police shouting in the background and, for once, was happy I didn’t understand Setswana very well…As far as I was concerned; they waved one last goodbye and shouted how much they enjoyed our stay.About five and half hours later, I safely arrived in Mahalapye. Ontirosoto and I unloaded the gear and we parted our ways. I will never forget the kind heart of Ontirosoto (after the police stop we chatted about Botswana,mostly me asking lots of questions. He even made a social stop so I could speak with some of the bushman on the side of the road that were selling traditional medicines.
Home sweet home… I took a cool bucket shower and reflected on the bizarre events of the past two days. Geoff, Sophie, and Liam safely arrived late that night. I fell asleep to the comfort that we had successfully completed our journey home.I found the spirit of Botswana represented in the unforgettable experiences of the past two days. The ability to stay optimistic and light-hearted while overcoming the challenges and obstacles of life. “Eeshe,” we hit a cow”