Sometimes Stuff Happens on African Safaris in Spite of Careful Preparations
While we work hard to ensure that on any of our African safaris, we don’t have any unexpected surprises, sometimes, stuff happens. If this happens our WILDLIFE SAFARI DRIVER is our salvation! As is the case in May 2017.
This is Paul, he’s a sort of Tanzanian version of McGyver. (For those of you who don’t know McGyver, he’s a sort of do it yourself kinda guy who can get his way out of anything, using ordinarily common tools or other ordinary things that are lying around. His mind can calculate anything to ease a situation, clear a situation or become unstuck). In short, this is Paul, he can do most anything, fix most anything, handle most everything! Is it any wonder why I depend on him so much to keep your safari going smoothly, and keep you safe. Give him a piece of chewing gum, and he’s going to use it to fix something, well almost….give him a rope and he’s going to make the best of it. In this situation it actually was a rope, a piece of canvas, and some heavy duty hard labor.
The Serengeti was unusually bumpy on this African Safari. I’d not felt it so bad in a very long time. The Roads Department had begun piling up rocks along its edges in order to re-gravel the road, but they hadn’t started it yet. Thank goodness my guests were having the massage of their life, and it didn’t seem to bother them in the least, or at least they kept it to themselves and made jokes about this road to somewhere….They’d not been on the road before, so it was kind of an experience, albeit a bumpy one.
As we sped along, bumpityy bump, I heard a noise, and mentioned it to my driver. He had not heard it, but he stopped the car and got out and inspected it from back to front, from side to side. He saw nothing, but drove at first very slowly to see if he could detect something. Nothing! So off we went. About ten minutes later, the noise was louder and this time he heard it. He immediately stopped the car and got out. Oops….we could tell by the look on his face, this was not good! Was it a simple fix? Or did we have to go to Plan B, whatever that might have been? He told us, there was a broken spring under the car, I’m thinking..wasn’t that the spring he had just replaced less than 30 days ago? Whatever, it was, it would not allow us to go any further.
Well, jokingly, as he is often known for, he said the car couldn’t take the weight…..of all of us, that is! So, carefully, because we were in the middle of the road, he offloaded all of us, then all of the luggage. We were carrying luggage because we’d just left the Serengeti and were headed to our last property. Or where we? Once offloaded, Paul went for the BIG guns. THE JACK! As sweat poured down his face, all we could do was watch and watch some more, that BIG gun just didn’t look like it was going to hold the car. That’s the thing about Paul, it’s like no big deal, stand back, let me work my magic.
The men jumped out to help, Bob and Jerry look underneath to assess the situation, Bob knew about cars, and I’m thinking, he’s thinking, ‘this is some serious %$&‘. After they help offload the luggage, Paul continued to jack up the car on this uneven road as the ladies stood and held our breath watching this scene, probably wondering how it was going to play out.
ROAD FLARES – SAFETY FIRST
Our other vehicle was in front making sure we were all okay on the side of the road, and then they both began to try to figure out what to do. It looked as if the car would tip over. As Paul and the other men inspected the car, one of my guests put out the obligatory slow/warning/caution flares. What might those be? Well, in Africa, when you breakdown in the middle of the road…..you gather as many branches as you can, large branches to go across the road, far enough ahead for a car to spot it before he drove upon us, and behind us, and big enough so it is not just a twig in the road. We were in sort of a blind spot from one direction…..so approaching cars had to be warned before that curve that there was a road blockage. Slowly each of the cars stopped and ask if they could help.
HELP IS JUST A VEHICLE AWAY
That’s the thing about Tanzania that I’ve noticed over the years, and loved….drivers will always stop and make sure the situation is stable enough for them to move ahead or stop and help. I’ve seen it countless times. And conversely, I’ve been on many a safari with my drivers, where they would stop and help someone in trouble. My guests have witnessed it as well. The camaraderie between drivers in Tanzania is evident and appreciated. They don’t have to know you, they just have to see that you’re in trouble.
I KNOW LITTLE ABOUT CARS, BUT …..I could see that broken spring (though I would have called it a ‘thing’ underneath the car, but whatever it is, it was clear to me that it was not supposed to be that way)…. as it glared at me sticking out from the other aligned parts, under the car. So is this an aha moment, an oops moment, a what the crap moment? Were we going to be stuck, or were all 13 of us going to pile in the other car and be taken to our next stop? You may ask, weren’t you afraid? After all, even though we had left the Serengeti, animals still roam this area. Many of my guests can attest to that – on the same road where a few years earlier, there was a large male lion, lying’ (get it), on two large tree branches, off the ground….just relaxing, cooling it, and watching the cars go by….when it caught our attention. That wasn’t even a thought by any of us, I don’t think, or maybe I should say, no one voiced it. Hey, we’re on safari, it’s part of the adventure, isn’t it?
NO WORRIES HERE
No! worry no more. Paul, who began his career as an auto mechanic, pulled a piece of canvas from the back of the car, and a piece of rope. The other driver began to reload our luggage with the help of the other guys on the trip and put it atop the other vehicle. One climbed on top of the vehicle to help the driver and the others were throwing it up there. It was quite a sight, but the reality is, that things like this happen all the time. The difference is that sometimes the drivers don’t know what to do and have to wait until someone comes along who can help. There is no AAA in the Serengeti, there is no emergency road service that I’ve seen, anywhere in Africa. But here we were! Fortunate indeed to be with these resourceful drivers, who didn’t seem to have a worry in the world.
I’m sure none of us had any idea what the driver would do with a piece of rope and a canvas, but he wrapped that canvas around that broken spring and tied that rope to something under the car…let the jack down, assessed the situation and then got in the car and drove a few minutes up the road to see if it would hold. So far so good. However, we still had many kilometers to go, and it wasn’t going to all be on paved roads. I have a lot of faith in my driver, but I must admit I was a bit worried that this chewing gum bandaid wasn’t going to work. His words to me, as he saw the worried look on my face…‘what’s the matter, you don’t trust me”.
Meanwhile, between the guests and the drivers, after all luggage was off loaded and re-loaded back onto the other vehicle, we proceeded to get back into the car to head to our next stop. As we bumped along, each bump seeming worse than the other, I’m half-way expecting the entire bottom of the car to fall out from under us. I worry too much, more for my guests, hoping they enjoy every part of the experience, and don’t complain about a car breakdown. I know how Paul maintains this car, I know there is nothing he wouldn’t do to ensure its safety on safari for his guests, I know because I do trust him. It only takes meeting him for guests to feel the same.
Twenty minutes later, we arrive at our destination, in tact, and in one piece. No bottom has fallen out, the car didn’t stop, the rope didn’t break, the canvas didn’t tear. Now how is that for being impressed? Kudos and cheers to our drivers – and our guests for just taking everything in stride. I’m sure they might have had some worry, doubt, but I’m also sure they were impressed with how that situation was handled and resolved. Once again, our drivers showed us why we depend on them so heavily and how they take care of us.
These strong men worked late into the evening to get it all repaired and springs replaced. Once done, they didn’t go home to relax, no, they joined us for dinner, where we had the most enjoyable, the most unbelievable, the most emotional night, sharing thoughts and feelings about this 10 day journey in Tanzania! Awesome doesn’t even come close!