Moremi Botswana—A New Year’s 4×4 mishap

Twenty years ago, I embarked on a thrilling expedition to Botswana with my wife, her parents, and her brother. Our journey took us through the mesmerizing landscapes of the Okavango Delta and the expansive Makgadikgadi Pans, where we encountered the majesty of African wildlife. However, it was an unexpected adventure on the last day of the year that etched an indelible memory into our hearts.

While staying in the vibrant town of Maun, we decided to venture into the Moremi Game Reserve on December 31st, 2003 for a self-drive day safari, before bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new one. Little did we know that our expedition would become an unforgettable tale of resilience and unexpected heroism.

To say that the park was wet would be a vast understatement. Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve is renowned for its lush landscapes and intricate waterways, and during the wet season, navigation can be particularly challenging. At that time, my experience with off-roading was limited, and our vehicle of choice was a short-wheelbase Pajero. We ventured into the wild with no recovery gear at hand—a decision we would later come to question.

As we traversed the park, we encountered vast expanses of sitting water. Despite the absence of rain, wildlife sightings were few and far between. Our adventure took a harrowing turn when we found ourselves on a road that resembled a slippery bridge, flanked by steep declines on either side, each leading to a swampy abyss.

In a matter of moments, our Pajero lost control and slid to the right into the bog. We were stuck, with no means of self-recovery. Hours passed as we attempted to extricate our vehicle from the mire. There was no cellphone signal, and for four long hours, we saw no other vehicles. Even the safari planes soaring overhead failed to detect our distress signals.

Our situation grew increasingly dire as we spotted fresh leopard and lion tracks on the road— a chilling reminder of the untamed wilderness surrounding us. It became apparent that few rangers were on hand, possibly having departed early to partake in New Year’s festivities.

Then, like a beacon of hope, a flatbed Toyota delivery pickup truck appeared on the scene. The driver, bewildered by our predicament, willingly extended a helping hand. With no prior experience in off-road rescues, he decided to assist us. We had to enter and exit our Pajero through the windows, as it was bogged down too deeply to open the doors.

The pickup truck driver, who had never operated a 4×4 before, managed to pull our Pajero for an astonishing 20 meters. It was an incredible feat that left us all in awe. The vehicle’s capabilities far exceeded our expectations. Remarkably, this Good Samaritan had no affiliation with the park; he had merely come to pick up his girlfriend for the evening’s festivities.

With immense gratitude, we thanked our unexpected hero and slowly made our way back to Maun. We arrived exhausted, with a newfound appreciation for the challenges that Botswana’s wet season can present. We enjoyed an early supper and an even earlier night’s rest, our tired bodies seeking much-needed rejuvenation after a day filled with twists and turns.

Our Botswana adventure had taken an unexpected turn that New Year’s Eve, but it had also revealed the kindness and resilience of the human spirit. It serves as a testament to the remarkable encounters and indomitable spirit that often accompany exploration in the heart of the wild.

As we reminisce about that fateful day, we are reminded of the unpredictability and beauty of the natural world, as well as the extraordinary acts of kindness that can emerge when we least expect them. Our journey through the Botswana wilderness not only tested our limits but also revealed the bonds that tie us together in the face of adversity.

Contributor @Khaki Bush Magazine
Images Credit Elemento

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