Wild Goose and Palm Cards Chase

The man of our house is good with directions, on most occasions. Really good. It’s very handy because he usually finds his way around without a problem and we get spoilt for it because we can rely on him to get us to places. He also loves exploring new places and going to events and a friend of ours has called him “Jacques Cousteau” for good reason, and he does it all with unconquerable enthusiasm and insuppressible energy. He keeps going and going like the Duracell bunny (while I’m the tired one bent over double catching my breath) which means that we don’t really do anything slowly. We’re forever moving at a fast pace but every now and then we do that whilst chasing a wild goose when Ironman’s usual steadfast aim and command desserts or fails him momentarily and since we don’t get that many opportunities to tease the one who loves teasing the rest of us relentlessly, we grab one when it presents itself.

Going to an event like the Caravan and Camping Show in Perth back in the days when the kids were little he strode off in a direction assuming that the rest of us will follow but without taking into account the fact that a show such as that is like a wonderland for young kids. There are so many different tents, caravans and camper trailers to discover and explore that all three kids kept going into different caravans at the same time while I’m trying to keep an eye on who’s where and where my husband is headed in the throng of people and I end up like a cross between a mother hen and a kelpie (trying to herd her young) whilst also watching my husband’s back disappear amongst the crowds. And it all seemed to happen in fast forward; there was no slow ambling through the displays to take it all in in a relaxed way. By the time we went home I was completely worn out from running around after the kids, couldn’t remember having seen anything worthwhile and didn’t achieve any objective other than assuring my kids all got back home safely afterwards. Suffice to say we didn’t go back for another ten years (and this time sans kids – much to their relief by that stage).

On another occasion we were in Albany (Southwest WA) for a long weekend and ended up watching the vintage car races in town on the Sunday afternoon, which was great fun. Most of the roads in the centre of town were closed due to the races and while we were watching Ironman and Child No 3 decided that it was a good idea to go and get a gelato. The only problem was that they had to take such a detour on their way back due to all the road closures that they went up and down roads just to find themselves at dead ends several times and eventually just about got lost despite a great sense of direction (temporary lost, I think) and a quick trip to buy ice cream became an extended and diverted wild goose trek.

The vintage car races in Albany

The vintage car races in Albany

Vintage car races in Albany

Vintage car races in Albany

Last year on our trip to Namibia we had a few hours to spare in Windhoek before our flight to Cape Town departed so we decided to stop at the craft market and we also had to refuel the vehicles. Driving around Windhoek with friends of ours following behind in their vehicle proved to have its own set of challenges (especially for our friends who were foreign to the city) as my normally determined husband changed his mind so many times about which way to go and each time it involved a split-second last-minute decision to change lanes or make a U-turn where there’s not enough room to turn a 4×4 around causing us (and our poor friends) to drive over kerbs and sidewalks and all the while they’re trying to keep our vehicle in sight otherwise they’d be lost when eventually I said that we were taking them off-road in the city of Windhoek. There was a fair bit of backwards and forwards chasing until at long last we found, firstly, parking outside the craft market and secondly the filling station on the way to the airport. It seemed such a crazy pursuit of something as innocuous as a craft market or filling station, but add to the picture pre-Easter weekend traffic,  Windhoek road works and the fact the we don’t drive around Windhoek every day (more like once every five years) and it made for some interesting CBD off-road driving.

And then when The Giants visited Perth earlier this year I was reminded of our wild goose chase experiences in the past. We decided to set off for the city early on the Sunday morning to avoid the massive crowds we got stuck in the day before, the plan being to have breakfast in the city somewhere. We caught the train and arrived in the city bright and early. The thing we didn’t reckon with was that most of the malls in the city were still closed that early on a Sunday morning and we couldn’t walk through them to where we wanted to go and every time we got to a dead end Ironman would turn around and march off in a different direction without saying a word, and us slow bunnies with our inferior non-Duracell batteries scuttled behind trying to keep up until we got to the next dead end where he’d again suddenly change direction without warning. The other thing we didn’t take into account was that other people might have had the same plan as ours, also wanting to have breakfast in the city so it wasn’t all that easy to find an open café or restaurant with a free table either, and again at the last minute when Ironman saw a queue of people he’d turn around without a word and start walking in the opposite direction as fast as we’d come. We were still headed in one direction when he’d already turned around and passed us going the back the way we’d come. In the end we found a lovely breakfast spot though, had a delicious breaky, and then started the march again towards the area where we were hoping to see the Giants. It was all well worth it after we made it to the spot where we decided to wait (and subsequently waited for about two hours), because the show was spellbinding.

One of the Giants: The Pearl Diver

One of the Giants: The Pearl Diver

The Diver's Boots and the lilliputians or acrobats handling him

The Diver’s Boots and some of the lilliputians (or acrobats) handling him

In his defence, I have to add that my husband does willingly go on wild goose chases in search of some or other obscure thing someone in the family needs, usually at the most inconvenient of times. Whether it’s a specific rare type of cheese or sherry vinegar that I need, running shoes for the kids or in the latest instance, palm cards for Child No 3, he’ll be content driving from shop to shop to find the right thing. Last weekend when Child No 3 decided that she needed a multi-coloured pack of palm cards for her Science exam revision it was my husband who happily went to three different shops (which were miles apart) to find the right thing for her (study aids are important). When closing time drew near I ended up phoning the last shop to check if they had this very specific item in stock, which they did, and asked them to hold it while our hunter-and-sourcer-of-hard-to-find items-at-times-when-no-one-else-is-in-the-slightest-inclined-or-motivated-to-drive-from-shop-to-shop went along and bought it, brought the prized item home and saved the day.

Bogged

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t have a story or two about getting bogged? Getting stuck. The kind where outside help is required to get unstuck. We’ve managed to accumulate a little collection of them over the years but a few incidents stand out in my memory.

The first one was in 1999 in Lamberts Bay on the west coast of South Africa where we’d gone for a weekend away together with Ironman’s parents. It was August, windy, cold and rainy but we had a great time and decided to go for a drive on the Sunday afternoon and ended up near the beach. At this point my husband said: “Let’s go for a drive on the beach” to which his mum and I both vehemently responded with an emphatic “No”! A bit of a debate followed but we stuck to our opinion fervently: “we’ll get stuck”. My husband has never been one to back down from a challenge though, and thought it would be great fun and since he was driving that’s exactly what he did – took us for a drive on the beach. The sand looked quite hard but it had been raining so it was very deceptive, which we found out the hard way very quickly. We were completely bogged.

I was in no mood to get out and help dig (with my hands because we didn’t have a spade with us) but I quickly realised that, in the interests of getting us all back to our accommodation before nightfall, I had no choice, so I got out and started to help attempt to dig us out. That was all it was though, an attempt, because we weren’t getting out in a hurry despite having dug away a fair amount of sand and since it was such a miserable afternoon the beach was deserted and there was not another person in sight. Thankfully some locals appeared as if having been sent and, after some good-natured laughs at the quandary we found ourselves in, pulled in with their Landrover and had us out in no time. Unfortunately the afternoon’s drama didn’t end there because my man realised (after getting back into the vehicle) that he’d lost his wedding ring, so it was back out into the weather and start digging again for him, whilst I was looking on in the middle of a serious sense of humour failure. Finding the ring amongst all that dug-up sand was worse than finding a needle in a haystack and he had to concede defeat after a while.

We managed to escape the bogged-bug for many years but misjudged the effect of a very wet rainy season on the sand and also gravel roads in Namibia three times in the last three years. The first time it was my well-meaning brother-in-law who’d taken our friends and ourselves on a game drive in his neighbour’s game camp and we were on some shaky, wet ground but still moving forward until my husband asked him to stop the vehicle so I could change the lens on my camera – all this while I’m insisting we don’t need to stop – and he stopped and immediately regretted it as we instantly sunk into the mud. We all hopped off to help dig and find branches and some rocks to place underneath the wheels to help gain some track but it was to no avail. It didn’t help then that we were reminded that there was a leopard in the game camp as well as the antelope and we had no mobile reception and daylight was rapidly fading. One of the young, fit guys in the group was brave enough to jog the two kilometres to the farmhouse (barefoot) to go and ask for help but when help arrived in the form of a tractor it couldn’t get close enough and still be on dry land to be able to pull the vehicle out, so it had to stay there overnight. By this time it was completely dark and we were all a bit wary of this leopard and hoping it wasn’t hungry so when we finally got word to my sister to come and fetch us there was no problem fitting about 15 of us into her vehicle to get home safely that night!

The second time it was our friends who decided to risk it and headed straight into the very wet, muddy and already churned up tracks but didn’t get very far before they were solidly bogged. Stuck in the mud.  Just as well they didn’t get too far otherwise the two vehicles’ ropes tied together wouldn’t have been long enough to reach them but luck was on our side and we managed to pull them out.

Our friends heading into a tricky situation in Namibia in 2011

Our friends heading into a tricky situation in Namibia in 2011

Our friends stuck in the mud, Namibia, 2011

Our friends stuck in the mud, Namibia, 2011

The third time luck was definitely not on our side. We were being very careful and avoided the spots where we could get stuck but our friends fell victim to an unseen hole in the tracks underneath the water and got completely stuck. We’d made it through onto dry land and thought we were safe and able to pull them out when, all of a sudden, one of the back wheels of our vehicle sunk down into what would have been an old, filled-in antbear hole. We were in it down to the axle and not going anywhere. Thankfully there was mobile reception if you got onto the vehicle’s roof and my brother-in-law came to our rescue, but they were only able to get our vehicle out, not our friends’ one. It was nearing sunset by this time with no success so their vehicle had to be left there overnight for another attempt in the morning with the farm tractor and iron chains, but it had got sucked into the mud so badly that the tractor pulling the vehicle needed to be pulled by the farm Landrover before they got it out! All was well in the end but this time round being careful didn’t really make a difference!

Ours and our friends' vehicles both stuck, Namibia, 2014

Ours and our friends’ vehicles both stuck, Namibia, 2014

The last eventuality also ended well, but not after some mild concern and about an hour of lying on our bellies and digging with both hands and a kayak paddle and our all-wheel drive vehicle was still lying very snugly on its chassis in the middle of Yardie Creek, northwest Western Australia. The word “creek” in this instance is confusing because there was no water in sight, just a wide, dry riverbed which looked like it hadn’t seen a drop of rain in 15 years which other friends of ours had crossed with their 4 x 4 a few days prior without drama and the advice we were given was that we would be fine and didn’t need to let the tyres down. Well, after the hour or so of digging I decided that outside intervention was definitely required if we didn’t want to spend the night (and some more days) right there in the creek and I marched off in search of help which I, very fortunately, found in the form of a few friendly families with 4 x 4’s, recovery ramp tracks and everything else required camping about a kilometre away. They drove down with all three of their 4 x 4’s (I must have made our little predicament sound seriously desperate) but one of them had us out in no time. I’m still convinced it’s because we’d done all the digging beforehand!

Bogged in Yardie Creek

Bogged in Yardie Creek

So, the moral of the story is to heed some advice and take others with a pinch of salt and to have the wisdom to know the difference, to make sure to get some recovery ramp tracks as well, travel in groups,  and always hope that if you’re going to be unlucky there will be some friendly and helpful souls around, even if you end up being their entertainment for the day and provide them with a story to re-tell…