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.
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!
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!
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…