Journey's Through The Bush
Diana and the kids and our faithful Toyota.
We had spent the previous two weeks in Maun and then camping in the game areas of Savuti and Chobe in northern Botswana. The place was devoid of any other visitors, I presumed because of the ongoing bush war in neighbouring Rhodesia, as it was then.
On the way back home to Gabs we drove south from Kasane, a border town in Botswana touching on Namibia’s Caprivi Strip to the West, Zambia to the North and Rhodesia to the East. We asked the police if the 300-kilometre drive from Kasane to Nata was safe since we knew the first third of the journey was very close to the border with Rhodesia and we were concerned about the war. We were told it was indeed safe but that we shouldn’t stop for anyone or anything.
After about 50 kilometres we had a puncture. I changed the wheel, considered returning to Kasane to get it fixed, but decided to go on. We only had one spare. The road was a good, properly cambered dirt road so I was travelling at speed when the left rear tyre, with a sound like a rifle shot, blew out. Somehow the vehicle stayed upright but as I brought it to a halt and clambered out I could see that the right rear tyre was also punctured and was rapidly deflating.
Up until then the kids had showed no signs of disquiet, but Dougal then asked anxiously, ‘Now, what do we do?’ The answer: ‘We’ll fix the punctures.’ Three of our five tyres were punctured. We were on an utterly deserted road and the temperature was over thirty-five degrees.
We, of course had spare tubes and all the equipment needed to repair punctures. The biggest problem was breaking the seal to remove the offending tubes. The problem was resolved by lying the tyre sideways and jacking the vehicle up on said tyre, which after much huffing and puffing eventually broke the seals. It took four-and-a-half hours to replace one tube and insert it in one of the tyres and repair one puncture in another tyre before we were on the way again. We only had a foot pump, so Diana and I got a lot of exercise inflating truck tyres. A couple of other vehicles passed us on the road; they must have had the same advice as we had been given, as they all accelerated past, without even slowing down. When we were finished I remember emptying a full twenty-five litre container of water all over myself just to cool down.
We had a look around before we continued the journey; the road was sprinkled with two-inch nails. What seemed to have happened was that the front tyres of the Land Cruiser had flicked the nails upright, so they punctured the rear tyres as they passed over them. Undoubtedly the nails were thrown there by the forces of Joshua Nkomo as part of the Rhodesian bush war; Nkomo ran one of the two factions fighting the bush war. We saw nothing of any insurgents, of course, but they can’t have been far away. I was told later by the Botswana police that they and the South African ANC often used the road to move further south...!
(A version of this incident used in the third book of my ‘Winds of Change’ trilogy: ‘No Peace for the Wicked’).