Car crash special
Last weekend I drove to Windhoek (the capital city of Namibia) with the CCF genetics technician, Janine, to run a promotion at Spar supermarket to advertise for our goat cheese (yes, I still find it ironic that I am somehow involved in cheese here being that I’m a vegan). Now, for those of you who have been reading my blog from the start, you may remember me reversing a brand new Land Cruiser car into a ditch whilst I was in Zimbabwe. Suffice to say, I’m not the best of drivers, and have had barely any experience a) driving off-road, b) driving four-wheel-drives, or c) driving anything larger than a Ford Fiesta. The vehicle we were driving was a Toyota Quantum, which is an 11-person minibus. Now, I have mentioned repeatedly to staff here that I’m not comfortable driving here, especially not in large cars or through bad weather conditions, because I don’t want to be responsible for crashing, especially with volunteers in the car. However, alas no one has taken heed of this warning, and I was given the massive Quantum to drive 300 km to Windhoek and back. Oh dear.
It wasn’t going too badly, and Janine was an excellent navigator both to Windhoek and around the capital itself. We had a great time there, finding time to go shopping in a mall (the first mall I’ve been in since August 2011!), went to the cinema (again, first cinema I’ve been in since last year), went out to eat twice and even managed to get to a metal concert! Who would have thought it – metal in Namibia?! We had a thoroughly good time in Windhoek and the cheese promotion also went well. Tired but happy, we started our 3.5 hour journey home. It was all going fine (other than two occasions of near-misses with flocks of stupid guinea fowl on the motorway!) until we turned off the main tar road onto the dirt track back to CCF….
It was dark, I was driving down a road that I had only driven down once before, we wanted to get back for dinner, I was tired, and I was probably driving a bit fast for the state of the road. Half way back, I felt the car tug under my hands due to the corrugations in the road. I slowed down and felt a bit insecure about it. We headed around a tight bend towards our first farm, and as we curved, the left part of the road became very soft, causing the left tyres to move slower and the car to swerve left. The corrugations in the road made the swerve even greater and we wobbled around on the road for a bit. I started to freak out, slammed my foot against the brakes and tried to steer against the swerve: wrong move! That instantly made the back of the car swing round in the road, and we did a full 180 degree swing until the right side of the car hit the left side of the road’s sand bank. The impact caused the car to fall on its side.
During this whole time (which must have been a maximum of 2 seconds since we went off course) I felt the whole event play slow-motion in my head, like you see in films! Fortunately both Janine and I were wearing seatbelts and the vehicle by this point was not going very fast, so neither of us were hurt. We even had glass bottles and crockery in the car, none of which broke either! Shaken and in shock, we looked at each other to see if the other was OK. We were glad to see that we were both fine (in fact the only damage sustained other than the car itself was that I broke a fingernail!). The car had fallen on my side, so Janine was hanging in the air from her seat belt. I unclipped her and she fell into my hands. We scrambled out of the passenger’s door and sat on top of the side of the vehicle, shaking with fright and shell-shocked at what had just happened. I decided to call Bruce, the General Manager, to get him to come help. It was around 6:30pm by this point, and he was back at CCF having dinner and a glass of wine and didn’t really seem impressed that someone was calling him outside of work hours, but when he heard what had happened, all he wanted to know was that we were OK.
He arranged for himself and two other vehicles to come assist us. Whilst Janine and I waited, we decided to jump down from the side of the vehicle (about a 12-foot drop), and gingerly missed the broken glass on the floor. We sat in the sand looking up at the stars in the pitch-black sky, whispering how other problems seem entirely insignificant to what could have just happened to us.
Fortunately the cavalry arrived quickly and they tried to push the car back up right. Being such a huge and heavy vehicle, three people could not manage, so they tried to pull it with tow ropes attached to a large truck. The tow rope snapped – twice – before we decided to give up and go home as it was dark, cold and we wanted some food and bed.
The next day we went back to see the damage. By that point, the car had been turned upright again. It wasn’t actually that bad: the wing mirror had come off, but wasn’t broken, there was one broken window and the side on which it fell was a bit beaten up but nothing too major. We were very lucky!
I feel really bad about the whole situation being that it was entirely my fault and it could have been a lot worse. Thankfully, everyone here, even my boss, has been very forgiving and are just glad that we’re OK. I now have to do the same journey next weekend, but I think I will be a lot more aware of my surroundings now and be driving 25 km/hr the whole way!