So Near, So Safari

**The challenge – write a short story that uses the words  African, rose, henge, sling, number**

The morning sun rose slowly over the Makgadikgadi Pan, sending long shadows creeping out across the salt flats. It has been a bitterly cold night, colder than I had ever experienced before and my naivety was showing; a few nights camping out in the open in the Brecon Beacons had in no way prepared me for this. Yes, I’m a white European townie who is seriously, and I mean seriously, out of his depth. I shiver, unzip the sleeping bag and roll out, pulling on clothes to keep out the chill as quickly as one can with an injured arm. There seems a strange sense of irony that within a couple of hours I’ll be peeling them all off again and fighting heat stroke. I check my watch; through the cracked glass I can see it is only just after five. I eat an energy bar and some flapjack for breakfast, washing them down with plenty of water. I could kill for some tea but out here caffeine is not recommended, making me even more irritable. Reluctantly, and with some difficulty, I open the back door of the Land Rover and climb outside. The vehicle is still resting nose down in a shallow gully, its arse sticking in the air. The height, the angle, the broken arm; all conspire to make me to stumble and fall. I scream with pain as I land on the injured limb, rolling onto my back and clutching at my arm to stop it flopping about. My breaths come in rapid bursts, tears roll down either side of my face and into my ears. Adventure holidays never look like this in the brochures.

After a quarter of an hour or so has passed and the pain has receded from excruciating to merely intense, I manage to get myself into a sitting position and, from there, to standing. I make my way with difficulty back inside the rear of the Land Rover and do what I should have done before I’d tried to exit. I rummage through the jumble of equipment that had been thrown around in the crash and eventually find the first aid kit. Inside are various dressings and I select one out of which I can make a suitable sling. On training courses you always practice on someone else; trying to put one’s own broken arm into a sling single handed, without pain killers, is nigh on impossible. It takes me around the best part of an hour to get it right and even then it is barely adequate.

Now, you may wonder why I am out, alone, ill-prepared, on an African salt flat, and I think I could ask myself the same question. I guess it’s one of the things on my ‘bucket list’. Some people want to see the Niagara Falls, some to see Stonehenge, others the Taj Mahal. Me; I’ve always wanted to see the sun rise over the savannah, to see the true wilderness. I wanted see what relying on my own abilities would teach me. I soon found out. For one thing, I found that driving mile upon mile across arid wilderness is very tiring, and I found that falling asleep at the wheel in the middle of nowhere is as dangerous as falling asleep at the wheel on the M4. I also found out that one should also wear a seatbelt despite being in the middle of nowhere.
When I had come to after being thrown through the windscreen, and lay injured and dazed in the wadi, I was conscious of two things; one – I had knackered a perfectly good Land Rover, and two – the large number of animals passing through the area. In the distance I could see a dust cloud moving from south to north and, from the sound travelling across this open land, I reckoned it was a large herd of zebra. If there are zebra then there were sure to be lions following close behind to pick off the weak, the stragglers, the young and the elderly. I also reckoned that it was no place for an idiot with a broken arm to be found by a hungry pride. Sweating profusely from fear and shock, I managed to get back inside my ruined vehicle and stayed there. That was over twenty four hours ago.

So, here I am, a broken arm and a broken Land Rover (ripped the driver’s side front wheel off), as far from civilization as I am ever likely to get, and I am a dead man. Not literally, but I suspect it is only a matter of time; and then the miracle happens – I am mistaken for a poacher! An aerial patrol keeping an eye on the migrations sees my vehicle and radios in. Next thing I know two ruddy great Land Cruisers come hurtling up and armed men are yelling at me to put my hands up. I put one hand up and hope that will do, whilst wiggling the fingers sticking out of the sling to show I am not armed. More shouting, inspection of damage to vehicle (with much laughter, presumably about how this greenhorn managed to wreck an unwreckable off-roader), inspection of inside of vehicle satisfying them I am only a threat to myself and not the wildlife, and then a horrendously bumpy four hour ride back into the nearest town at a speed I didn’t think was possible on this terrain. Twenty four hours later I am on a helicopter ride to the capital and to hospital, and the end of my holiday. Still, I did get to see the sun come up over the savannah.


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