The State of “Stuck”

The idea is getting “closer” – the vehicle.  Closer to an area that begs further exploration on foot. It sounds so obviously sensible. But before that “closer” happens, there is a lot of slow, hard work. Dragging the vehicle along through the bush is mostly brutal, and hardly made up for by the few extra comforts in attendance.

When moving through the bush I am always careful to select the best going with the lowest risk of damage or getting stuck, even if it means frequent stops and gettings-out to inspect on foot. That, is a lot quicker and easier than getting stuck. But judgement is fallible, and sometimes, as here, “stuck” happens.

“Stuck” always follows the same meta pattern.

First, there is a state of hope; hope that the term “stuck” is an unnecessary extreme term to describe the state of affairs.

“Hope” is very quickly abandoned and followed by a state of denial, and the nervous launching of various superficial efforts that rely on no firmer grounds than “hope,” aimed at solving the “little problem.”

The outcome is inevitable: A rich selection of unspeakable but perfectly coherent words, generally accepted by practitioners as appropriate under the circumstances, as long as they include occasional reference to the term “stuck.”

Next, serious inspection – on the outside of the vehicle – is embarked on and “hope” is mercifully recovered from the ashes – “No man, this is not so bad. We’ll get out easily.”

In the vast majority of cases, this is soon discovered to be a mere illusion. What follows are ever more strenuous and desperate efforts, each commonly abandoned as unworkable or futile after a few attempts, each with mounting levels of irritation and ever more creative selections of unspeakables.

Eventually “despair” sets in, driven by perplexity, the heat and fatigue. It typically takes the form of sitting down in the nearest shade, from where sullen stares at the now irrefutable evidence of “stuck” are maintained at full strength.

During the state of despair it slowly begins to be accepted that this state of affairs is likely going to take a lot longer to undo and this, in turn, forces serious consideration of alternatives, including, briefly, abandoning the whole mess and walking off into the bush.

Getting out of “stuck” could take hours, even days. This one happened late one afternoon. We already had our minds snugly adjusted to looking out for a nice spot to make camp. I had succumbed to the seduction of the open grassy area, thinking, “maybe I could avoid having to break and chop a way through the thickets by just deftly skirting around the edge.” I couldn’t. Grassy area probably meant wet area. I should have stopped, gotten out, checked. Lesson learnt – again.

You can see that the right side of the vehicle is down to the axles in mud. And there was another twenty metres or so ahead, with hefty trees preventing an escape to the left.

We were eventually able to get out by, in the late “despair” stage, mounting the winch at the rear of the vehicle and winching ourselves out backwards. But it lasted until deep dusk and continued the next day till around noon.  It included spending the night in a place that was about as bad as you could think of for camping, with no overhead cover to keep the dew off our gear, lots of mosquitos when it got dark, lots more tsetse when it got light, barely enough water to cook with, carrying out every single heavy item to lighten the load (and of course re-loading) and a lot of winching, digging, chopping and carrying of branches to try and build a firm surface, more winching, digging, chopping, and the usual grazing of knuckles, blistering of hands and invention of suitable descriptive terms. Of course the mud around the vehicle slowly got churned into slush.  We had used our last water to cook the previous night, so till we found water again some time during the day, we were to be the envy of even the most extravagant buffalo dagga boy.  At least it helped for the tsetse.

But this is part of bush travel in Africa.

1 Comment

  1. Haha so well said! I’ve only once had the pleasure of experience “stuck” with you… And despite it having been extremely entertaining to watch Jordi and you sweat, swear and shout at each other from the sideline, I think once was enough for me! :)

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