Middle-of-Nowhere, Namibia is not a real town. It is a random place on the side of a crumbling, deserted “highway” in southern Namibia. There is no cell phone service there. A lone car drives by every hour or so. The nearest town is fifty kilometers in either direction. The nearest house is a long ago abandoned shack in a neglected field. A fence separates the thorny grass of the side of the road from a desolate national park.
We ended up in Middle-of-Nowhere after an unfortunate and inopportune mishap. Bumping along the rocky Namibian highway, our truck Imani suddenly blurted out a tell-tale “hissssssssssss.” We knew what this hiss meant because we’d heard it the day before. It was a flat tire. This was not just a flat tire. This was our fifth flat tire in twenty-four hours. We were already driving with two flat tires because we’d used up our two spares. Imani, with her dual-tire axles, can drive with two flats, but she cannot drive with three.
Imani, being the rugged and powerful truck that she is, doesn’t have just any old tires. She has ridiculously huge specialized tires that can’t be bought at the corner gas station in a tiny African town. Even if there was a gas station that could fix Imani’s tires, it wouldn’t be helpful to us, since there wasn’t a gas station for at least twenty-five kilometers. It seemed we were really and truly stranded.
As we were eating lunch thinking things over, a single car approached from the way we had come. Gino flagged them down and must have done some nice sweet-talking because after a few minutes, he hopped in and waved us goodbye. We had no idea where he was going. Matt, our other guide, had no idea where he was going. I don’t think he even knew where he was going or what he was going to do when he got there. All we could do was wait.
Hours and hours went by. Despite the bleakness of the situation, everyone was in a cheerful mood. We realized there was nothing we could do about the predicament and decided to make the best of it. Some of us played games, read, napped, or watched movies. (I was thankful to have Bridesmaids on my computer, which humorously passed the time for a while.) Every time a car went by, we perked up expecting to hear Gino’s “hi guys!” It was never him or anyone who had seen him in the nearest town. As it was starting to get dark, an open jeep with a truck-like back pulled up next to Imani. He had heard there was a guy in town trying to get some tires fixed, but the guy (Gino!) had already left when he showed up. So this friendly neighbor had decided to drive down the highway trying to find us to see how he could help. It was inexplicably lucky. Not only did this guy have a jeep that could fit two of Imani’s huge broken tires, he lived about five kilometers away where he operated a tire shop! He didn’t know if he could fix Imani’s huge, specialized tires, but he wanted to try. He and Matt and two of Imani’s tires took off towards his house. We were again stuck waiting.
Another hour passed and a safari car playing loud African music pulled up. “Hi guys!” It was Gino. He had heard that the tire guy was coming to help us and had bummed a ride from a safari guide back to Middle-of-Nowhere. “Let’s have some dinner!” We had shopped for game meat earlier in the day, so we were well-stocked for a gourmet dinner in Middle-of-Nowhere. Chef Charles barbecued up some kudu, oryx, and springbok, and we had a restaurant-worthy meal on the side of the road. As we prepared to stuff our faces with the mouthwatering game meat, Matt and Imani’s tires showed back up. The two tires were fixed! By this time it was too late to try to make it to our next camp hours away – especially with the possibility that the rough road would give Imani another flat tire and we’d again be stuck on the side of the road in the dark – so we decided to camp right there in Middle-of-Nowhere.
It was an adventure, but not the most fun one. We found the best spot we could for our tent, but it was still situated on rocks and sticks in a thorny grass area that Charles told us was full of poisonous bugs and snakes so we’d better wear pants and close-toed shoes. (Indeed, we had seen a half-foot venomous centipede at dinner.) I tried not to think about what we would do if someone got bitten. (No cell service, no mode of transportation, no town for miles. T.I.A.) We packed up early the next morning and stopped at our savior’s tire shop to get our other busted tires fixed. Now we are continuing on to Giant’s Playground hoping that Imani’s tires will hold for just a few hundred more kilometers!