Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day, a holiday that is lost on Americans, since we do not have such a holiday. This is retrospective, since this is being written after the fact; it was a day of pleasure, ambiance, and the making new friendships suddenly shattered by tragedy. I am usually an early riser so I was sitting on the bench outside our room. Sissy the cheetah, found me as source of her entertainment. She acted like a house cat, wanting to be petted and extremely affectionate. However, an hour later, when I went to return the keys to the reception, she was in the way as I was walking there. She snarled and growled, so I walked around the other way, avoiding her path. The fickleness of it all, first loving affection and then she treats me like a used toy that has lost all of its flavoring. Well turn your back on me Miss Sissy! We were on the road by 8:00 am. We are getting spoiled with these late starts. Leaving this lovely place is difficult for all of us. It has been so pleasant. Today, we had a number of stops planned, but one not planned or wished for. Our first rest stop was a village called Solitaire with a population of 21 people and a little general store. Bruce had told us they had the best apple strudel in the southern hemisphere, so we were all ready to sample it. The portions were overly generous, delectable, but more than one person could eat alone. We shared our portions. It was a cultural incongruity to be eating apple strudel in the middle of the Namibian desert. The Tropic of Capricorn on the Guab Pass was the next stop, where we had to get out and get our photos taken with the sign marking the spot. Capricorn is my zodiac sign too, so it was especially appropriate. Bruce had giving us an explanation of the significance of the Tropic of Capricorn and Cancer. It was a playful stop and our spirits were soaring. We then stopped at yet another gorge, but being done with gorges, it did not grab my attention. I am not sure of its significance. I called it gorge 1 as there were more to come. This area is known as the moon landscapes. Three quarters of an hour later, we stopped at gorge 2 or Kuiseb Pass, which goes through Namibia. It was interesting to see what looked like a perfect line of trees growing along the pass in the distance. Traveling down a two lane ‘highway’ of gravel, we spotted a problem ahead, but those of us in the truck were not able to really see exactly what had happened. We were between nothing and nowhere and we came upon an accident on the road. At first, Bruce had not opened the door and dropped the ladder on the truck for us to get out. Then he came back to see if any of us were up on our first aid. Inike is an X-Ray technician, so is current and she went to help as did Lena followed by her husband Klas. They came back to the truck saying they needed towels, lots of towels. We got into our luggage and found ours as did all of the others. There on the side of the road was a one car accident. The car had a trailer behind it and must have flipped the car going around the bend. The car was totaled. Initially, the only person we saw was a young woman walking the pavement crying hysterically. They got her into the truck and stopped her bleeding. Then a second girl followed and was also put into the truck. It was then that many of us became aware that there was a young man’s body on the side of the road and another man hanging out of the driver’s side of the car. From the condition the car was in, it would have taken experts to remove the driver, but it seemed to be too late to try to save him by the time we arrived. We had no idea how long they had been there before we arrived. Both sides of the road were strewn with their belongings, some things far flung into the desert. Dirk and Harm started collecting everything scattered and then a group of us joined in. We collected anything that was worth anything at all and piled it along side the road. It kept us busy for about forty-five minutes reassembling people’s lives; various shoes spread within a hundred feet of each other, fishing rods mangled, coolers with cans of tuna, packages of gravy mix, and liters of soda, littering the desert landscape when they were meant for a celebration of life. There were cards from a game called “30 Seconds” blowing in the breeze. In my mind, I saw this group of five, playing this game as they were driving to their holiday destination, laughing and enjoying each other’s company only to have it end in tragedy so suddenly. As we collected their things, I tried to imagine all of the losses they had experienced in a matter of moments and was devastated by the thoughts. We were all in shock. There were papers flying down the road and Ron retrieved them. They had the names of the people and were their reservations at a fancy resort for the New Year’s Eve celebrations. The mother appeared from somewhere I had not witnessed. The young man on the ground was presumably her son and the young women, her daughters with the father driving. The mother was unscathed physically, but obviously in shock. Bruce had tried giving the boy air, but his chest was not able to sustain compressions. Some of the guys from our group stopped the few cars that were traveling this road. The next person to stop was a medical doctor, but he agreed the boy was beyond medical treatment and the father was gone already. He did clean and bandage the two daughters. With the next cars that stopped, Bruce checked to see who had cell phones with them. There was no cell signal where we were so calling for an ambulance was impossible. He asked more than one driver to keep their cell phone on and to call the emergency number as soon as they received a signal. We stayed until the ambulance came to take the three women to the hospital. After packing their suitcases into our truck, we were to meet them at the hospital. The doctor and his family agreed to stay behind until the police came with another ambulance for the father and son. It was unconceivable to think what could have happened if no cars had gone by on this desolate road. With great sobriety in the truck, we drove to the hospital to leave the luggage. Sadly, we made it there before the ambulance did. Scheduled was a stop at Walvis Bay to see the flamingos if they were there. All of us were silent on the way, absorbed in our own thoughts and emotions. Bruce explained that there are two types of flamingoes here, the greater and lesser flamingoes. The greater are taller and swing their heads along the bottom of the water dredging for food. The lesser flamingoes are shorter, so they feed 20 centimeters from the waters bottom by filling their mouths with water and sieving it out again, collecting the remaining food. Due to the differences in their feeding patterns, they are perfectly able to co-habitat without interfering with each others feeding patterns. Arriving in Swakopmund, the activity center was the next stop, where we were given a presentation on the adrenalin rush sports we could partake from. Four of our group signed up for skydiving, others for quad biking on the dunes. The rest of us passed up the options. We checked into our rooms, which were funky colors of dark blue with lavender. It was not unattractive, but different. Our room was in this color scheme, but it was comfortable with four twin beds separated by a partial wall. The bathroom was large with a comfortable shower, and the room had teas and coffee self-serve. Here we are saying good-bye to the Rasmusson family. They are going on their own from this town forward tomorrow. They have been such a rich part of our experiences, everyone is going to miss them dearly. Anna and Rikard have been delightful diversions on the long truck rides and pleasant company and conversationalists at other times. None of us are looking forward to their leaving the group. We do pick up an new member here, Germine from The Netherlands joins us. This now ends our Swedish majority and for a short time, makes it a Dutch majority. Swakopmund is a German settlement and has all of the appearances as such. If you did not know better, you would think you were somewhere in Germany. We gathered at 7:30 pm to go to dinner in the city center at a jumping Italian restaurant. They did not seem to be prepared to receive us with our being spread out at three different tables in various parts of the restaurant. The last group had to wait twenty minutes to be seated. When we were finally seated, Inger announced that she just heard from her daughter and she was now the proud grandmother of a baby boy. She said it is customary for a new grandparent to buy champagne, so she did and we toasted her new addition. As she said, we experienced death and now new life; the circle of life continues. Making menu selections was difficult, but I finally chose a feta, spinach, and olive pizza, while Ron had fish. Some at our table ordered the meat lovers special, which when served looked like a whole animal had been put on the plate. Our portions were equally generous, but it was too delicious not to finish it then. Some of the group decided to continue the evening by going to a nightclub, but a smaller group of us walked back to the accommodation to hit the bed.