Into the Namib
It's beautiful, in the way that looking out over a valley on Mars might be beautiful. With just the tiniest tinge, perhaps, of that same feeling of solitude. It's not the kind of place you want to turn your vehicle off. Not the kind of place you want to risk anything going wrong. We'd spent the better part of six hours getting to our first real view of its true expanse, most of that on a twisting gravel road through low scrub and dry creek beds. We were now maybe 250 km out into the Namib with 100 km still to go that evening.
We soaked in, and within, the beautiful vista, before eventually figuring we should probably get moving. When I turned around, however, I noticed something a little discomforting. "Uh, Sweetheart. We've got a bit of a problem."
The guy at the rental place had helpfully shown us all the bits we needed to change a tire. He'd pulled parts from under seats and held them up one after the other, pointed carefully under the vehicle while we peered on hoping never to use this information. "Just put this under that and away you go", ... basically. Donna slid under the front end while I tried to disentangle the spare from the back. She quickly realized "this" didn't fit under "that" when the tire was flat. Brilliant.
No matter. I couldn't get the spare undone anyway. You connect three or four flimsy rods together to make a long fishing pole like device that you then feed through a hole above the license plate, hoping to find the little slot the end fits in. Once you find it, you put the crowbar on the end of the rod to loosen the spare. I twisted on it. Nothing happened. I pressed harder until the rod twisted 30 degrees along its length, but nothing budged.
"What if we break this? I mean, what if the fishing pole thing shears in half?"
We looked back up at the view and pondered this thought for a moment.
What else could we do? I railed on it nearly as hard as I could and there was finally a quick snap and a horrible screech. I thought for a moment it had sheared off, but when I jangled it it was still stuck in the slot. After a bit more twisting and screeching the tire finally began to appear beneath the bumper.
We loosened the lug nuts on the blown tire and then found another place to wedge the jack under the frame (where it actually would fit with the tire flat). A few minutes later, covered in dust and with pebbles embedded in our knees and elbows, we had the fresh tire on and the spare in the 4x4's bed. We rinsed our hands off and hopped back in the truck.
"What if it happens again?"
"What if what ..." I started. "Oh."
We'd just proven that it's entirely possible to get a flat in the Namib Desert. And now we were running without a spare. We had three or four gallons of water and a good bit of food, but it would be a long cold night followed by an even longer and more uncertain morrow. In the end, however, we made it. We passed the "town" of Solitaire in the dark (only a famous bakery and gas station are of consequence, both were long closed that evening). A couple of hours later, off through the darkness, the lights of Le Mirage Resort appeared on the horizon.