From British Columbia, Tony is about 70, and had been quietly minding his own business when he was roped into our nightmare. He offered to try and pull us out with his powerful vehicle, and within seconds he was bogged, too. The dynamic of the situation changed in an instant. Instead of a crew of self-destructing morons, splashing around in the mud with our oversized Tonka toys, we were suddenly racked with the guilt of this poor guy's life being ruined. With his only lifeline to the outside world sitting in an increasingly rising shore break of foam and surf, the sight of him, bad back and all, feebly trying to dig around his sunken tyres and $50,000 vehicle was heartbreaking. The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. I could just make out the silhouette of Noah down there in the near darkness, trying to help him.
"Getting bogged is just one of the things people do down here. They get stuck, they run out of petrol, food, coffee or beer … what’s the other one? Oh yeah, they die. For me, our truck was a rental, so I was happy to just leave it in the surf and move on, let the locals salvage some parts," Dillon said drily. "We happened to bring a helpless old man into it though, and managed to help him get his truck stuck too. It was an unfortunate situation. He was an innocent bystander who spent the next 7 hours digging, trying to get his truck out of the shore break."
What could we do? Chimpsy and Vicente drove off in our little 4WD, in some faint hope of finding a distant town with tow trucks and winches and bringing them back here … it was hopeless. It was pretty much dark now, and we had some scraps of food and had lit a fire. We persuaded Tony to leave his car and come up to get warm. His calm acceptance and lack of temper almost made us feel worse. I wanted him to scream at us, to abuse us, throw something at us. No. His friendly manner in the face of this calamity was unbelievable. And the tide just kept coming.
A couple of hours later, Chimpsy and Vicente returned . . . with reinforcements. Before committing to find help from afar, they’d stopped in out of desperation at our latest camping spot, an hour down the road, where there had been some other campers. To our incredible good fortune, they turned out to be total 'can do' types, with big car jacks and chains and ridiculously positive attitudes. They looked like they'd just come from MacGyver auditions. They had lights, and plans, and orders to shout at us, and we did everything they told us to. We dug and battled and crawled in the mud, and endured waves washing halfway up the cars, and motivated by Tony’s predicament we worked like maniacs. We jacked the cars at both ends, dug out tracks in line with the wheels, front and back, and extending for about 3 metres past the clay zone, and filled them with rocks. It took until about 1am, but finally both cars were free and clear. The look on Tony's face as he drove off, free, made life seem very special indeed. We could now leave here not only alive, but with our guilt appeased. It felt like time to go home.
We’d found a bit of surf, but discovered a lot about ourselves. The extremes of that environment mean that only the most perfect adaptations will survive, and our own survival was due more to the brevity of our exposure than any real skills. With our clumsy negotiation of that scorched place, our crude bludgeoning of the cruel elements there, our tools paled into insignificance compared to those who have truly paid their dues of adaptation.
As an analogy for our lives, our short stint in the desert was appropriate. As in life, all we could do was marvel at the rugged beauty, the stark and surreal country that was ours to enjoy for the briefest time, before getting turfed out like the temporary lodgers we were. In geological time, our residence on earth is similarly brief, as we are summoned from stardust like lottery winners to cling as long as we can to the beauty of life. The best we can do with those winning tickets is to make it a dance, as artful and elegant as possible. Like that clever hummingbird, who fluttered and finessed his way between the spines, so must we read between the lines, and burn bright like they do in the desert, like the incandescent beings that we are, before taking our bows and making our dignified retreat into the ether, raw materials ready for the next guest on this wonderful planet. – Dave Sparks