The sun was shining down on miles and miles of wilderness in every direction, and we were right in the middle of it. Noticing our journey had gone from a confident yet progressive struggle to a much more serious scenario, Anton reached for the satellite phone to send out an SOS.
Not knowing if help would make its way to us before sundown, we made our best effort to pull the Defender with a tow line through mangled bush road. Ultimately, we realized that the Defender had to be left behind. Grabbing only the bare essentials, we packed Anton, his wife Melito, and daughter Kayla into the remaining three vehicles and watched Anton’s Defender disappear into the bush through the rear view mirrors.
It was clear with one vehicle down, the stakes became higher at each water crossing. Knowing that if something else failed, our likelihood of getting out would be close to zero. Chatter continued to come across the radio as we raced the daylight. As we watched the soggy green landscape pass by, our eyes grew wide hearing the radio crackle. Adi’s voice came through with the words “rigs on the horizon!” A wave of relief washed over the entire team. We were greeted soon after by two safari patrols sent out from a lodge to respond to Anton’s SOS.
Hopping out of our vehicles we shared a moment of pure gratitude with our new lodge companions. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Anton with his head buried in a well-deserved moment of emotion. Knowing our journey wasn’t over yet, Anton joined the safari convoy retracing our path to recover his beloved vehicle. Let’s just say that the radio was full of light-hearted jokes as we pressed on.
On the final leg of our trek to the other side of the Okavango Delta, we found ourselves in another pickle. The safari patrol leading the way home fell to the same fate as we had so many times earlier. Wheels buried and high-centered in the mud. This was almost routine for them, and we watched the locals demonstrate their seemingly effortless recovery skills. In a fraction of the time we would have spent ourselves, they used the surroundings to their advantage and were back in action. As fate would have it, Anton’s Defender was able to be rebooted and he even managed to switch roles, giving an assist to the bogged down safari patrol... Something I don’t think he’ll let any of us forget any time soon.
The rest of our community vision work with 4x4Outfar went off without a hitch. Each village we were able to visit and provide testing would become a testament to the resilience only be found in a team that is truly committed to its mission. When all was said and done, this trip would see the 4x4Outfar team provide vision testing for over 2000 children, and distribute 86 pairs of prescription eyeglasses to some of the most deserving and compassionate communities I’ve ever encountered.
On the return trip to the airport, Anton expressed how grateful he and his team have been for the love and support they've received from the iKamper community around the world. How much it means to them to be able to go out and do this work to Love People & Love Nature. I told him that one wouldn’t exist without the other.
As the plane took off, I got one last look down at that line in the wild I saw weeks ago. Returning my gaze to the seat back in front of me, I couldn’t help but write these few words down, “The wrong road for the right reasons... The Legend of Anton Poplett.”