Friday, July 22, 2005

Shoes and clothes - what more does a gal need?

What to wear on an expedition?

I am a great believer the versatility of a pair of jeans, a little black dress and a smart pair of shoes. You can dress up or down, depending on whether you are going to meet an important sponsor, or simply wanting to be an unnoticeable traveller moving through unsafe country. I wore "sensible shoes" for most of the expedition and saved the glitzy sandals for moments when I needed to make the right impression.

Most of the time we simply wore what the sponsors had provided in terms of tee shirts, jerseys, hats and other gear. And so, we were often dressed like a matched pair. This usually invited comment, such as from an American woman in a supermarket, when we were stocking up on supplies. She gave us a huge smile, "Well ain’t that cute, matching sweaters an’ all". Imagine what she would have said if TH had sported glittery sandals like mine?

Other comments were more hilarious, like the time we were taking a short cut on an off-road track in New Mexico, after some wet weather:

Two large utes (known as "pick ups" in USA) were slewed across the track, blocking our way. They were up to their axles in mud, wheels revving, but digging in deeper. Three men were standing to the side of the track, shouting instructions to the drivers, as mud flew in all directions. The revving stopped and, in the silence, we all eyed each other.

The ones who had been doing the shouting "glugged" through the mud and over to us. They were all young and they each clutched a bourbon bottle. They seemed very drunk.
"Can’t go on. Track’s a mess ahead," one advised.

"Would you like a tow?" TH asked.

They goggled in disbelief at our old, short wheel base Land Rover.

"That little baby thing couldn’t move chicken shit!"

We waited, while they heaved and grunted to move the utes out of the sticky mud. Then, the pushing party puffed over to us.
"Help you turn around," they generously offered.

"Its OK", said TH, "THIS is a Land Rover".

Our little Series IIA circled daintily over the mud to pull effortlessly alongside of the utes.

"Hey, awesome truck," said one. He pronounced it "AH – some".

"Who are you?" queried another.

A third peered at our matching Land Rover jerseys and asked, "Are you twins?"

"We’re husband and wife".

"Are twins allowed to marry where you come from?"

"No, we’re not twins. Anyway, twins can’t marry in New Zealand."

"New Zealand – wow!"

They all took several swigs from their bottles, quietly impressed with this information. Then one, who we later learned was called Darryl, asked, "Did this here Land Rover come all the way from New Zealand?"

"Sure did!"

More swigs, while this was digested.

I could see that Darryl was really interested. Whereas the others were slouched and cradling their bottles, he was bouncing up and down on his toes, wide-eyed with excitement. "Can I sit in the driver’s seat?"

"Why not." said TH, climbing down from the cab.

Darryl raced around to where I was in the passenger side. He threw open the door and then looked shocked, "Where’d the steering wheel go?"
I pointed to it.
"How’d it get over there?"

We tried to explain. Conversation flowed on between TH and the others, while Darryl stood next to me, his brown eyes gazing in awe at the primitive driver’s compartment. The ancient dials and switches fascinated him. He gently touched each one in turn, as if terrified of an electric shock. His hand finally stopped on the hand-operated windscreen wiper.
"Well, ain’t that cute", he cried, as I cranked it into life.

His eyes fell onto the map.
"Can I look?"
I gave it to him. He squinted at it and, with my pen, circled a big dot, "You are here."
I nodded.

He then scrawled large, uneven words on the margins of the map, frowning in concentration. The letters ran wildly and I could just make out a name - Darryl Johnston, and a P O Box number.

"Send me a postcard from New Zealand?"

I nodded again and said that it would be in one year’s time. He happily grinned at me and took another large gulp from his bottle.

We drove off to hollers of good luck and enthusiastic waves. Looking back I saw them settle on and around their cars, bottles upended into their mouths. I wondered if Darryl would remember who we were, when he finally received our postcard.

© Eventful Woman, 2005

For more posts by Eventful Woman (prior to 22 July) please click on the "July 2005" archive button (back up near the top of the page)

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