Hat and I ought to have been home by last night. We weren’t. We had a car accident. The first – and I sincerely hope the last – of both our lives.

I wasn’t driving. Abdallah – who accompanies husband on lengthy trips – was; both he and husband’s company car on loan to me given fact his newer car significantly more reliable on long journeys than my (much older) one. Until it’s involved in accident of course.

Both Hat and I were in the back. To my eternal shame – and bewilderment – neither of us were wearing belts despite the fact that I am the kind of mother who rings her kids up on sleepovers to ensure they wear belts in host’s car. Despite the fact I have never let the kids ride belt-less in my car either. Perhaps I was deluded into thinking that sitting beside Hat would protect her. Perhaps I thought she deserved brief respite from the belt which she’d been wearing until 15 minutes before when we had to stop so she could be car sick. Perhaps I just didn’t think.

Four and a half hours into our journey which began at 5am and I was beginning to nod off. Suddenly there was a roar from Abdallah. I opened my eyes in time to see the bonnet crumple in front of us and steam and smoke issue forth from beneath it. And dust; the dust was everywhere. The sound of crunching metal and Hat’s screams will stay with me for a long time.

I scooped Hat out and clocked her knocks; one above her eye, welling red. She was quite white and told me I was too – apart from my apparently ”purple” nose (which had collected the seat in front of me).  I retrieved a packet of frozen butter from provisions-for-Outpost cool bag and made Hat hold it to her face; I tried to call husband but network was poor and then I let rip a torrent of abuse at the driver of the other car which had swerved at speed right across the road to connect with us in a head on collision.


He looked at me blankly. It transpired later he and his passenger were from Rwanda. A few merdes! might have struck home more effectively.

We were in the middle of nowhere (story of my life now, it would appear, whatever the situation). There are no tow trucks to call in this part of Africa. And depending on where you are, no paramedics, no AA, certainly nothing of the sort where we were marooned. Abdallah, quite unhurt, strode about crossly, growling at the other driver and trying to make phone calls. He had the presence of mind to request I take photographs.

Fortunately, oh so fortunately, husband’s mates had been visiting him over the weekend and I presumed the boys, on their way home to Arusha, would not be far from where I was since our paths would have crossed at some point during the day. I called. They were a matter of miles away. They rescued Hat and I, sourced a doctor in the nearest large town so Hat could be checked over, fed us both bottles of Coke since we were both shaken and pale. And then, having alerted the police to the site and been assured by me we’d be fine to await husband’s rescue, we waved them on their way with biscuits and water to drop with Abdallah awaiting the cops’ assessment. We made ourselves at home in the petrol station which was to be home for the next six hours. The proprietors were kind and generous and refused to let me pay for the sweets and drinks and crisps I took from their shop. They bought Hat icecreams and told her she was a good girl. Which she is. And a brave one.

The police confirmed what I already knew: that it was the other driver’s fault, entirely. Either – they said – being a west African, he panicked and took to the wrong side of the road (which would – in his country – have been the right one), or his steering column broke, or it was a bungled attempt to car jack us. Bungled is about right; neither car was in a state to be driven.

Finally husband – looking as shattered as we had post impact – arrived from Outpost after a six hour drive and we opted to find a local hotel to spend the night before driving home in the morning.  I drank a beer in lieu of supper, whilst Hat tossed bits of her chicken to the family of alley cats resident in the dining room.  She wondered if she’d have a black eye in the morning and if she did could I take a picture. And she went to bed beside us, a matress on the floor commenting that it was amazing to think she’d been in a car crash that morning.

I just thought how lucky we’d been.


I think we might fly next time. I think given the state of the car, we might have to.


20 Responses to “Lucky”

  1. Christiane Says:

    Phew! Glad that you all got out of that car alive and relatively well. Had a car accident myself in Africa, know how that feels. Wish you all the best getting over the shock and frustration of it all!

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you Christiane, that’s kind. The shock has quite floored me. I feel quite disconnected today … but at least we’re still here to feel anything.

  3. insteadi Says:

    That sounded horrible. Thank goodness you’re both ok.

  4. Sophie Says:

    I’m so glad all of you are safe. I’m not sure which terrifies me more, being in a car wreck (the driving my city is awful) or being stranded in the middle of nowhere (my adventure days are long gone). Again, I’m so glad you all are fine.

    To change the subject, I gave you a little something over at my blog because I love this blog. It’s all in good fun and meant to be a ray of sunshine.

  5. Mike Hirst Says:

    So sorry to hear about your crash, but glad everyone got out in one piece – how’s your nose?

    Lovin’ the blog, by the way! Great to keep in touch with the latest from the outpost…


  6. Carolyn Says:

    Wow, you had a lucky save there. Thank goodness that you’re all alive and relatively unscathed.

  7. Iota Says:

    Oh Rel Mem, I want to say poor you and lucky you at the same time. This is where the blogosphere is so limiting. If I was within striking distance, I would come and make you strong tea, cook you dinner, bring you arnica tablets (brilliant for bruising and shock), watch a trivial film with you to take your mind off it all, and clean your kitchen when you went to bed. As it is, all I can do is to send vibes.

    You may be as stiff as a board for days, so don’t be surprised. And you might not be able to stop crying.

    I’m so glad you all got out of this in one piece.

  8. Roberta Says:

    You are far more than lucky! Tend to the bruises and remember seat belts next time. (No, I’m not scolding) How terrible!!!

  9. Andrew Broome Says:


  10. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thank you insteadi. And Sophie, that’s so kind. Yes, Carolyn; lucky indeed. And Iota that sounds lovely, I appreciate the vibes. The stiffness has set in and the crying begun. The enormity of how close, of my negligence, of the preciousness of life, have all begun to hit home. Roberta; I won’t ever forget those belts again. Never did before. Don’t know why I did that day. 10 hours is a long time to be belted up, guess I was giving us both half an hour off. Wrong half hour. Guess there’s never a right one. Thank you all x

  11. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Hi Mike; thanks. Nose fine. Bit numb. But not purple anymore (my daughter has confirmed this). Her eye looks better too. Just glad to be home. x

    Thanks Andrew. Whew indeed.

  12. cream Says:


  13. R. Sherman Says:

    The important thing is everyone’s alright.


  14. Pig in the kitchen Says:

    Oh how scary, nothing brings home the isolation like an accident involving your child who may need medical attention.
    Your lucky star was shining…

  15. Primal Sneeze Says:

    In a huge country, on a massive continent, hours from anywhere and anyone, and still a head-on can happen. No where’s safe.

    Still, everyone’s okay. And shur Hat will be telling the story for ages.

  16. MisssyM Says:

    So glad you’re both OK. I always say, if that’s the car accident that’s meant for you, then thank goodness you got away from it. I hope it’s the last one you ever have.

    Think of yourself as being pre-disastered. The odds of you being involved in another one are now considerably higher.

    And big kudos goes out to your brave girl.

  17. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    I know Primal Sneeze, ridiculous. The whole of Africa to roar about in and the idiot has to roar into us.

    MissyM; that’s hugely reassuring. Hadn’t thought of it in probability terms. Still beating myself up over the seatbelts but it has demonstrated their imoprtance. Even when in the back. Even when on what you think are slow dirt roads in the middle of nowhere …

  18. Equiano Says:

    Glad you’re all ok, and hope you’re feeling more relaxed now. Very scary, accidents.

  19. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks Equiano. Not sure about feeling relaxed. Feel shaken. And the expereince has knocked my confidence for six which will have repercussions on how often I have the nerve to make a long journey – which given where I live is going to be limiting.

  20. insteadi Says:

    I hope you’re taking it easy and not bashing yourself up too much after the accident and that the bashing you took from the accident is healing. From your blog you sound like a fantastic mother and it sounds like your driver is good too. Apart from the probability of getting into an accident again being reset now, he will likely be even more cautious.

    I’m guessing there’s nothing in the Outpost that’s in any way soothing, unless chickens and empty spaces count, I’m sending you a virtual massage on a warm, secluded beach, with sounds of gentle waves crashing and a soft jasmine carrying breeze, for when your bruises have totally healed.

    And lots of chocolate.

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