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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 7 - Where were the Kokerboom Trees?

Twenty years ago I traveled to Namibia to research a novel I was writing. In case you don’t know Namibia is in southwest Africa and had become independent earlier in the year I visited.

During that trip, I drove all over the country, from north to south and out to the Atlantic coast.

One of the most interesting parts of that trip was my visit to the kokerboom forest. Well, forest may be an exaggeration although that’s what they called it. Since Namibia is either desert or dry highlands, the kokerboom, instead of being a tree, is a type of cactus that grows very tall (see photo).

Kokerboom forest

The Kokerboom Forest, Keetmanshoop, Namibia

The forest is on a private ranch just north of Keetmanshoop, Namibia. I arrived early on a Friday morning and paid my entry fee of 5 rand to Mr. Gariganus, who owned the farm and the forest. He pointed vaguely to the right and I drove my tiny rental car around the corner and headed straight up a hill, looking around for kokerbooms.

No kokerbooms.

I drove further along a flat dirt road, deeper into the recesses of the farm, past an old windmill and watering hole for cattle. It was warm and my car had no air conditioning. I wondered where the kokerbooms were. Then I turned a corner and dropped down a short incline.

And stopped.

Oops. I found myself in the middle of a dry riverbed. Stuck in the sand to be exact. No way was that car moving. If I kept revving the engine I’d be in China by nightfall.

So what do you do when you’re stuck in the sand in the middle of the desert? What else? Walk out.

I followed my path back to the farm house, realizing as I went that I’d have to explain why I’d taken the wrong turn.

Finally I found Mr. Gariganus, a man of about 40, weathered from working the farm all his life. In Namibia farms are actually very large ranches.

“I got stuck up on the hill,” I said.

He laughed. “Not the first time that’s ever happened. Come on, let’s get you out.” He rounded up three or four farm hands and we all headed back up that hill in a white pickup truck, dust flaring up behind us. The four hands made short work of getting my car out of the dry river bed

After we returned to the farm house, Mr. Gariganus invited me to join his wife on the veranda for some iced tea.  We chatted for about an hour about Namibia, farming, the new government, and anything else that came to mind.

He then pointed the way to the kokerboom forest, which I still hadn’t seen. “Keep going straight this time,” he said.

Indeed the forest was worth the trip. Thousands of these unusual plants were scattered among rocky hills, looking like something out of the prehistoric past.

I also learned a lesson about mistakes. Sometimes we are embarr

The Gariganus family

The Gariganus family, my hosts at the kokerboom forest

assed when we take a wrong turn and have to ask for help. If I’d done it correctly, I would never have met Mr. Gariganus, never heard what he thought about the situation in his country, and would never have seen the model I ended up using for my main character’s farm house in my novel A Gathering of Strangers.

I would have had a nice look at some Namibian plant life, then gone back to my hotel and that would have been that.

Next time you make a mistake, look for the good that comes from it, not the embarrassment.  You’ll be glad you did.

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