Gunfire and Lightning

BandSheila&AmandaIn mid December, 1999, Sheila Earle & Amanda Raw, musicians both, set off for Windhoek, Namibia, on a mission to have Amanda’s cello repaired. Herr von Zagen (Mr Once Again) had been a WWII POW held in, then, South-West Africa. After the war, he stayed on in Windhoek and played violin in the local orchestra, but decided that he wanted to learn how to build the instruments, whereupon he went to England to be trained before returning to South-West. Just the man to repair cellos…

Hohner accordion(His friend, Herr Maschke, remembered by the girls as Mr Mouse-catcher, was an ex-WWII Luftwaffe fighter pilot, and had trained and worked at the world renowned Hohner musical instrument factory. When Sheila and I returned to visit Windhoek on our way to Swakopmund for a holiday more than a year later, it was Herr Maschke who beautifully repaired Sheila’s 80-base Fontenelli piano accordion, although he naturally maintained that of course it was not in the same league as a Hohner!)

On their return, Sheila and Amanda overnighted in their tent at a resort near Rundu, a town on the Kavango River, as the Okavango is known there, which forms the border to Angola. They were awakened by sounds of thunder at dawn, with camp staff hurrying around anxiously, trying to assure the guests that it was not gunfire or the crump of mortars. And not a cloud in the sky.

savimbi-old-photoAt the time, Namibia was aiding the Angolan government’s skirmish with Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA who were still making the odd futile attempt at a come-back.

Despite their apprehension, the girls made it safely back to Botswana, and Maun, almost exactly coinciding with the news that our friends, Robin Grimes and Helen Doyle, holidaying in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, had been hit by lightening!

They had just settled into camp, sitting at the provided concrete-topped tables. Cracking their first beers, they watched the lightning flashing on the horizon as a thunder storm approached. Without warning, a lightning bolt came through the overhead trees and struck the concrete table top.

The table top literally exploded.

Robin was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, burned across one leg, his groin and down the other leg where it cut his sandal strap. Helen was knocked unconscious; her elbow bone was chipped off, her arm embedded with flying concrete chips.

Fortunately, there were medical students and a doctor in the camp at the time. The couple were taken to the hospital in Outjo where they spent two days before returning to Maun. A few days later they came to visit us, asking Sheila to remove some of Helen’s stitches.

What a weird, horrid experience. How life changing was this for Robin and Helen, I’d love to know. Blessings, wherever you are now.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
This entry was posted in Exploring Africa, Shaping a writer and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gunfire and Lightning

  1. de Wets Wild says:

    What a horrible way to have your first drinks interrupted on a wilderness break! Good to know the couple survived the lightning strike, it must have been a horrible experience.

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