Nearly Losing a Toe in Africa

OK so some people will say that title is exaggerated but they don’t know.

It was Day 32 on our Africa Tour and we were on the truck making our way to the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park (try saying that fast!). Our truck was called “Ben” and he had been quite reliable until he took a few days off in Livingstone.

The door to the back of the truck had a lock on it one day but not the next. The whole lock component had fallen out of the door so there was no way to lock it. I immediately started stressing that a lion would tear open the door and make itself comfortable inside the carcass of my body.

Our Tour Leader, Chris, had a solution though! One of those slide locks you buy from Homebase for your garden shed. Yep, that’ll keep those predators out! Unfortunately for us, the lock lasted about 2 seconds on the bumpy roads of Africa and the door started to fling itself open while we were driving - not ideal.

Our Truck, Ben.

Our Truck, Ben.

Being a problem solver, I offered the lace from my shoes to tie the door shut from the inside (bloody genius). Even though they were from Primark, I’d hoped the lace would hold out enough for us to make it to the next city and away from the animals… I did offer it as a temporary measure but it ended up being used for a good couple of days. My poor £8 shoes had to lie unworn inside the truck while I got good use out of my sliders!

So, back to Day 32 and after an early morning start, we decided to stop for a toilet break at the side of the road. Being the nice guy I am, I decided to open the door for everyone (I was way too dehydrated to pee - I was a walking prune at this point). I untied the shoelace and started pushing the door but it was jammed you see. Since people were watching and bursting for a pee, I decided to try to casually force the door open by shoulder barging it (#masculine).

On the second try, the door flung open and took me with it. I’d misjudged the angle the truck had stopped at and clung onto the door for my life. I had a quick thought that the door was going to come off if it held my body weight so I decided to try to stop myself with my feet on the floor. The only problem was that I’d forgotten to put my boots or even my sliders on. My foot scraped across the floor and I knew I’d fucked up.

Me, being brave.

Me, being brave.

I casually checked out my big toe and saw some dead skin hanging off so pulled it away, being the brave boy I am. I actually thought I’d gotten away with it until the blood started dripping down my toe and onto the floor. I hobbled onto the truck and asked Scott for a first aid kit. He looked out some alcohol wipes and a bandage (what a babe).

He bandaged me up and I started to realise how bad my toe was. I tried to hold it higher than my heart to slow down the bleeding but it’s awkward trying to put your foot above your head when you’re sitting on a truck. You end up looking like a weird kamasutra reject. Eventually, we made it to the Cheetah Farm which was in the middle of absolutely nowhere. “Guess I’ll just lose my toe then”.

I kept it covered for a bit to help with the bleeding and once the time came to change the dressing, I checked it out. As soon as I saw that it had turned yellow, I nearly fainted. Of course my toe would become infected in the middle of the desert in Africa.

“I wonder how long it’ll take to airlift me out of here?”

“Would the helicopter disturb the cheetahs?”

Scott decided to try and convince me to let him clean it. No way Jose. He had filled a bucket with Dettol (the thing we use to clean dirty dishes) and wanted me to clean my toe in it… OK, two things.

  1. I wasn’t sure that putting the anti-septic on my toe was a good idea. The bottle said nothing about using it for first aid.

  2. My toe stung to high heaven when the wind touched it. How on earth could I give it a scrub in a washing up bowl?!

Nurse Scott to the rescue!

Nurse Scott to the rescue!

Eventually, the team bullied me into rinsing my toe in the Dettol. We bandaged it up again for the Cheetah drive and I suffered but powered through, because I’m a little soldier. When we were back on the truck, I took Chris’ advice and left the bandages off for a bit and it started to heal. The relief that it wouldn’t be amputated and I wasn’t going to have a limp for the rest of my life was a good feeling.

Some people say I’m dramatic but I say that I prepare myself for every scenario. Imagine if I had to get airlifted out of the park? I’d be chill because I’d already thought about it and the best landing spots in the area. See? Anxiety helps sometimes lol.

Luckily, I still have my two big hammerhead toes and there is no sign of permanent damage - just another Travel Story for me to tell :)

Be your best self and don’t go shoulder barging any doors open.


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