The sat phone battery dies. We slip in the spare. Louis connects with a neighbor who finds the number of a helicopter pilot in Windhoek, and we dial through. He says he would try to find a chopper, and that we should get back to him with our coordinates. But, our GPSs had been sent around to camp. So, we describe our location….five miles up from the confluence with the Fish River. That isn’t good enough, he says, as it will be a three hour flight from Windhoek, and it will be dark soon.
The pilot says he might try a midnight rescue, but would prefer the coordinates before an attempt. Louis says he will get back. The second battery is almost dead, probably enough for one more call. So, Louis decides to call his mom, and ask her to find the coordinates on a map, and then call the pilot. But as soon as he gets Gerty on the phone, she starts to chatter, dominating the conversation. “Shut up mom, and listen,” Louis yells into the phone…but it goes dead.
It has gone almost dark, and the river below runs copper, like an ember alone on the hearth. It is hard to pick our way down the talus to where Seth lays waiting in a heat-drugged stupor on his abandoned stretcher. Tim Cahill, Jim, and Pasquale have stayed behind while the rest of the group headed for camp. Even though the shutters of the day are nearly closed, Louis volunteers to head down the canyon, as he knows the way and can then take a vehicle to his lodge where he can use a landline to coordinate…if he is lucky, he will arrive by midnight.
Read the rest of this article on The Huffington Post here.