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Imagine this. You’re on an elephant bull sighting, nothing out of the ordinary – a young elephant bull grazing about 30 meters from you. Your guests are from Canada and the USA, they arrived a few hours earlier and you have taken them out for an hour or so to provide a little insight in to the landscape they will be seeing over the next six days.

Your vehicle ignition is switched off. The bull moves a little closer – obviously wanting to move to other side of the road, towards the river, perhaps for a mud bath or drink. You decide to reposition your vehicle in order to give the elephant some space to cross undisturbed.

Once you start the engine you notice a blinking light on your control panel, you’re not sure what it means because you’ve never seen it before, and the rapid blinking is lighting up an engine shaped warning signal.

This is the story of how one blinking little light created an intense 48 hour period of contingency planning and emergency reaction to an unforeseeable problem.

I had a feeling the blinking light could be a serious warning, from the depths of my memory banks I desperately tried to regurgitate memories of my ‘owners manual’ A booklet I have probably only looked at once in its five year existence. I remember thinking it would probably be unwise to reach into the cubbyhole, grab the owner’s manual and start furiously paging through the meanings of warning lights in front of my newly arrived guests.

It was 17H40, we were only 1 Km from the camp, and so I simply told my guests that I was aware of a blinking warning light on my control panel and that I was going to return to camp to see what it meant.

As we rolled to a stop outside our chalets, the engine stopped, and that was that – it would not start again. I quickly reached for the owners manual, Identified the warning light as a NATS (Nissan anti theft Security) warning.

The owner’s manual was pretty direct. The engine of my car would not start again until I could get a computer to get the ignition key to talk to the on-board computer tucked away under the cubbyhole of my vehicle.

There were a few problems the owner’s manual didn’t mention. The owner’s manual did not highlight the fact that I was 200Km’s away from a Nissan dealer, the owner’s manual didn’t mention that I had paying guests who wouldn’t give a damn about my new found plight by tomorrow morning’s game drive. The owner’s manual failed to provide any additional information other than – get your vehicle to a Nissan dealer with immediate effect.

The owner’s manual also failed to mention that no matter how efficiently you have conducted your vehicle service and maintenance, no matter how well you have looked after your car, no matter how much money you’ve spent on making sure that your vehicle is in tip top condition, at some point, especially when you really don’t need it to happen – your vehicle will stop working!

My guess is that if we all learnt what the owner’s manual of our vehicle didn’t mention, we would all be too scared to drive in a vehicle.

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