Day 349 – Okavango to Rundu
The road to the border was a long straight road with a lot of potholes. We were lurched from our seats several times whilst passing small villages. The drive took us until lunchtime to pass the 400km. The border was quick and we passed easily into Namibia, a former German colony and a country I was very excited about. The currency is Namibian Dollars, tied 1-1 with South African rand. The population is 2.1 million and feels very sparsely populated. Namibia has the worlds lowest rainfall and is very hot during the day, your skin, lips and nose feeling constantly dry. It is also home to Black Mumba, scorpions and puff adders, all the more reason to keep our tents shut! Our campsite was 10km inside Namibia at Rundu and after setting up the tents we all headed for the pool.
At 4:30 we went out on the boat cruise departing from site. The open sided boat took us down the river to a waterfall and small sandy island where we got out to explore. On the hot sand we were messing around, taking shadow photos.
The boat cruise changed direction and took us the other direction in search of hippos. We saw a few different families, snorting and eyeing us, then disappearing below the surface where they can stay for up to 5 minutes at a time. They are beautiful creatures and occaisonally yawned showing off their mighty jaw! The boat turned to enjoy the sunset and we returned to camp.
Rundu and the “pan handle of Namibia” often acts like part of Botswana but the rest of Namibia is one hour behind, so with clocks reset we were looking forward to an extra hour in bed, clocks still set for 5:30.
Day 350 – Rundu to Etosha
The drive from Rundu to Etosha was much smoother, the roads eerily quiet. When we stopped to use the bush toilet we could stand in the middle of the road looking on in both directions. We passed interesting settlements, a postage stamp sized hair salon made of corrugated iron.
We camped just inside Etosha enjoying a game drive to get there, spotting of course elephant, giraffe and lots of bird life.
The site we stayed at had a large fort originally built in 1904 by the Germans. It looked out over the flat plains for miles. The camp also had its own floodlit watering hole which we sat at to observe the sunset. After dinner we made one last trip to the watering hole, it had relatively little life to be seen but lots to be heard however we did spot a hyena in the distance.
Day 351 – Etosha
Warren, Hannah and I enjoyed the sunrise from the top of the fort, then once the gates opened at 6:15 we set off for our game drive. The main difference with Etosha is how much drier the vegetation is. My number one safari goal was completed by about 10am, seeing springboks pronking! They appeared in their hundreds, amongst a dazzle of zebras who were blocking the road. The springbok move in a single file line, the graceful and playful jumping was amazing to see, again another David Attenborough moment. The other request was a black rhino, much more elusive than a white rhino due to eating scrub rather than grazing grass. We saw one in the distance, horn much more prominent than a white rhino.
Just before midday we pulled up in the salt pan and it felt like the closest thing to being dropped into nothing, an alien land. The sky and the sand were the same dusky grey and you could see nothing in any direction except the hazy dazzle of water which you know isn’t really there. We took a few creative photos to try and show how vast the expanse was.
We had lunch at Halali, the gate where Etosha was announced as a game reserve and hunting was prohibited in 1963. There was time for a quick pool stop, the outside temperature reaching 37 degrees and the pool making you tingle with cold, however as soon as you got out you dried within seconds.
Back on the truck we headed for the southern gate stopping for a giant herd of elephant, possibly the most photogenic of the game. Most of us dozed off because of the heat, however just before we left the park we spotted 3 cheetah under a tree with a kill, something you are very unlikely to spot in Etosha. Feeling very privileged we made for our camp. The camp had taken in several animals which had escaped Etosha, cheetah, leopard and hyena. Unfortunately they were caged but looked after as Etosha would not take them back again. Recognising their ownership would mean a heavy debt needed to be settled for the livestock eaten in the area.
Day 352 -Etosha to Cheetah Park
The days drive took us to Cheetah Park, stopping at a small town on the way for souvenirs, supplies and to experience the bakeries. The language spoken is German with a mix of Dutch/Afrikaans influence in it and the European influence can be seen in the abundance of pastries and appelstrudel.
The midday sun was scorching, the red dust coating us. At 3pm we were collected to go to the farmhouse where they had 4 cheetah living with them. Cheetah although in decline are often targeted by farmers to protect their livelihood so this farm takes them in to look after them and maintain the species in this area, although the owners were fairly incommunicative with us, not really explaining the set up they had. The four that live in the house were a orphaned, now 15, 13, 5 and 2 but nonetheless seemed a small set up for four powerful creatures.
They are such beautiful creatures, purring often like a domestic cat, slender and long in body and legs with a small head. It was incredible to be able to interact with them and they licked us with their raspy tongue. They fed them slabs of meat and they separated off, coming back to steal from others when they had finished. We watched a stand off between old and young.
We were taken to feed the other cheetahs, penned in but in larger enclosures. They got out slabs of goat, fur and all and threw it, the cheetahs pounced and ran off with their catch to protect the meal. Although it was a privilege to see them, beautiful creatures, we were told very little about the project and plans for the future so it felt difficult to get on board. There was a mother with her three young, all fuzzy fluff balls. The mother was quite agitated with our presence, being protective of her young.
In the evening the cards competition took a new turn, losing a round meant forfeiting your body to decoration with a permanent marker.
Day 353 – Cheetah farm to Spitzkoppe
On the road to Spitzkoppe we drove through wildly dramatic scenery, beautiful rock formations on one long straight road. We passed Namibia’s highest mountain, Brandenburg or fire mountain, believed to be holy and it’s red surface looks like fire in the sunset. We stopped at the Herero tribe, wearing old German dress, huge colourful underskirts and pointy hats. They had made a few colourful decorations for us to look at and were also selling desert wood which we stocked up on. Further down the road we stopped at the Himba tribe in vastly different dress, naked with a loincloth, painted in red ochre to protect the skin, with clay mask on the hair forming strands so they looked almost like Medusa. They were also encouraging photos and selling bracelets.
We pulled over for a road lunch and as we came to pull away the truck was grounded in sand. After several attempts we all piled off to collect flat stones and wood to create a path for the truck and dug out the sand from around the wheels. All pushing the truck struggled and adaptations were made. After 45 minutes the truck was free.
Our campsite was a bush camp at Spitzkoppe, the Matterhorn of Namibia, sand with jutting rock formations. We put up the tents and then were taken on a walk to find the rock paintings of the San bushmen. The paintings were about 4000 years old, more faded than what we had seen previously however the guide was a descendent and was able to tell us some of the meaning and uses of the paintings, depictions of the animals and the hunting techniques using the poison plants. Where a group of men were drawn on the wall it is likely someone was buried below and the people is a marking for others as to how many travellers are left. The guide could also talk in the click language, a sound none of us could even mimic. At points he could knock his head and make a hollow sound, incredible.
We climbed a rock to watch the sunset from a higher viewpoint. The rock was the same granite that had incredible grip, so you could walk very steeply up it. The temperature had dropped right down and the wind set in as our camp was quite exposed.
Next stop, Swakupmond.