14 April 2013

There was an unfamiliar mewing noise outside as we awoke in a tent on top of the 4x4 truck that we rented in Windhoek, Namibia. The previous day we stocked up with fuel & groceries, then drove 6 or 700 kilometers and arrived at Namutoni Camp in Etosha National Park as the sunset. This is when they close the gates to keep the people in and the wild beasts out, and the furrowed eyebrows told us we were late. Now it was still before dawn but the sky was lightening as we wandered out to the camp waterhole fenced on one side for us, but open on the other side. The dainty little impala were grazing scant, dry grass, and wildebeest (or gnu as Scrabble-players know them) were alternately lazing or scampering randomly around.

A cup of coffee, fold up the tent, and we drove to another waterhole. We are allowed to leave the camp after sunrise. Once outside the fence, we are not allowed outside the vehicle because that would show the preditors how small and vulnerable we are. Giraffes all over the place (seem about to dislocate their knees whenever they splay their legs to drink), springbok (why name a rugby team after such dainty animals?), eland, hartebeest, oryx, ..... Thank goodness we bought that field guide to Southern African Mammals. Then back to camp to catch up on rest.

Last week was "lift Dulcinea" and "finalize boat jobs". This week is "Namibian Game Park Week" . 3 remaining boat jobs are all in good hands and we might only get in the way if we stayed on board. Besides we hear conflicting tails of the harbour at Luderitz, where we plan to meet David & Mary. If the nay-sayers are right and a W or NW wind blows we would not be able to leave the boat and explore inland from there. So we shall return to Capetown this week end trusting that everything will be ready and we can check out of S Africa without delays. Anyway, at 2 days notice, we had booked a flight to Namibia and rented a 4x4 camper.

Driving back from the next waterhole, we find little weasel-like rodents running alongside which the book tells us are banded mongoose, and our ears tell us are source of the pre-dawn mewing sounds. At camp, they are all over the place frisking and playing and dashing from site to site without getting in anybody's way or disturbing food supplies. Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi has come alive! During the day, we explore more waterholes seeing many legendary African herbivores and finishing with some lovely pink flamingos. A rhinoceros lumbers towards camp too. Many colourful birds are seen every day.


In our 6 nights camping, we stay in 4 camps: this camp with delightful playful mongoose; the camp with 2 aggressive little African honey badgers; the camp with jackals roaming looking for any chance to take food; and finally the camp with the troop of baboons that regularly succeeded in taking campers' food.

Third day and we move west to camp at Halati passing elephant & rhino on the way. It seems dry and desolate here, but the "sightings book" in the camp reception records lots of elephant, some lions, a leopard lying in the road outside, and some comedian said he saw Whinnie The Poo looking for Piglet! The waterhole at this camp is flood-lit, and that night we watched as 3 lions walked out of the bush and lay watching as a rhino drank, then 8 elephants with nursing calves, and finally a rhinoceros family with babies all took their fill with jackals scampering about.


There has been a new surprise each day. We saw 50 elephants together at Olifantsbad, some wallowing in the water and babies playing at spraying each other. Nearby we watched 4 lions sleeping off their fill after killing a poor zebra. While driving we see a hyena walking along purposely. Another waterhole had one elephant drinking when along came a male lion to drink as well. The elephant most put out came trumpeting round the hole waving its trunk and sent the lion slinking away. On our last morning, while driving to the park gate, we watched a mother cheetah with two cubs.

Namibia has been a big, empty, but friendly country for us. Etosha Park is 350km long and surrounds a big salt flat. It is a wonderful place for wildlife. We had a wonderful week, and are so much in love again that tonight Dave offered some of his granola to Jan. The last night we spent at Waterberg National park where we walked up to the edge of an eroded plateau and looked out at miles of flat & empty Kalihari. Two Damara dik-dik (look like miniature deer) were playing in the campsite on our last morning. We were sad to leave.

Next week, if all is well, we'll go sailing up the "Skeleton Coast" back to Namibia.

Love from Dave & Jan


PS now Saturday evening. We left Capetown this morning and Manuel helped us move round to the fuel dock. We started the passage to Luderitz by passing close to a right wale, which woke up, turned round, then breached twice to look at us. We are now anchored off Dasseneiland and watched penguins coming onto the beach as the sun set.

Anybody needing boat work done in Cape Town (or in the near future in Luanda Angola) should certainly contact Manuel Mendez (on East Quay). He is as kind an individual as he is skilled at boat building.