Thursday, 24 August 2006

The Story (3)

Day twenty-one and we are in Etosha National Park at one of the three campsites and just returned from watching game at one of the few waterholes. Here the animals go to drink when the sun went down and at this campsite they made a viewpoint at a rock close by to watch the animals. We arrived when there were no animals and before the lights went on (they have 2 big lights to illuminate the waterhole). A whole bunch of people were already sitting there with their cameras, binoculars, and sweaters. It was a funny sight seeing all these people reacting on each other and the slightest movement they thought to see. I stayed for about 1.5 hours and saw 3 rhinos and some jackals. During the drive to this campsite this afternoon we saw wildebeests, kudus, giraffes, springboks, warthogs and an impala. So we added quite a few animals to our see-list and hope to add more tomorrow and the next days as we are staying here for 4 days.
The last days we went to the Epupa Falls and stayed there on a nice campsite at the Kunene River. Palm trees shaded our camping spot and the river floated by. In the distance we could here the falls thundering down the gorge. We stayed there for 2 nights and visited a Himba family on the next morning. A local guide took us to the family and we could witness up close how (very uncomplicated) their life is. We were allowed to enter their hut in which hardly anything was present and their bed was a cow’s skin on the floor. The habits and traditions were also explained and both sides asked each other questions. The women couldn’t believe that Redmer (23) and I (27) weren’t married yet and didn’t have children. In their culture there would be something terribly wrong with us. Women also have nothing to say about whom they marry. The groom-to-be goes into negotiation with the father and they agree on a bride treasure. A general treasure is about 6 cows and a couple of goats or sheep. One goat is about 35€… In the afternoon I went kayaking on the Kunene River. I first tried to get to Angola over the semi-border post, but that was an unofficial one, only meant for locals to cross the river. On the trip with me were a couple of Spanish from the next campsite and 2 guides/instructors. It was a nice trip down the river with a couple of level 2 rapids (I know: not very impressive, but they were my first rapids!) During the trip we saw a couple of crocodiles and stopped on the Angolan (!!) side of the river (as the river separates Namibia from Angola) and had some refreshments there. Country 44 to my slowly expanding list! :-)
The next day we went a mere 200km to the east along the river to the Kunene Lodge where we enjoy lunch and dinner on a terrace overlooking the river. A beautiful sight and very peaceful and quiet and perfect for reading and going on a sun downer tour which my parents did. In boats, floating down the river, watching birds and drinking a glass of wine while the sun slowly went down. Not the most exciting experience for Redmer and me, so we stayed at the lodge. Redmer and I wanted to make a quad bike trip, but all the quads were occupied, so the next morning we were on the quads at 7 and had a 2 hour tour before breakfast and leaving to the next lodge. I have been terribly dirty before, but I don’t think I have ever been that dusty in my whole life. I drove behind the guide and Redmer closed our little group of 3 and we got all the dust over us. Only the guide stayed clean, but it was a great experience and we had a lot of fun driving through water, dry river beds and over rocks. They have 4 days trips as well and I am sure that such a tour would be magnificent. They had kayak trips as well with some bigger rapids (class 3 and 4), but Redmer fancied the quad biking more, so I joined him in that.
Yesterday we drove to Oshakati, which was about a 4 hour trip. The first 1.5 we drove along the river. Not that exciting you would say, but if I would say that it was only 55 km, it might sound a bit different. The road was a perfect one for 4x4’s and we even saw a crocodile on the shore of the river. My hunger for 4x4 driving has only grown bigger after this trip as we have had some perfect roads for that and it has been a blast. Oshakati is a regional centre, but apparently full with (small) crime. Everyone warned us not to leave our cars unattended and not to carry any valuables when walking through the city. So when we entered the city (which is actually rather boring and not worth stopping in…) and drove immediately to our lodge and didn’t come out again till this morning when we went shopping at the local Spar (a big worldwide supermarket, but here with only few customers and all white) and drove on to Etosha. I stayed outside to guard the cars even though the local “guards” also watched our cars. To explain this: local guards are present in every (major) city and are men or women (in this case women) with jackets on and they ask you if they can guard your car, put a piece of paper behind the windshield and you pay them an amount you chose when you leave again. Although there was an official security guard with a shotgun on his back in front of the supermarket and the women were “guarding” our campers, we didn’t totally trust it and I went outside again to show any potential criminals that the campers were guarded. Of course my not so impressive posture might not scare them (for that we would have needed Joao), but it is always good to give them at least one more obstacle.The next 3 days we will be game watching in Etosha and after that we will leave for the Waterberg plateau to relax a bit and see some vultures and cheetahs before retuning to Windhoek and flying back home. When we will arrive the 22nd back in Holland we will be picked up by a cab and driven home. In the evening I have my first pre-season training for the 1st men’s team of GHBS. They already started the 13th, so I am behind a full week and have to make that up. Besides that: I have been doing sit ups and push ups the last weeks, but I hardly did any running, so I hope I will be in shape and won’t be cut immediately. Will see.

Day twenty-four and we are the second campsite in Etosha and it is not funny anymore. We are doing our best to see animals during the day and stop at every thing we see (well, not the springboks and zebras anymore as they are abundant here). Then we arrive at this campsite and they have an artificial waterhole as well. We walk up there and dozens of springboks, zebras, kudus, Oryx and an elephant are standing there in broad daylight drinking and playing in the water. We have been on guard every second to see something, have stayed for hours at the other waterhole in the cold dark night to see some animals and here you see them up close and during the day. It is an amazing, surreal, and a bit frustrating sight. It is our second day at his campsite now and we didn’t bother going out in the park again by car as we can see everything here as well. So we just chilled a day at the campers, getting some tan, reading a book, walking up and down to the waterhole and sleeping a bit. Redmer, mom and I are all red from the sun and we just bought to 2 big piles of wood to make a campfire and get some warmth this evening as the nights are cold here again. Tomorrow we will leave for the Waterberg Plateau, where we will stay in a fancy lodge and will spend a day there watching cheetahs and vultures. I am looking forward to that.

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