ELEPHANTS & ZEBRAS & GIRAFFE…OH MY!

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Day 52: Otjiwarongo, Namibia-Etosha National Park, Namibia (29 October 2009)

We woke up this morning, after a night of great air conditioning, to our friendly duck, flamingo family and ostrich right outside of our back door and after saying goodbye to them we went to the lodge for a beautiful breakfast. We made a few stops for groceries for the park as Paul was going to barbecue tonight and none of the meals were included for the next two days so we were on our own. There was going to be a small pool bar and a full restaurant, but if we didn’t want to pay for those then we had to pick up whatever we needed for meals. One more stop, and this one was for the picture books, that’s for sure. We could only imagine our friend William and how many amazing shots he would have been able to get had he been on this journey with us. And it was only polite to put a little money in their baskets if you wished to photograph them as again, you must ask adults out of respect for their beliefs if you can or cannot take their photo. It was at a Himba tribal craft market. The Himba, if you don’t know, are the most photographed people of Africa. The skin of the women is a reddish tint from a mixture of red sand and goat’s fat. After puberty hits (we were told), women no longer wash with water at all and men only wash once a month. The women cover themselves in this reddish mixture before they go out. They were very little clothing (as all of the women we saw had their breasts revealed) and Paul said that if you go to their village you can barter for their crafts with food supplies as they have very little.

We left the Himbas and drove straight to Etosha National Park and an instant game drive as you enter the park where they have elephants, rhinos, lions, meerkats, wardhogs, wildabeasts, giraffe, zebra, springbok, stenbok, oryx and tons of other animals and we saw our first Etosha giraffe! Now, apparently there were nice air conditioned chalets that you could upgrade to, but we didn’t. So, we pitched our tents at the campsite which was right next to the ablution box (bathrooms and showers) and a short distance from the scullery (cooking facility) with lights and outlets and sinks. This was our first foray into ‘the tent’ which we were hoping would be good practice and a good experience as after this trip ends we have another nine day journey that is fully camping. These are two person tents; the ones that you have poles that fit into each other; pull up in the center to form a cross structure and the sides of the tent get pulled up to meet the poles. There are mosquito netted windows and a zippered door all with flaps that can zip down to keep out the rain. It wasn’t too difficult to put up which was a good sign. Paul and Karel set up the barbecue (to which I of course brought marshmallows) and the rest of went to hang by the pool. There were three round pools, a snack bar, a bar and a restaurant. And then there was the water hole! This was out of this world amazing! It’s a floodlit water hole that is active all night long where you can sit and watch the animals in their natural habitat. They seem to have their own patterns and times that they visit the watering hole, the rhino it seems arrive at 9pm every night. We were just sitting, minding our own business, when we saw over forty zebra, elephants, oryx and springbok and of course giraffe all coming to play and drink in the time of the day when the air had started to cool just a slight bit. It was just magnificent. We watched the beautiful sunset over the African landscape amidst the smattering of animals enjoying their water and then headed back to the campsite for the barbecue. It was great! Paul bought vegetarian schnitzel for Eveline and me and there was salad, baked potato, onion, a white sauce with onion and mushies for the potato and for the meat eaters there was chicken, sausage and steak. Now, we’ve come to learn that a South African/African barbecue is called a Braai, and that’s definitely what we had! After dinner came the coffee, tea and of course marshmallows! Then we wandered back over to the water hole that was only a short distance away to find two rhinos, over 25 elephants and little baby elephants! It was without a doubt one of the most magnificent sights I’ve ever witnessed!

After watching in awe for awhile where everyone sits in silence and it’s literally as if you’re watching something on telly and you can’t possibly imagine that it’s right in front of your eyes until you hear the animals call to each other or feel the droplets of water as the elephants splash around, we headed back to the campsite to hang out for a bit and then wash up. We had taken our malaria pills in the morning and sprayed our tents in the evening and just hoped for the best about the little mossies that could carry the big diseases would stay away from us. We went to sleep knowing that the black-backed jackal had hopped the fence and was roaming around the camp sight -and might wander away with your shoes if you left them outside your tents for the night. Tomorrow: Game Drives and more animals!

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