Etosha Weekend

Last weekend I set off with a group of Peace Corps friends (John, Emily, Ann and Patty) to the Etosha National Game park for fun and frollicks.

I took Friday off mainly to clean out the car (I even washed it, sort of) and then set off with John and Ann to Outapi and Emily’s homestead (she lives with an Otjiwambo family deep in the bush). We met her “host family” who were very friendly (even to me), ate some traditional food, drank a little Tafel and chatted the night away.

Her homestead is in the middle of nowhere (makes Opuwo look like a city) with no electric lights for a few kilos around (which comes in handy later on).

In the morning I was up at 6.30 and feeling very tired. I’m sure the mass of empty bottles I had to wade through outside my tent had nothing to do with it. Soon we were on the road (well, the track) then onto the main road and picked up Patty near Outapi.

Stocked up on supplies in Oshakati and headed a few hundred km to the north gate for the park. Separate to any camping fees you pay a park entrance which comes in 24-hour blocks. Though we were only staying the one night because it was only 11.30am when we entered (and we get the local Namibian resident rate N$30 about £3 rather than N$80) we went mad and bought a 48 hour pass so we could leave at our leisure on Sunday.

After finding nothing as usual at the Stinkwater hole (will I never learn not to love that name enough to drive and find… nothing) the next waterhole provided some giraffes and bock various.

Etosha Waterhole Scene

Onwards through Namatoni for refreshments and ice we started hitting the big concentration of waterholes along the southern end. Eletastic with big groups standing around. Naturally I got a few bottom shots.

Elephants at Etosha

The rest of the day we meandered around, seeing more eles, giraffe and bock-various. Having set our tents up at Hallali we ventured out onto the pan (vast expansive salt pan in the middle of the park) and then retired to the campsite for Emily’s sausage brochens with mayo and other stuff. Most good.

After sunset we got to the waterhole (which is lit at night) in time to see a family of Rhino wandering about which vindicated my decision we should stay in Hallali rather than the more popular Oka-whatsit. Victory was mine.

Rhino Family at Hallali Waterhole Etosha

After the Rhino had wandered off we waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually after nothing else appeared I headed off to bed.

In the morning I was up around 6 to see the sunrise at the waterhole and the inevitable animal carnival. There was nothing. After a while I went back to bed for a nap.

We took full advantage of the 48-hour pass lack of pressure by lazing around, napping, showering (wonderful as I hadn’t had water in Opuwo for the previous two days) and bickering.

Camp dismantled and loaded up with cool drink, John was dispatched into the reception to find out where the lions were. This time round in Africa I have seen no lions. This was my third trip to Etosha and I even went to Chobe in Botswana earlier in the year. No lions.

Of course everyone else finds endless lions. New VSO intake go to Etosha, wham, 30 lions juggling flaming clubs. Driver goes to Kamanjab early in the morning, bam, lions crossing the road near Werda. But so far I was the anti-lion.

However all that was set to change and following the directions of the staff we drove out to a waterhole near the pan to find… LIONS. For a moment we weren’t sure, there had been so many false sightings of lionesque bushes and a hyena on the road looking cunningly lionly but there they finally were – a pride of six at least.

Lion Pride at Etosha

Lion at Etosha

We sat and watched the lions for a loooong time. It was excellent. At one point a massive herd (several hundred) of Springbock came toward the water and we waited with bated breath for some lion-on-bock action. Sadly they paused and even though a solitary bock (we named him Brave Bob though I think maybe Blind Bob might be nearer the truth) kept coming he suddenly stopped, probably after he saw the bloody lions.

The lions had their eyes locked onto the herd but sadly didn’t chase down a free lunch.

Eventually we decided that the lions weren’t going to do anything other than laze in the sun (and who can blame them?) so bid adieu. On the way out we had some more Ele action and then another apparently solitary lion at the very last waterhole before the gate.

Stopping in Oshakati I was introduced to the wonders of SOS pizza which was fantabulastic. We then dropped Patty off at her homestead gate and managed to find our way back to the main road.

Emily’s homestead, easy enough to find in the daytime if not a bit remote, turned out to be near impossible to find at night (for us palefaced devils anyway). We spent an hour or so circling round dirt tracks which all looked alike. Eventually Emily managed to get through to her Host Mother who (and this is where we thank the gods for the lack of electric light out there) could see our headlights and proceeded to talk us in. Even with this we still struggled and in the end were only rescued by two of her host sisters walking out and flashing torches. Victory.

Because someone was locked out of John’s house, me having to work the next day and foolish bravado we decided to get back on the main road and go to Opuwo that night rather than staying over. We were confident we could at the very least find our way back, especially with the instructions we now had.

No.

Instead we ended up even more lost in the bush. Finally using a combination of my GPS (though obviously none of the tracks are on it) and the notoriously useless dashboard compass we drove by-bearing cross country and after only a moderate amount of sobbing and recrimination FOUND A MAJOR GRAVEL ROAD.

After that it was simple to get into Outapi and pick up the main road arriving back to Opuwo in one piece around 1.30am.

So in summary a successful weekend with much fun and japes. AND LIONS OF COURSE! No longer the anti-lion. I just hope my lion-powers now don’t make them come and visit me at home.

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