Etosha National Park, Namibia

STOP 27 | Day 83 to 86 |

By now traveling 500 kilometers in one day didn’t faze us. It was another travel day as we had a long drive back across the border to Namibia and into the town of Windhoek. The paved roads made the drive feel like luxury compared to East Africa – don’t worry we weren’t getting soft! Gravel roads were going to be back on the path closer to Etosha National Park.

As we got near the town of Windhoek the skies started to look gloomy and rain was clearly in the forecast, but this didn’t take away from our excitement as we could sense we were finally getting back to civilization. Windhoek is a very modern city, with its infrastructure being some of the best in Africa. We decided to skip the group tour around the city and took the opportunity to explore on our own. Of course this included finding a coffee (a real espresso machine made coffee). As we made our way to Independence Drive, the city’s main street, we found a coffee shop, Slowtown Coffee Roasterie, that made us feel like we were back home. After we enjoyed lattes and some Wi-Fi, next on our agenda was a long awaited visit to the gym. Post workout we received some dinner recommendations from one of the locals, with a warning to be careful as it was getting dark. Settling on Joe’s Beer House Restaurant for dinner we found a cab, luckily as the rains continued to get heavier. Joe’s Beer House Restaurant is known for its game meat and German influenced dishes. We enjoyed a kebab which had a sampling of game including zebra, crocodile, oryx, springbok and kudu and an oryx schnitzel and spatzle. To top it off we enjoyed an African dessert, Malva pudding, which is similar to a sticky date pudding (a J favorite).

Stuffed from dinner we found a taxi to take us to our accommodation which was ~19 kilometers outside the city. The heavy rains which started during our dinner didn’t seem to be letting up. Apparently the heavy rains are unusual for the time of year (rainy season is usually December to February). As we turned off the highway towards our accommodation we could see the gravel roads were not handling the flash flooding. About 5 kilometers in we saw a sign pointing straight which oddly differed from our Google maps directions. We decided to follow the sign but quickly realized we were going to have to turn back as we reached a point where a river had washed away the road. It seemed that we would have to head back into Windhoek to find a hotel for the night as neither of us had cellular reception or Wi-Fi to contact the hotel or our Nomad tour guide. In a final effort we decided to try and follow the Google directions and to our relief after 45 stressful minutes we made it! We were thankful for the taxi driver who was very patient, as we were sure he was regretting taking the fare.

It was an ideal night to be in accommodation as it was still raining when we woke up the next morning. After saying goodbye to a few members of our tour group and welcoming some others, we headed off to Etosha National Park for our final safari of the trip! Etosha National Park is approximately 22,270 kilometers squared. Its name is derived from the Etosha Pan, a large salt pan, which covers about 23% of the park. Driving to the park one could see all the land was privately owned as fences lined the side of the road. This was very different from all the other countries we’d visited to date in Africa where villages line the roads. We had our first “lunch inside the truck” experience as the rains didn’t let up. However, as we neared the entrance of the park around mid-afternoon there was finally a break in the skies. The rains did decrease our chances of seeing game as often the best sightings in the park are near the 30 different waterholes throughout the park. We could see how rainy it was in the park as there were vehicles passing us covered in mud. After seeing lots of springboks we finally saw a group of 15 giraffes headed to drink at a waterhole. It was amusing seeing the giraffes bending over to drink water, quite an awkward look! The highlight of the day though was seeing a pride of lioness (4 of them) feeding on a zebra, two lioness were off to the side as they had already had their share (one was pregnant). We watched as they ate, seeing a zebra leg swinging in the air at one point and witnessing them chase off a jackal that got too close! The campsite that evening had a waterhole which is lit up by flood lights for guests to try and see game during the night. After waiting for a while and not spotting anything we were just about to head back to our tent when two rhinos approached! We spent over 30 minutes watching as they enjoyed the watering hole and interacted at one point a few zebra joined them as well but stayed a safe distance away. Back at our tent we saw a jackal nearby at another campsite, looking to make trouble.

Our (mainly J’s) tarping skill was put to the test that night as it continued to rain slightly throughout the night – we successfully stayed dry, mainly due to J’s ability to find a great tree for us to set up under! We headed on a game drive that morning as we headed across the park to our campsite on the western side for the evening. It was a quiet morning for game but we did manage to see a rhino, which crossed the road right in front of our truck! We passed a large concentration of zebras, approximately 20, grazing – which made for a nice picture as they are usually pretty shy, resulting in many pictures of zebra butts (see pictures below). We also came across two more prides of lion, kori bustard (the largest flying bird), mongoose and lots of different antelope. We saw our first hartebeest, thought to refer to the heart shaped curve of the horns but the theory now is that it comes from the Dutch word hert which means deer in Dutch and beest meaning beast.

After lunch at our campsite we headed off again to try our luck on an evening game drive. Our tour guide had spoken to another overland truck at our campsite and they had seen nothing in the past few days, so although our sightings were limited we were very lucky! It was a pretty uneventful game drive, but nice nonetheless to take in the scenery – a rainbow in the distance and the sun setting over the park. This campsite also had a waterhole, which was very well set up, however with all the rains there wasn’t any action that evening.

We did another game drive the next morning as we headed out of the park. The sun finally started to show up which was nice after the past few days of rain. J enjoyed sitting up front with the driver throughout the game drives, although feedback wasn’t that positive on his spotting abilities (everyone was keen on the leopard he had promised!). Arriving in the town of Outjo, just outside the park we stopped at a local bakery and grabbed lattes and a sausage roll. Our fellow travelers introduced us to rusk, a doubled baked bread dough with dry consistency (like a biscotti), it is a traditional Afrikaner breakfast or snack. Rusks are typically dunked in coffee or tea before being eaten. We enjoyed a bit of time poolside before the rain clouds rolled in and started sprinkling a bit over our campsite. After dinner it seemed quite ominous, and as the campsite didn’t have much tree cover J decided we would upgrade to a room that night (last thing he wanted was to deal with A being grumpy if it poured). All the other campers ended up following suit and soon all the tents were packed up …of course not a drop of rain fell that night. However, all the female campers thanked J the next morning as they were all glad to have a nice shower and sleep in a comfortable bed!

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