Waterhole dynamics. It seems there is a pecking order at waterholes. If a hyena is soaking in the shallows, other animals won’t come down to the water. At another waterhole, in the evening, a group of female elephants was at one end and two female lions approached the other end. The giraffes wouldn’t approach with the lions there. The elephants continued to drink and cool themselves down. When the elephants started to leave, a couple of the elephants started to splash in the water and frolic, making tremendous noise. The commotion slowly drove the lions away. It seemed that the elephants were sending a message to the lions of “Don’t mess with us. We are strong and can turn you to dust if we want.” After the lions left, the elephants sauntered off and the giraffes approached for a drink.
We drove approximately 3,000 kms in 15 days. The hours in the truck totalled about 60, for an average of 50 kph. The drives ranged from 210 km to a whopping 540 kms. Some of the gravel roads were pretty rough, so speeds had to be kept down and on the opposite end there were nice sections of pavement where we could fly at 100kph. These numbers do not include the kilometres and hours in a truck being guided.
An addendum to the question “What came first, the tree or the termite mound?” Our guide at the Okonjima Bush Camp, says that the tree came first. The termites build around the tree for support. The mound above ground is what cools the nest, that is below ground. The tree also benefits by getting moisture from the nest area.
Before we set out for Namibia we check the average temperatures to make sure we were packing the correct clothing. 30C in the day and 16C at night. Seem pleasant to us they are well within the range of our home and packing for them will be easy. The reality however was a bit of a surprise. The first few days in Sossusvlei were as expected. Our packed clothing was prefect. The next part of the journey was a bit of a shock. The temp was indeed 16C in the evening but the SE wind off the Atlantic Ocean made it cold. We survived but we could have used an extra layer. Happily, we headed back inland knowing it would be warmer but when we arrive at the Etosha National Park the daytime time reached 41C. A bit warm. Our saving grace was the fact we were not suppose to get out of our air-conditioned vehicle save for two or three locations along the 400km traverse of the park.
Sand and dust everywhere. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting it but at every one of our stops it is either sandy or dusty. It wasn’t much of a bother except every evening when it was time to settle in, I had to step outside and empty my shoes and bang my socks against the wall.
At the trip orientation our tour contact as well as the truck rental person tried to instill the fear of God in us over the gravel roads. I tried to tell them we often drive gravel roads in Alberta and I could not imagine them being much worse. There were a couple of sections of the 3000 kms. we drove that were truly horrendous but most of the roads were actually better than our gravel roads. I’m sure most of the people that visit Namibia have never driven on gravel and therefore the scare tactics, but if you have driven gravel before, don’t be freaked out just drive attentively.
We were also told not to drink the water, yet everywhere we went the water was from a local well which in reality is no different than the so-called spring water they sell in bottles. At one or two of the resorts the water had a bit of a soda taste so not very appealing but we drank local water the entire trip.
The other warning was the typical, ‘the bad guys prey on tourists” thing. Unfortunately, if one travels enough, this resembles the ‘don’t cry wolf’ parable. I wish this lecture was reserved for when it truly applies and not everywhere outside one’s country. Most people are good people and yes there are bad eggs in the bunch but if one is aware and diligent it would be truly unusual to run into trouble in any country.
I’m not sure how many people actually drive the entire east/west axis of Etosha National Park but we did. The two ends were quite different in nature. The west was mostly treed whereas the east ½ was mostly open savannah. The first day in the park travelling from the west gate to Okaukuejo most of the animals we encounter were at the water holes. There are far more animals on the open plain in the eastern ½. The variety of animals was greater east of centre but that might just have been because they were easier to find. Both sides are amazing.
The food at the resorts is really good but the highlight for me is the homemade bread. Whether it is toast at breakfast or rolls at dinner the bread was baked daily. White bread, brown bread, whole grain bread, and peanut butter. I was in heaven.
Contrary to most developing countries the washrooms in Namibia are very clean, even in the petrol stations. The only odd ones we ran into were the outhouses in Sossusvlei. They were dilapidated, seatless and doorless. All good if you have to go and there are a hundred or so tourists standing around. At least there are 3 partial walls.
One point of Debbie’s and my personal travel is we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn on land. We haven’t done that before. We have straddled the International Dateline, the Prime Meridian, and the Equator. This is the first time to go over the Tropic of Capricorn with our feet on the ground. Oddly enough the next leg of our journey will take us, by land, across the Tropic of Cancer. Again, something we have never done.
Neither of us want to leave this wonderful country!