I woke up in the small hours to the sound of someone blowing into a drainpipe somewhere close by. It was an eerie, tuba-like noise that went on for a few seconds and then stopped, before starting again a few minutes later. Not in fact nocturnal tuba-lessons but a lion marking its territory and the sound sent a shiver up my back.
The tents do a great job of keeping the light out. We thought the sun would wake us every morning but it stays dark until you open a flysheet. We got up with the rest of the camp around sunrise and left T snuggled in his sleeping bag with a book while P and I went back to the waterhole. Everything gets its turn at the waterhole. Overnight is for the predators and the too-big-or-ornery-to-be-attacked (rhino). Morning is for the birds including two big Martial Eagles warming up in the sunshine. Guinea Fowl came in a big nervous flock, bobbing about skittishly at the edge of the waterhole until they were sure it was safe to drink. T joined us and we sat and watched the tranquility.
Breakfast was a camp-fire masterpiece! Not that I’m proud or anything but it involved an axe, a flint and steel, a braai grill and a blackened frying pan. Honestly, it was a like an article in Outdoors Magazine. Full of eggs and bacon and toast and coffee we went for a final viewing at the waterhole and it was the turn of the elephants.
They are amazingly silent when they want to be, sucking up gallons of water in their trunks and padding around the edge of the waterhole. They always keep an eye on the smaller ones which are in and out of the legs of the adults.
When they had all finished they melted away into the bush and became invisible.
After a quick climb to the top of the hill overlooking the camp – which is in fact the only hike you are allowed to do in Etosha – we stocked up on ice-cream and pickles to have with our lunch before setting off west through the park.
Even when its busy, Etosha is never crowded. You can drive without seeing another car for twenty minutes at a time and you can have a waterhole to yourself. I usually prefer bottled though.
The day was a kaleidoscope of zebra, ostrich, giraffe, kudu, springbok, warthogs, oryx and the occasional elephant. They come in two groups: families and bachelors, and then the old bulls who are on their last set of teeth and leave the bachelor’s group to seek out softer things to eat, slowly and by themselves. They are rather a poignant sight, wandering the bush on their own.
We joined a tarmacked road for the last few K before the park boundary and in the late afternoon it was thick with animals grazing at the roadside. We pulled up alongside an elephant destroying a small tree and watched it from about 20 feet away. It seemed uninterested in us until it decided it wanted to cross the road and we were somewhat in its way. I considered backing up but another car had pulled in right behind us so we just had to sit there. The elephant let us know that it was Quite Irritated; almost brushing the front of the car, and giving us a low rumble and a shake of its head. We got the message…
On the way out of the park, our wheels and shoes were disinfected by a team of foot-and-mouth inspectors and we drove on to our lodge for two nights – Etosha Aoba. Its a real treat with comfy beds and great food. A nice place to recharge before the big drive north.