Today was all about slowing down a little and taking things in. And quite a lot of blogging by various members of the party, given that there is WiFi! I should mention that Tom is blogging on http://www.TLplays.wordpress.com and Philippa is Instagramming as @PhilippaNews. Its a wonder we get to do any sightseeing really…
We started the day early with a game walk which involved meeting at reception at 6.30. We took a short drive in an open jeep to get to the start of the trail and it was unbeLIEVably cold. We were only in the jeep for ten minutes and my ears just about fell off. T and P had sensibly worn the warm padded vests we all got for just such an occasion. I had less sensibly left mine behind.
Anyway we got there with only minor frostbite and the walk started through the bush, lead by Justin with his rifle, and with Moses at the rear with his knowledge of medicinal plants. When the lion attacked I knew who I was going to stand with. No we didn’t see a lion although we did hear them roaring, and we saw various antelopey animals and wildebeest and we heard giraffe galloping away.
What these walks are mostly about though is dung. They don’t tell you that when you book it of course. Then there is a lot of emphasis on “you have to have a guide because there is no fence and there are LEOPARDS and LIONS and MANY RHINO and also a T-REX”. But when you start the walk it’s basically all about staring at piles of poo. Still we did learn a lot. About poo. And lots more besides to be fair and it was nice to be strolling in the wilderness rather than driving through it. Dik-Dik poop looks like old rice crispies.
Termite mounds are pretty amazing and are deeper than they are tall. They are clever little devils with their constant temperature regulation and their fungus farming, but it only takes a determined aardvark to make a big enough hole in the side and the air-con all goes to pot and the termites run for the lower levels to wait for the end of their world.
Tom and I slapped the exterior of one of them and it was like concrete. The mound that is, not the termite. Much to his disgust I also gathered up a palm nut which had been through an elephant (“I can’t believe you are taking poo as a souvenir”). I also found a warthog tusk. I really should buy more expensive biltong next time.
OK, so walk done and we returned to hit breakfast with gusto; eggs and bacon in the sunshine watching a family of kudu at the waterhole. Finally I could feel my ears again.
There followed much lazing and blogging and a stop-motion project by our in-house film-maker.
But eventually we got in the Hilux and headed back up the road to Etosha. First stop, Namatoni which has a German fort built in 1889.
It was converted into a hotel some years ago, then converted back to a tourist center and now looks a bit empty and forlorn.
We went to Namatoni’s museum later and saw photos of it in its heyday with stout German officers in cart-wheel Mercedes. It must really have been the middle of nowhere when it was first built. The native Hai||om people had been driven out by foreign settlers forty years before, and those settlers had also eventually been driven out by the harsh conditions and marauding lions. It was also the end for the local wildlife. Elephants, lions and rhinos were all pretty much eradicated by about 1910, but turning it into a protected area and re-introducing the animals has been a success and elephant numbers are up to about two and a half thousand. There are still only around 500 lions though. Rhino numbers have remained fairly flat – which is something of a success. Still, you can only imagine what it must have been like when the only people living there were the Hai||om, who’s name in the local click language, meant “the people who sleep in trees”.