Namibia - Bushmen and animals

Trip Start Apr 27, 2010
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12
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Trip End Apr 13, 2011


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Thursday, August 5, 2010

We have now have two weeks in Namibia, a vast, sparsely populated desert country, formerly colonised by the Germans. It is not like any of the other countries we have been to so far, the people certainly arent as freindly and there is a lot more western style development. Hopes were raised when we stopped for a few hours at a western style shopping mall that I could buy a few books and much needed toiletries. However, the mall was mostly empty units, the few occupied ones all selling the same bizarre mixture of wigs, furniture and badly displayed mix and match clothing.

Our first campsite, 'Roy's camp’, was an interesting place - all decorated in a ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ style, with dead twisted branches, animal skulls and rusted metal car wrecks, together with a one armed manager. It also had a nice swimming pool, but despite the blazing hot daytime sun, the campsite pools are way too cold to swim in. The nights are getting colder as we head south too, I am now wearing my wooly hat and coat inside my sleeping bag to keep warm. The cloudless night skies allow for some amazing stargazing though, with the milky way, shooting stars and strange southern constellations clearly visible every night.

 We spent the first morning visiting the San Bushmen people. We were met by our guide, Irna, and 4 other local women of various ages, but all completely topless and dressed in traditional animal skin rags. They were accompanied by a completely naked and unembarrassed teenage girl. The Bushmen people are very distinctive – they have yellowish skin, are very small, and have heavily lined skin. They were hunted as game by the early colonialists, who would also kidnap them and keep them as pets.  

Their medicine man, a Barack Obama lookalike with bare bottom proudly on display, showed us all the bark, roots and leaves they use as medicines – the surrounding thorny scrubland acts as their pharmacy. He showed us how to make fire, and demonstrated hunting techniques before we all had a go of firing an arrow. We were then treated to a traditional dancing performance which the girls joined in with, luckily I was spared this time!

Now it was time for more animals at Etosha national park. At the start of the trip I was happy just to see animals standing around doing nothing, but as we have progressed I have gotten spoiled and my demands have increased. Now I want to see them interacting, fighting or killing, otherwise it’s not even worthwhile getting my camera out. Etosha was therefore a dream come true, and the undoubted high point of the trip so far.

The park itself is extremely dry and barren, with a huge salt flat in the middle of it. The vegetation is all thorny, dead looking trees and bushes. Therefore, the ‘watering holes’, basically large ponds full of collected rainwater, are where all the action happens as animals from miles around descend on them to drink and bathe. The two campsites we stayed at here were built around two such watering holes, so the activities mostly involved finding a seat and watching the action.

The better of the two watering holes, Okakuejo, was staggeringly good. We arrived as literally hundreds of animals were gathered around (and in) the pool – zebras, elephants, kudu, springboks and giraffes.  It was amazing to see how much fear and respect the other animals have for the elephants – every time an elephant moved the timid antelopes and zebras would panic and flee, then edge gingerly back to drink. The elephants were highly entertaining to watch as they had baths and showered themselves with their trunks, they would then breathe up a load of dust and spray it over their wet body, which apparently protects against ticks.

I spent a whole afternoon and evening sat at that watering hole, watching scenery straight from ‘Planet Earth’  - a whole herd of 30 elephants descended en masse to the watering hole, scaring most other animals away, then standing guard around the outside as their babies bathed in the pond. Six rhinos arrived later, and fought amongst themselves, clashing their huge horns and charging at each other. As they fought, two small plover birds nesting nearby bravely flapped and squawked at the rhinos to scare them away. One of the grumpier rhinos then had a standoff with an elephant – the elephant blew water and dust at the rhino to scare it off. This was all being carefully monitored by 4 thirsty giraffes who patiently waited for the elephants and rhinos to leave before risking a drink.

A lot of our group actually spent the night sleeping on the benches around the water hole in the hope of seeing a lion or leopard. I’m sleeping badly enough anyway, so just stayed in my tent, a decision made easier by the freezing night temperature.    

That was the last national park we would see on this trip, as we head south through the Namibian desert, where the attractions are the scenery rather than animals.
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pmugwanya on

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