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Pip&Judi’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 11 Aug 2005

Location: Maun, Botswana

MapLOCKING HORNS... & TUSKS

.... What could possibly top the sky dive??

Well something much more earthy has really come close in terms of jaw dropping moments. We have spent the last 6 days on the road from Swaskopmund via some wonderfully named places such as Outjo, Otjitotongwe (pronounced Oh-cheetah-tong-way), Otjitowongogo (pronounced god knows how!!) and other such wonderful places on our way to and from Etosh national park.

At Otjitotongwe we had the chance to pet and sit with a 'tame' cheetah - they are much larger than you'd imaging from the TV - the fur is much coarser but the purring is just like a domestic cat only very much louder and deeper. Sitting on the dirt floor stroking a 7 ft long cheetah was wonderful - just dont touch the back end as the scars on the head of it's owner will testify to. That night was such a good one I slept out under the stars and although it was really cold it was a great experinece listening to the sounds of the bush sleeping by a dying fire in the middle of the african bush..... a fleece had and the sleeping bag zipped up to my chin being the best protection against all manner of bugs & creepy crawlies.

On to Etosha which means 'great white place of water' and is flat land surrounding an area that is a completly flat clay 'pan' that fills with shallow water in the rainy season. From just 1/2 a mile away it looks like the ocean but is solid as concrete. The area around it is teaming with wild life and they duly put on a spectacle that was fantastic. It is still hot (about 25-28C) during the day and about 5C at night Although we only saw a couple of elephants on our sunset game drive the evening brought more action.......what was to follow was TV style action.

Ourcamp site had a flood lit water hole that just after sunset had an elephant stood in it bathing about 40 ft from where we sat behind a 2 ft high stone wall and a bit of fencing..... but later that night about 30+ elephant in 2 herds appeared and it was awe inspiring to watch them oblivious to us and just doing their thing. Then a rhino very slowly appeared out of the dark and the hush that descended on all watching was perfert......then , another rhino appeared. In all we had 5 rhino and 30+ elephants with feet of us.

I fell asleep on a 'park bench' that night after a few G&T's by the water hole and luckily another of our group who got lost on her way back to the tents saw me and woke me up ...... just as 8 Giraffes apperaed out of the darkness for a drink. I had always thought it would be an unpleasant experience to sleep rough on a park bench but never expected it to be quite like this.

The next evenings game viewing was just pure TV documentary stuff - a diffent camp site (Halali) on the other side of Etosha - and we were priveleged to see a rare spectacle. A herd of 15-20 elephant had just left the water hole at about 10pm when 2 rhinos appeared and after a few moments a young adolescent elephant (obviously tanked up and feeling brave aftera drink) decided that this was his hole and he wanted the rhino away so made a racket, kicked up dust and charged the rhino - he backed the rhino virtually into the water and they ended up huffing, puffing and mock charging each other for about 5 minutes until another young elephant watching nearby decided he'd join in too and help his mate. It was like kids in a pub - the two elephants trumpeted, flapped their ears and charged the rhino from opposite sides, poor old rhiny had his head down and horns to the front in defence and at times was no more that 3-4 ft apart from these stroppy elephants. Needless to say the adults looked on with complete disinterest and just carried on drinking..... unbeleivable way to spend a Sunday evening.

We have now just arrived in Botswana after a gruelling day on the truck across the Trans Kalahari Highway, croosing into Botswana from Namibia early yesterday at the Kalahari Border Point - an unusual stamp in the passport - even more unusual are the free of charge condoms (and femidoms) they give away at border points to help combat Aids .........admirable.... but the condoms get stapled to the leaflet that comes with them!!!!!!! Perhaps the problems these countries face is more than Bob Geldof realises and hopes to solve with the odd concert.

The currency here is the Pula - it means rain and it is made up of the smaller Thebe or "raindrops" - suitably poetic for this country.

This is a beautifull continent with wonderfull people - lets hope they can solve some of these issues from within.