Namibia - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 45

Waterberg

Saturday 26th April

(includes log entry for day 44). Well, it finally happened. I was so completely tired last night that I went to bed and completely forgot to write my nightly log entry. It’s now five forty-five in the morning and I’ve just whipped out the laptop to write this entry whilst everything is still fresh in my mind.

Not a lot to tell about yesterday other than we left Etosha somewhat disappointed in the lack of diversity of animals that we saw. We didn’t even see any of the big five. Hopefully, Chobe in Botswana will bring better luck.

Just up the road from Etosha is a Cheetah farm which some of the other members of our group had persuaded the group leader to stop at for a short while. Nuisance Cheetahs that might otherwise be shot by farmers are brought to this place and kept there for a while before being transported to another large farm where they are released. Unfortunately, the other farm is a hunting farm and there is a chance that the Cheetahs are shot once released there – although there is only one hunt per year according to the woman that worked there. We’ve had a few discussions on the subject of hunting with our guide. The whole subject is rather touchy with some of the group members whom are against hunting for sport of any kind. Our guide has provided quite a bit of insight into the subject and it’s become clear that it isn’t quite such an open and shut case. It is necessary, for example, to selectively cull certain animals, even Cheetahs fro certain areas. Although the culling and hunting is carried out professionally, rich Americans and Europeans pay top dollar for the opportunity to come over here to hunt the animals under strict licensing regulations. The huge sums of money that they pay for the privilege goes largely towards conservation efforts. It seems like the sport hunting is somewhat of a necessary evil in the uphill battle to repair the enormous damage done by man over the past hundred years or so. It’s a topic that many of us have agreed to disagree as it proves to be an evocative one where people find it hard to find common ground.

After leaving the Cheetah farm, we drove a few hours to this camp-site where the only activity was a stiff climb to the top of a nearby mountain range. The one-hour hike was not too bad and the views at the top were fantastic. There is also a nice swimming pool here that was very refreshing if not extremely cold. It was only after I went for a dip that I noticed several water scorpions walking around the edge of the pool.

Since today is the last day for half of our group, they presented some tips and gifts for our guides last night and several of us stayed up late having a good time telling jokes and having a drink. It will be strange to have a half empty bus when we drop the others off this afternoon in Windhoek. On behalf of everyone, I collected contact information from the whole group and have stored it all on the laptop. Ruth, the Australian woman, is someone that we will very likely see again when we get to Melbourne, Australia at the end of the year. I burned some CDs for several of them as mementoes from the trip.

Today did feel a little strange with half the group now missing. On the other hand, we are all together more and the group is a little cosier. I was quite expecting this evening to pass uneventfully as this camp-site is only really a stopover point between Waterberg and Maun, the entry point to the Okavango Delta. Quite the contrary in fact. The camp-site itself is a pretty good one as they go and for the first time since we left Cape Town, we have put our tents up on real grass as opposed to dry dirt or gravel. The facilities are also very good (although this was also true for Waterberg) but there were two more surprises in store for us this evening.

With all the game drives and game parks that we have encountered so far in Africa, we still have not yet seen a Leopard. As luck would have it, there are a couple of Leopards here at the camp-site. They also have four adult Cheetahs and a cub Cheetah too. Shortly after arriving, we were all able to watch the big cat feeding. It was quite a sight and a real treat. Now, if only we get the chance to see Cheetahs and Leopards in the wild, this would pretty much complete the African experience for us.

After watching the Cheetahs and Leopards being fed, we were then offered the chance to watch what was described as the bushman dancing. At R40 ($5) per person, it seemed a little steep at first (clearly we are now fully accustomed to living with Rand instead of our own dollars or Euros). We all decided to join in although none of us really new what to expect. What transpired has turned out to be one of the real treats of our trip so far. On the grounds of the camp-site, here, there is a community of real, authentic Bushmen people. We got to see them as they live with loincloths, primitive wooden huts and the whole works. They put on various displays for us and a group of Germans that are also here. They showed us some of their games, one of which was throwing an arrow onto a pile of grass, causing the arrow to bounce off and fly into the distance. It looks a lot easier than it is and several of us got the chance to try it out, myself included. Even each of three attempts, I ended up on my backside with my arrow not managing to make it to the other side of the pile of grass even. After suitably making a fool of ourselves doing this, we then proceeded into a building (although it was more like a roof with some branches standing up to fashion a thin wall) where the whole group sang and performed some traditional dances for us. The entertainment was rounded off with the offering of some traditional food and drinks that were passed around for everyone to sample. Porcupine was the meat but I have no idea what all the other stuff was.

The Bushmen people are pretty much extinct as far as living in the wild is concerned and we were all very surprised to learn that there are still some pockets of these people living in camps like this one. According to the guide here these are real, genetically authentic Bushmen. Accordingly, we are all very privileged to have had this experience.

Theron (our driver and head guide) explained a little about what to expect in the Okavango Delta the day after tomorrow. We will be going into the delta via Makorros and will be spending two nights completely in the bush. There will be no camp-site, no facilities of any kind and probably lots of very dangerous wild animals roaming around. He gave us a sobering chat about what to do in certain circumstances such as if there are Lions or other predators lurking outside our tents at night. We all listened attentively to what sounded like some very necessary life saving information. Suddenly, I feel like we are preparing to enter the real Africa for the first time and I feel completely unprepared for it. Once in the delta, our Makorro polers come guides will be taking us on game walks. We may very well get up close and personal with some very wild and dangerous animals. We shall see.

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