Not-camping in Etosha

We arrived in Etosha National Park in good time, mid-afternoon. Driving into the park, we immediately got lucky – a group of male kudus stood next to the road. Notoriously difficult to spot, the most impressive horns of all the deer kinds in Africa. 5 years into our African life, this was the first time we have seen male kudus.

We got to our campsite, and pitched our tent – on rock. Note to campsite planners – don’t place a campsite on rock, it’s impossible to secure a tent. We ended up having to place boulders inside our tent in the four corners. What a comfy night we were in for.

Focusing on our purpose – we set off for our first game drive. We got lucky again, and watched a pride of lionesses fooling around in the grass. Eventually, it started getting dark, and we needed to get back to camp.

So far, all was relatively uneventful. However, the closer we got to camp, the greyer the clouds seemed, and the wind definitely seemed to be picking up.

By the time we pulled into our campsite, the wind was howling, and our tent was being battered so hard by the wind it had bent over sideways, held down only by our trusty inner rocks.

Hmm.

We took a second attempt at resurrecting our tent, with the campsite guard looking on bemusedly. “The rain’s coming too”, he pointed out, helpfully.

The wind wasn’t playing game, or our tent wasn’t, or I don’t know.

All I do know is that the evening ended with Tom sitting spread-eagle on top of the tent trying to hold it down, while I dismantled it around him and tried to shove the components back into Beast.

Running into reception, we begged, and were given a cheap room in the bigger camp.

That trauma over, we went for dinner. Famished, we started to tuck into our soup, before being given a fright. A jackal wanted our soup too. Flapping it away, we carried on eating. But before long, he was back, with a friend.

The theme of the whole evening was set – jackal, upon jackal, upon jackal, sneaking into the restaurant, under tables, and sometimes even on top of tables! In the meantime, the guests flapped, hissed, shouted wildly, trying to stave off the scavengers.

Sleep couldn’t come too soon, and before long, it was 5.30 and we were getting up to catch the morning’s animals.

Coming to camp’s front gate, a cheery member of staff asked: “Did you notice the rhino?” No we didn’t, where is it? Just over by the gate to the campsite.

And flipping heck, there it was. A stunning animal, in all its glory, grazing at the campsite entrance, the campers blissfully unaware of the huge animal metres away from their tents. We secretly congratulated the storm on moving us into a room, and having watched our rhino mate for long enough, we drove off to top up our petrol.

Only, there was no petrol. One might think this would be a key piece of information to pass on to tourists staying at a camp in the middle of nowhere, but we hadn’t been informed, and didn’t have much petrol left at all.

Luckily, we hadn’t set off gamedriving, and we estimated we had just enough to reach out next camp – 100 kilometres away. (We were thanking our lucky stars for Beast’s capacity at this stage).

After Tom throwing a tantrum at the camp receptionists for not telling people about the fuel situation, we set off for our next camp, praying the car would last that long.

On route, we got lucky yet again – coming across another lion stalking around by the roadside.

Etosha is a huge 20,000 kilometre+ park, home to a huge salt pan. The result is an otherworldly feeling, shimmering white as far as the eye can see, dotted with gazelles and zebra.

Rushing into our next camp smack-bang in the middle of the park, we had only one question – do you have fuel??? Yes, they had fuel, so off we went to fill up before anyone else had the chance to steal Beast’s food.

We had intended this to be a mid-camping refreshing stop, so we had pre-booked a room. As it turned out, we had a second night in a room, and had no tent to pitch. So, we had a job of doom that we had been putting off, and had to finally face – the fridge.

Note to self, do not let anything go off in a car fridge, because it will become a stinking, juicy pit of hell.

While Tom disinfected the inside of the fridge, I had to use our only cleaning implement – a toothbrush – to scrub the metal inner basket of the fridge. In the midday heat. Served.Us.Right. Lesson learnt, we vowed only sealed cans, tins, bottles would enter Beast’s fridge ever again.

In the afternoon the heavens opened again – during our gamedrive – bringing out a rhino, hyenas, and many gazelles to frolic in the water.

For day three, we moved to a third campsite, in the ground of an old fort. This time, the foresightful camp planners had placed the campsite on sand – a joy to pitch tent in, and comfy to sleep on.

Happy with our home for the night, we set off for an evening gamedrive, where we were in for a real treat of my favourite kind – a secret, one-on-one with a pair of elephants.

Having come across the nellies grazing in some thick bushland and moving away from us, we decided to try to intercept them on the other side of the bush patch. We parked up and waited, and before long, out they came, accepting our presence, sifting up all the plants they felt like gobbling.

Before long, they wanted to move on, and giving us a wary look, they crossed the road right next to our car. Rolling very quietly, we followed them, again going round the side of their patch to meet them on the other side – at a waterhole.

Again, the nellies obliged, soon meeting us on the other side of the bush, where they ate, drank, and played around for a while, us watching in silence.

After half an hour or so, another car sped up, screeching to a halt, and sent our friends running away into dense bush.

So that was it for the night, we were back to camp, for a night of blissful sleep under our tree on the sand.

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