Wildlife Encounters in Namibia

Namibia 07- 11/02

Once on the Caprivi Strip – infamous in the past for the armed ninjas that were crossing from the war ravaged Angola – we got warned that we were not alone.
First morning we woke up with what we thought to be elephants crossing from the Bwabwata national park. But we saw just foots prints and elephant feces. Wildlife remained elusive. In Katima Mulilo tarred roads and malls clearly show who is on top of the food chain in a country of more than 800.000 square Ks and less than 5 million inhabitants

Arriving 2 months later in Namibia at the Katima Mulilo border, it felt like the the beginning of the end. Our detour across DRC through Zambia had brought us in the Caprivi Strip, the greenest and rainiest Namibian region, rarely visited by overlanders. Gone were the rickety rice and beans shacks, supermarkets had replaced corner shops, the service stations and customs offices were modern and air conditioned. The town, chuck full of malls and fast food joints. For a moment we were trapped by the tricks of a familiar world: receipts for every shopping, Gouda cheese, whole wheat bread, chocolate, discounts, air conditioning, mobile network. But the novelty wore off quickly. The impeccable tarmac took us through San villages (ethnics famous for the click sounds that articulate their language). Mud huts were tucked behind a layer of greenery, after all rain falls here almost year round. And when the rains have been plentiful, the river that crosses Caprivi spills over, flooding the fields of northern Botswana and creating a lush water paradise in search of which immense herds of animals march for months: the Okavango Delta.

Traditionally the Okavango is crossed on mokoro boats

And the more refined version of mokoro, for visitors.

Okavango

We stopped for a night on the Okavango river, in a camp with pool in cage, to protect the tourists from the hippos and crocs. A first sighting of Botswana, where we planned to go later on.
In the afternoon we saw a small group of elephants grazing over the river, on their way to the Okavango Delta. Our expectations deceived: 8 months in Africa, thousands of kilometers through thick jungle or savannah, bushcamping in remote spots, and we had hardly seen a few wild animals, if any at all, and always from great distance. Then, the following night, I got attacked by a hippo.

The story goes like this: we pitched out tent near the water. Rain came overnight, we were unaware that the others, tourists and staff, had sought shelter in the bungalows. And nobody bothered to tell us anything. Around midnight I heard a splash in the river and I went out to see where that came from. The hippo who was grazing 4 meters away, head barely above the water, must have felt he was being challenged, so he charged. I shouted, trying to wake Ana up, I stumbled on her legs and fell over, so she screamed. The hippo got even more scared than us and slipped while trying to climb out, so it gave up, exiting the river 5 meters away, through the next camp site. I thought I saw it from behind, disappearing in the night, but as we walked all over the camp trying to find someone to talk to, I convinced myself that I had imagined the whole thing. There was complete silence, nobody around, how could there be hippos roaming the camp? But in the morning the foot prints were all over the place.
We found out that two cheeky hippos do sometime dare to graze here in the night, the idea is to stay inside the tent, and you’re safe. We didn’t get the chance to face the hippo again, cause it started raining cats and dogs again. We had stitched the tent in Zambia, but it was still leaking, so we had to leave in search of drier places.

Destination: Etosha, with stopover for groceries in Tsumeb, the Namibian mining center (silver, lead, germanium, cadmium). What a strange artificial town, American feel after decrepit villages, no local markets, no street food. White people with 4x4s, crappy Internet for 10 Euro/hour, groups of boozed San ethnics (Bushmen) gathered to beg and wait in front of the Spar supermarket. The hunter-gatherer San communities, under constant pressure from the Khoi-Khois, the Hereros and the colonists, has almost disappeared, absorbed or enslaved, pushed to the limit of survival, the limit of existence.

Tsumeb

Nambian lunch: beef with maize porridge
On the way to Etosha we took the chance to step on extraterrestrial soil: the Hoba meteorite, the largest that fell on our planet; 60 t, most of it iron, but discovered only in 1920.

One cannot walk o alien rocks, so I had to balance while levitating.

Memory from outer space.

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