7 January 2013- Caprivi Strip, Namibia
A hippo walked through the edge of our camp this morning while we were getting breakfast ready. He was taking his huge bulk to the river munching all the while, he didn’t even give us a passing glance. He munched his way to the edge of the water and not at all gracefully splashed in and disappeared, a trail of bubbles betraying his presence as he swam across the river.
We have spent the past few days in the east of the Caprivi Strip (the skinny bit at the top of Namibia) turning off the main road and heading down the two tyre tracks of a sandy track heading into the bush- just our style! Not far along as we followed the windy track through thick bush we saw a few flashes of grey, elephant in front and to the left and right, this was shaping up to be one of our fav places we have been, and it was! We made our way down the 4 x 4 track to our first unfenced camp (that is anything can wonder in and out and as we saw this morning they do!). We set up camp at a perfect spot by the river and loved sitting in the pitch black listening to night bush noises before we went to bed. When we got into landy the first night we heard something close by and both stopped what we were doing, munch munch….. we opened a window and about a metre from our door was a hippo! Brilliant, we jumped into bed and smiled and giggled as we listening to him snuffling his way around camp.
Yesterday was a very memorable birthday- one I def wont forget! Of course my three years ago birthday when we got engaged will always be the number one. 🙂 Olly made us breakfast and we took a cuppa and some rusks (very hard biscuit things, like teething biscuits for a baby- its taken me awhile to come around to them) to a hide in a tree that overlooks the marshy lush surrounds and watched red lechwe bound around and the busy birds loving all the wet weather we have been having.
After breakfast I tried out the very patchy internet and was able to read some lovely birthday messages over a bucks fizz (with the bubbles that we had for nye and never used) – all very civilized! 🙂 We decided to go out for a drive and were loving being in the bush again- not much of Africa is really bush compared to Australia. We stopped in the middle of a herd of impala and watched them for ages- young and old eating and staring at us with their big brown eyes a bit unsure of us. We watched as they suddenly stood up, stopped eating and seemed startled, along came a warthog trotting along into the middle of the herd, they all went back to eating. We made our way along slowly which is always the best, you see and hear so much, and came across some hippo amongst the water lilies poking their heads up every so often and doing their big threatening yawns to one another. After we left the hippo we carried on for a while when I grabbed Ollys arm and pointed- ahead of us at a horseshoe-shaped bend in the river, the outside of the bend was packed full of elephant, well over a hundred in all! They were everywhere- in the bush, running down to the water throwing themselves in, and playing and wrestling, mainly dunking each other (sometimes all you could see was a trunk sticking out)… what a birthday pressie! Watching elephant feels like you have come across something funny and sacred at the same time. It’s truly a pleasure to see them interact. They are magnificent animals- so social, so playful and so intriguing- not to mention enormous- they really tower over you and when a large one faces you, looking down with ears out, your heart pounds and even in a landy you feel very small indeed. The mass of elephant were made up of separate herds, after an hour or so the matriarch of each herd seemed to say ‘time to go’ and the large group broke into several smaller groups of about 30-40 each. There were a few adolescents who stayed, playing, glancing over to their group moving off and at the last minute ran to catch up. They disappeared into the thick bush, for their size its amazing how quickly they can disappear! On the way back to camp we came across one of the herds again- a few of the young splashing about in a very muddy waterhole and as we crawled past them in landy we saw a big shape in front of us right on the road, at first I thought it was a young elephant but a second glance and I realised it was a hippo! We inched forward and came across another one in a large muddy waterhole. Hippo spend most of the day submerged in water so we have been very lucky to see them out and about. We watched the hippo in the waterhole for a while until he looked at us and awkwardly climbed out and walked away. I wouldn’t want to get in their way- they are massive with huge muscular jaws! As we headed back to camp the skies opened and it poured! We are travelling in the rainy season and have only seen what that means in the past few days. We reached camp and fortunately the rain eased to a trickle, Olly was determined we would spend the evening around a fire so set about making one with wet wood. His determination paid off and he had a roaring fire just as it started raining again! We spent the evening under the awning having dinner and chatting. A perfect day in one of our very fav places we have been in Africa- no fancy dinner or present could beat that for a birthday!
This is our last night in Namibia and I am sitting in the open air bar (well happily not completely open air as its been raining on and off) looking over the river listening to the snorting, huffing and grunting of hippo- who despite being gruff and cranky looking have charmed me in the past few days. We have come back to a lodge not far from the border to Botswana where we have already stayed a couple of days and will be crossing the border tomorrow. Namibia has been wonderful. We both had a feeling we would love it and decided to give ourselves plenty of time here and for the most part feel we have- although some areas we could have explored more- there could never be enough time!
Thoughts on Namibia:
What a place- beautiful, safe and friendly. For the independent traveller and def overlanders Namibia is brilliant! There an abundance of great camp spots- in stunning locations with fab facilities, we have stumbled upon some gems ourselves as well as those that others have pointed us to.
Namibia has reminded in parts of Aus- its dry in most of the country with large spaces between things- but not as large as Aus! So many people have said the distances are very huge- we are used to that in Aus so it didn’t stand out that much for us.
You can really feel the European influence in much of Namibia (German) in the food, architecture and of course language. Many of the towns don’t feel very African if that makes any sense. We noticed it most when we got to the far north, along the border to Angola, suddenly we said ah, that’s whats different! Up there the towns were more chaotic, everything happening outdoors (road side stalls instead of shops etc) and just more people out doing all the things people do.
People in Namibia seem to get by on very little and of course there is poverty but somehow it feels less disturbing (or maybe we are getting more used to it? if that possible) when not against such obvious wealth as we saw in SA and somehow the neat tidy huts (although very basic) seem less obviously lacking than huge shanty towns in SA cities.
We really enjoyed seeing and getting the chance to speak to (or use smiles and hand signals with) a few Himba people in the north who have largely retained their traditional culture and dress which is interesting (much colourful jewellery and very few clothing, the women smearing their skin with ochre to protect it from the sun so they are brick red).
Botswana here we come- The Delta, Choebe and some long sandy roads
L and O