The dust was so thick and heavy it looked like fog swallowing up the road. The bumps along the dirt road made me feel like I was on a roller coaster. Every now and then we would see a shadowy figure on the side of the road and realize it was a person walking.
Small shacks made of rusted metal were the villagers homes. I told Paul to keep a close eye out for the next small town, we only have 80 kilometers of petrol left so we can’t miss it. Yes, we made it to the small town, got gas and are finally on a tarmac road! Yahooooo! False alarm- only tarmac through the small town for about 5 kilometers. Now we are back onto the bumpy, roller coaster dirt roads. Before we left the tarmac road, a group of young boys (around 8, 9, 10 years old) made a human road block. We slowed down and they were begging for food or water- all I had was Nash’s Fanta and gummy bears. I gave these to the children and we drove off. Nash yells at me saying ‘why did you give my food away?’ Paul says, ‘what did you want us to do, run the kids over?’ Nash responds, ‘if it’s them or my gummy bears, run them over’! I think he was joking?!?
Along the drive we noticed a lot of elephant crossing road signs. We tried to keep a close out for them. We came to another small town with a gas station. I told Paul, let's get gas since we never know how far to the next petrol station. As Paul was talking to the several men pumping our gas, cleaning our car, washing our windows, a group of small children came up to the car with baskets of jewelry for sale. I had no Namibia cash or I definitely would have bought several pieces of worthless jewelry that we did not need from them. When Paul came back in sight, I asked him for some money, he says "no, the guy who pumped our gas said DO NOT BUY FROM THEM". I assumed they were overpriced and a huge scam. After we got out of the city (aka: tiny town with 1 gas station), I asked Paul why he said not to buy the jewelry from those people. The man told Paul, "they are from Angola, do not buy from them!" I have no idea why??????
While we were driving we followed the dirt roads - all looked very similar. We get to a cattle gate that says "Please Keep Closed". We assumed we could continue this route, it didn't stay stay out, only keep the gate closed. As we continued down this highway (one lane dirt road), we had to open/close over 10 different farm gates. I was the gate keeper for a bit, but Finn and Nash thought it would be fun to be the official gate keepers. I thought Mississippi was rural, but this takes it to a whole new level. The only farm gates we opened were on our own property, not available to the public. Super interesting how this country works.
Once we passed through all our gates, bumpy roads, we finally reached our camp, Safarihoek. This lodge is located on Etosha Heights Private Game Reserve. This was our first experience on the trip staying in a private game reserve. Our room was on top of a hill overlooking a small waterhole. There is a severe drought here so the watering hole is a busy place. When we arrived, there were 2 elephants grazing around the waterhole.
After unpacking and resting at the camp for awhile, we headed out with Mike, our guide, for our first game drive in Etosha. We learned that Etosha is a Swaili word meaning long, white plains. The minerals in the small mountains in this area make the ground and dunes look white. We first saw a pride of lions - the mom, dad, 2 older siblings around 2 years old and 3 babies - around 5 months old. We watched this family for a bit - the interaction between the siblings was really entertaining to watch. They greet each other with a rub under the chin, then begin to lick and scratch each other. The older (2 year old) siblings looked full grown. They were massive- so much larger than any other lion we had seen before.
Next we went a played chicken with a massive bull elephant. Our guide, Mike, got a little too close for comfort to this guy. He was stomping his massive foot, blowing and throwing dust on us. Paul and Finn even got elephant snot blown on their faces. At one point his massive trunk was touching the front jeep tire. Mike told us that if we run or back away the bull will chase us. If we charge at him, he will run away. We tried both and he was correct!
Next we drove around for a few hours in search of the allusive black rhino. We saw 2 white rhinos on our first day in Namibia but have never seen a black rhino. We also learned that the name white rhino was actually not the original name of this animal - the first man to discover and name this species described it as wide mouth rhino. Somewhere during the transcription of this discovery, the name got misspelled to white rhino which is what it is called today. We saw springboks, oryxes, ostriches, giraffes, zebras, and gazelles but no rhinos. We had an amazing time but the BEST part of our evening was learning about Mike's history. Every person has a story and his is one that is unimaginable, but I'll leave that to another post.