For some reason, the second I step out of a plane and onto foreign soil, I develop a ravenous craving for Pringles and it suddenly becomes my mission to try every local flavor offering. The most unique one so far has been cream of mushroom soup in Hong Kong. Africa seemed to cater more to tourists – salt & vinegar, sour cream & onion, cheddar cheese, and BBQ. You know, just in case any of you were wondering. Now that I’m back in the U.S., Pringles hasn’t entered my mind a single time until now. Curious.
As soon as we arrived and set up camp, the majority of us went for a hike while some decided to chill out on the rocks and drink beer. I went for the best of both worlds. One of the girls was geocaching and we all excitedly followed along. A lot of us weren’t wearing our hiking shoes, though, because we thought they’d be simple hills. Wrong. The rock face was too smooth for our Chucks and while most of us made it up halfway, the way back down was scary AF (yes, I’m actually using this acronym). Phil, probably the nicest guy ever, had to help each one of us down. (Photo credit: H)
Due to the lack of scary animals, we were allowed to drag our mattresses and sleeping bags out onto the rock and sleep there for the night. The sky was slightly cloudy around 11pm but when I awoke around 3-4am to go pee, it was beautifully clear and sparkly. I tried to stay awake to stare at it but blinked my eyes to suddenly find the sun on its way up.
We visited the Damaraland Living Museum where we learned the ways of life of the Damaras, only to later find out that they go back to wearing shirts and pants and live in a less primitive looking setup somewhere else. (We also met some Himba people selling handmade jewelry on the way here.) The Damara men demonstrated how to start a fire by repeatedly turning a stick left and right against a stone which most of our guys failed at doing. The locals have been egging Chris and Ashley on for not being “man enough” to try out their other demonstrations, so Chris decided to shut all of them down by being the only guy to successfully start a fire. Booyah!
Twyfelfontein is the site where thousands of rock engravings were found. The exact origin is unknown but one thing I can tell you is that these drawings may be better than mine. [Hides animal rock garden.]
The guide then began to explain the different animals when she was interrupted by a misunderstanding.
Tanja: “Oryx lay eggs?”
Nope, ostriches do. But, thanks for a quote that we will be repeating almost everyday for the remainder of the trip. Note: oryx are a species of antelope.
Etosha National Park
I must say, we got pretty damn lucky with all of our game drives. We spotted a lion napping in the shade of a bush on our very first day. SQUEAL.
Impala, springbok, and other kinds of antelope became so common that we’d excitedly spot an animal only to disappointingly say “Oh, just another springbok.” But, at this point, they were still quite exciting. We even saw one springing (or stotting, pronking) which was a treat until we realized it was most likely a warning sign to scare us off.
At night, we camped ourselves by the watering hole with our cameras and beer. First show on prime time was just a casual herd of elephants following a casual sunset.
Then came the giraffes and black rhino. Still casual.
Then, two male elephants engaged in a full showdown of manhood, with their manhoods later fully erect as if to finally settle the matter. It always comes down to that, doesn’t it?
And, as if the male springbok caught onto the idea, we encountered this the next morning. The females were probably somewhere getting actual life done.
I was later chased by a giraffe into the horizon of nothingness. Chyea right. This is the most exercise I got during the 54 days and it was for the purpose of posing for a photo. It really was the middle of nowhere, though, and this is all you could see for miles.
Beautiful creatures and the unfortunate mascot for Fruit Stripe gum. Google it if you don’t know what it is. That zebra’s name is Yipes, as in “Yipes, the flavor has disappeared after the first chew.” I’m starting to feel like Sean Spicer and his rant against Dippin’ Dots. Anyway, ignore all that commentary and look at the magnificent grazing zebras in the wild.
Oryx out, wildebeests in! And, okay, you too, springboks.
Wonder what the gossip is like around this water cooler. Hm, a lot of grunting. Must be about current politics.
“Damn, Zeb took my headrest.”
This was Chris’ paradise. He was the ultimate lover of giraffes and every time we saw one, we’d shout “Chris!”
The male giraffe kept trying to get it on but I think the presence of our vehicle ruined the romantic moment. The female kept inching forward every time the male tried to enter.
George: “Okay, guys, it’s time to go.”
Phil (in his German accent): “Nooo, we cannot leave until the male is inside the female!”
10 minutes pass, and still no luck.
George: “Okay, let’s go. Are you guys ready?”
Chris: “No, I’m not listening to you!”
We passed another 4×4 from which a man shouted in 3 syllables, “Le-o-pard!” It made me think of Bugs Bunny as the conductor, Leopold. And, sure enough, there the leopard was, quietly napping in the camouflage of the grass. Can you spot (ha ha) him? (Psst. Bottom, middle.)
To top that off, Joseph spotted a honey badger with his hawk eyes. A sole honey badger, a lone ranger more badass than Chuck Norris.
George: “How many of you are going on the night drive?”
Tanja: “What is a night drive?”
Robyn: “It’s a drive…at night.”
But, a drive at night that involved awesomeness in the form of jackals, a lion, lioness and her 3 cubs.
This is probably the only time we went “glamping.” The tents were “permanent,” meaning they set up nice individually standing rooms and put a tent-like structure around each of them to give it a camping feel. We still had to use communal bathrooms, so I suppose that counts? But, anyway, here is where the first leg of our trip ended and we said goodbye to Kristina, Phil and Rukshana…and then added 3 new people.
History tidbit: We didn’t find out until later (after we left the country) that there was a forgotten genocide of the Herero and Nama people during the German colonial rule (early 1900s) of what is now Namibia. Apparently, the methods used here in Namibia were the first experiments of what would later be used during the Holocaust. The officials in Germany didn’t even acknowledge it as a genocide until mid-2015, over a century later, and the remaining descendants of the Herero and Nama are still seeking reparation payments.