Friday: drove east through Etosha to the other camp at Namutoni, a German fort, spotting another male honey-coloured lion and its kill (a zebra), a two-toned herd of zebra with their stiff upright brush-like manes trotting together shoulder to shoulder (we have now seen so many zebra we are very nonchalant, barely glancing at them as though they were herds of cows), wildebeest, springbok sheltering from the heat beneath the spreading trees, a falcon, flocks of Egyptian geese, a couple of giraffe heads down and legs splayed around a water-hole and two spotted hyena – it’s like writing a shopping list – but still no elephant! We were becoming obsessed with finding one. Stopped at Halali camp for cheese toasties for lunch and a quick swim in the pool then continued to Namutoni with Henri spotting an old bull giraffe with very dark spots – and – Our. First. Elephant!
We were all very excited despite it being just the one, very old, very large bull. The fort at Namutoni is a set of square, white-washed battlements and watchtowers in the desert once manned by German soldiers in 1904. It seems out-of-place in this landscape. Astonishing storm tonight – black and purple sky and lots of forked lightning lit up the sky made it feel as though we were in a war zone. A group of banded mongoose roam around the camp with several jackals, tipping rubbish bins and making a racket like adolescent vandals. During the night I heard hyena calling and what sounded like lions in the distance. Zebra woke me at dawn.
Saturday: left at 7:30 for a very long drive (700 kms) to our next camp at Ngepi in the Caprivi Strip close to Rundu and the Angolan border. A rather dangerous place to be. The camp is on the banks of the Okavango River where there are hippos and crocs. But it came with cool showers and toilets in open roofed, bamboo enclosures and large grassed areas where we played volleyball with a very hard ball. And a bar! After dinner we hit the bar for lots of drinking!
South Africans love drinking games – try the Springbok Ritual at home for yourself.
- Pour a shot glass ¾ full of crème de menthe. Top with amarula.
- Stand several feet away from the bar (where your shot glass rests)
- Make horns with your hands on your head and wiggle them.
- Stomp your feet and snort through your nostrils.
- Look left then look right (to check for lions), then hop forwards.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you reach the bar.
- Grab the glass with your mouth and tip it down your throat (the drink that is, NOT the shot glass.
- Best played after several beers!
Sunday: Christmas Eve – heard that Lizzie, the Aussie, got completely plastered last night and apparently hit Charles (he was probably telling her for the umpteenth time how he’d wrestled with a crocodile or something). Everybody was very subdued this morning as we drove through to Maun in Botswana and I almost stepped on a puff adder whilst crossing the border. It was only a baby. Not too much venom. Another long, hot drive, and I’m bored listening to Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’. Bought myself a Christmas present – a flight in a 6-seater Cessna over the Okavango Delta – wonderful and I didn’t even get sick! Hippos, zebra, elephants, kudu and what looked like cows (?) far below. We hit the bar again tonight, but most of us were taking it easy. Got woken up during the night by a pack of wild dogs chasing donkeys through the camp and the following morning a Shield-nose snake was found under the bar close to where Henri had collapsed in a drunken heap. Lucky escape!
Monday: Christmas Day! Lie in until 8 am when we had to make breakfast. Yes lucky me, team 2 was on meal duty today though at least we were spared cooking dinner as we were going out to a hotel for it. Yay! Lazy morning playing yet more water volley-ball before lunch then off to Nata through the Makgadigadi salt pans. It was hot and very humid, the sky full of threatening black clouds. It is not called the beginning of the Emerald Season for nothing. We had a Mongolian BBQ for dinner followed by sherry trifle, the only alcohol I imbibed in – sometimes you can indulge too much – and a lot of the gang retreated to watch TV in the lounge! Realised that I am claustrophobic when I had to rip open the tent door during the night in a heavy storm (which is why it was all closed up) to gasp for air! Baby scorpion found on the Dutch girls’ tent in the morning. Nasty!
Tuesday: Boxing Day. Headed north to Kasane where we transferred by boat across to a private island on the River Chobe where we camped under palms. Attila told us to be careful going to the toilet at night as hippos cross the island. Went for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi in a mokoro, viewing said hippos and some crocs sunbathing on the banks of the river, scary how they slither silently under the water. The river is so wide! Later we all sat around playing more drinking games, Fuzzy Duck and Vroom-Vroom, whilst listening to the grunts of hippos only a few feet from our feet. Surreal. The Captain and I were last men standing – or should that be sliding! Slept badly again thinking of those silent crocs nearby. (I’ll let you look up the rules of those games.)
Wednesday: back into Botswana and Kasane then on to Chobe for an early morning game drive. And at last we saw loads of sociable elephants together, whole herds of them, mothers with tiny babies who didn’t seem to know what to do with those long dangly trunks, stumbling into deep puddles, youngsters tumbling around in the mud, trumpeting, spraying themselves with squirting trunks of water and young bulls mock fighting and being bullied by bigger females. We simply feasted on elephants and by the end of the drive we were all satiated. Large herds of ugly wildebeest, buffalo flaring their nostrils, springbok and kudu and a group of ostriches filed into view, though no lions spotted today.
Only an hour after leaving the park we arrived at Victoria Falls: the shortest drive yet. Staying in an inn with real beds and mosquito nets and a swimming pool = bliss! Walking into town the Captain and I ate lunch then headed for the Falls. On the Zim side you get soaked as you stand so close to all that water plummeting over the sheer cliff wall. Plumes of vapour rise like smoke into the sky accompanied by a deafening roar. The natives call it Mosi-oa-Tunya, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’. We watched Ollie, Baz and Ben bungee jump from the bridge – rather them than me – and Baz ended up with a blood-shot eye, naturally. Later the Captain, Attila and I danced until late at the ‘Wild Thing’ and giggled our way home long after midnight.
Thursday: woke at six but turned over and went back to sleep until eight. No chores today, no tents to pack, no dishes to wash. Fantastic! Walked into town to do some shopping, but the craft market was a nightmare and we couldn’t move for traders hassling us. Finally escaped for a milkshake and to make a list of what we really wanted to buy. One hawker kept lowering his price for a beautifully carved elephant until I thought he was going to have to pay me to take it! And another guy asked me for my watch instead of Zim dollars as they are practically worthless. So was my watch. A hundred ZAR (less than £10) got you Z$850, but just about any other currency was preferred. I went with the Captain and Randy to the Victoria Falls Hotel for afternoon English High Tea – cucumber sandwiches, salmon sandwiches (with the crusts removed of course), scones with jam and cream, tiny sponge cakes, dainty profiteroles and exquisite tiny mince pies and the ubiquitous Earl Grey tea – though I opted for Rooibos – and all for the princely sum of Z$280, about £3.
Later we returned to the ‘Wild Thing’ to watch videos of some of the group who went white-water rafting. They seemed to have had a good time though a couple were less than impressed by the price and the fact they had to hike 2 hours up the cliffs at the end! Michael went of course notwithstanding the fact that he can’t swim!