Elepants galore!

Before arriving at Etosha we had a stop at Twylfontein, a place with plenty of rock art. Nice to see but not so exciting. They’re unable to date the art so it’s still a mystery a bit of who painted them and their significance but there are plenty of ideas and theories.

We set off to Etosha National Park, Namibia’s wildlife park. We drove in around 3pm after setting up camp 9km outside the park. Marius was very knowledgeable about wildlife and seemed to have a thing for elephants. He kept pointing out the freshness of elephant dung on the paved road. We went straight to a waterfall where a big lodge and camp is built and too our surprise and luck we saw 40 elephants bathing and playing at the waterhole. They were quite close and some got close up to gate to eat from the trees. Very special to see these huge, archaic animals magically walk, graze and play so close.

We’d see plenty zebras, springbok and giraffes, termite mounds.

Luckily, the car was fixed or so we thought and Stephan meet us early our 3rd morning without him. We drove from one end of the park to the other where we’d be camping at Camp Namotoni. Just as I was asking about lions, Martin spots a male lion walking across the plains growling at 2 in the afternoon. I thought they’d all be sleeping and avoiding the sun. Special to see and hear a lion growl. We followed it in our car for several minutes until he crossed the road and disappeared to the other side. I kept thinking we’d see cheetahs or the elusive leopard but no chance.

Etosha is interesting. It’s desert, very dry and has a huge salt pan in the middle of it. Recently there had been lots of rain fall so the salt pan was filled with water, something Stephan had never witnessed before even though he’s been a guide for 6 years. I’m happy I was able to see Etosha but Kruger in South Africa is still my favorite because of the diversity in landscape and the abundance of wildlife.

We left the following morning for a 4-5 hr drive to a small town, Rundu at the edge of Namibia. Unfortunately, 50km before Rundu after a pee stop on the side of the road I smelled burning rubber. “Are they burning trash somewhere?” I ask. Stephan says, “I hope it’s not us” as he looks through his side mirror and sees smoke coming from the tire. Stephan got out of the car as Ingvild and I got our cameras to document our troubles. Stephan called his manager, Aiden, who was hearing from us on a daily basis to help us out and make phone calls. Stephan tried to remove the shaft and try to fix the problem but it was stuck. The def shaft that finally arrived from SA wasn’t the correct part so the mechanic had to be creative to make it work. After 2 hrs by the side of the road and no removing of the stuck shaft, a mechanic, Javie from Rundu, who happens to be the brother in law of the mechanic from Swakop came to fetch us and work out the problem.

I was laughing to myself thinking this is Africa-No matter what your plans, they’re bound to be broken or changed. It validated all my experiences traveling by public transport in Africa only to have the most problems with a land cruiser. How is this so? I don’t know. Mean while Ingvild was getting very frustrated. We can’t loose another day… I could see she was upset as I’m calmly thinking and briefly mentioning this is how it is. Nothing goes as planned. It’s not Bundu’s fault. As Heather had told me since she experienced it herself, often individuals on overland trips will be very aware of the itinerary and frustrated when things don’t go as planned because their overland trip will be there only time in Africa. For Heather and I, missing out on a place doesn’t really matter. Sure, it might be disappointing but it’s a shrug of the shoulders. What can you do? Nothing. I didn’t know what the itinerary was most of the time, I was just happy to have someone else in charge, figuring everything out.

Javie couldn’t remove the shaft either so we slowly drove the 50km in 4-wheel drive with Javie and his sister following us. Javie even drove for an extra 20 minutes to show us where our campsite was because it was tricky to find. The following day was Sunday but would open his shop at 7am to help us fix our cruiser. Namibian hospitality is incredible.

Stephan left early on Sunday while we leisurely ate breakfast and took down are tents and packed. The latest we had to leave was 10:30am since we were crossing the Botswana border and taking a speed boat for 2 hrs on the Okavango delta to our camp. By 11am we were getting worried until we see, Javie driving Stephan back to camp. Javie would drive the 3 hrs to to the border, then another person from Ngepi camp would drive us the 45 minutes to the boat launch site. Bundu working behind the scenes and networking to try and make the best of the situation without us loosing any more time from our trip. I was happy and impressed. But I missed our land cruiser. Listening to music, lying down on the back seat- I had 3 seats to myself and my area began to look like a jungle. The joys of a road trip with lots of space. In Javie’s land cruiser we were a bit squashed in the back seat with all our stuff, no music, not much conversation except for the occasional chatter of Afrikaans between Stephan and Javie.

We arrived at the border without a problem. Fill out the paper asking you you’re name, birth date, and country of residence, passport details and where you’re headed. Stamped in to Botswana. Not a busy border crossing. Javie left and 5 minutes later someone from Ngepi camp was ready to pick us up. Loaded all our necessities, food and cooking items and off we drove for 45 minutes, nearly hitting a cow that decided to jump in the road as we approached. We were in an open vehicle with seats, so our hair was blowing wildly, lips getting dry… occasionally we’d rest our head on the back of the truck so we weren’t so windblown. The joys of various transit options.

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