Etosha National Park – Day 21
Day 21 started extremely early – breakfast at 5:30. We needed to get into Etosha National Park as it opened as the best time to see cats is in the early morning, and we wanted to make the most of our day. We also had to be completely packed and ready to throw our bags on the truck as we were headed for a lodge on the other side of the park. I’d been up late with all the waterhole action the previous evening and hadn’t had a good sleep on the lumpy pillow. Morning came way too early and we were all grouchy.
As I was rushing around trying to get everything done on time to go to breakfast, I realized that we were missing Jessica’s little day pack. Grant and Jess had returned without me the previous evening and he hadn’t realized that she’d had it with her at the waterhole. It was too dark out there for me to have noticed that it was left behind (she hadn’t been sitting near me.) Thankfully, we still had her camera as she’d taken it out and carried it back separately, but her iPod, wallet, and who knows what else was now all missing! I sent Jess off to the outdoor dining area to ask Misheck to inquire if it had been turned in, and Grant ran to the (far away!!) waterhole in the dark with a flashlight to look for the bag while I finished my mad packing of the room in preparation for our departure. When I finally had the rest of the bags assembled, I headed to breakfast to see what Jess had found out.
I arrived at the table as Misheck was handing Jess her lost bag! Amazingly, one of the security staff had handed it in. I’d thought it was long gone, especially given the expensive contents. He asked Jess to check it and ensure that everything was there. She went through the bag and discovered that the iPod was still missing. Misheck was FURIOUS and headed off to complain to management about the security guard that had handed in the bag. I had wanted to give the guy a big tip for handing in the bag but now I was torn as it seemed rather likely that he’d stolen the iPod before turning it over! Right around then Grant came panting up having run most of the way to the waterhole and back. (Daddy of the year award!) We filled him in on the situation and started to rush through breakfast as we were now a bit behind everyone else.
A few minutes later, the security guard was marched back to our table by his manager (I assume). He reached into his pocket and unfolded the iPod from a bit of tissue and handed it to Jessica with: “There! Are you happy now?” Poor Jess didn’t know what to say and meekly answered “Yes, thank you!” It was a tremendously uncomfortable situation all around. I felt pretty certain that this man was about to lose his job over an iPod that we had carelessly left in his path. I felt a bit better later on when Misheck told us he had suspected the man was a thief from the moment we’d arrived the day before. Apparently the guy had been hanging around the truck when we arrived and had tried to get on board to “clean” the truck. This is not normal practice; the guides are responsible for the cleaning to minimize the number of people with access to the gear left on board. Misheck told him in no uncertain terms that he would not have access to our truck – supervised or otherwise!
Poor Jess was pretty devastated and embarrassed about the whole situation and worried we’d be super angry with her. I reminded her of the time at the beginning of a different vacation that I left a very expensive handbag, filled with credit cards, house keys, two different sets of vehicle keys and over $800 cash sitting in a truck stop bathroom! (Luckily for us, the lady who’d found it called the cell number she found on my business cards and we were able to pick it up the next day.) Jess was less embarrassed then, but vowed to be more vigilant with her things in future.
It was time to move out. The waterhole had been truly spectacular, but the rooms left a lot to be desired, the food was mediocre at best, and now we’d had this issue with the security guard. Needless to say, we were somewhat happy to be leaving Halali Restcamp behind!
It was still somewhat dark out as we set off into the park for our game drive. The plan was to drive across the park to Namutoni Camp on the other side where we were going to spend the night. We’d check in there, drop off our stuff, and then head out again for another afternoon drive. Early morning is the best time to see cats but, unfortunately for us, there were no cats to be seen anywhere! We did, however, see tons and tons of elephants. One huge male browsed contentedly right beside the road. He was only a few feet away from the truck – not bothered by us at all (which is a bit sad, in its own way).
Game driving is super exciting when you are in the midst of it but makes for a pretty boring blog! Suffice it to say we had an amazing morning with an abundance of animals to view. We bounced around the inside of the truck like ping-pong balls trying to simultaneously take good photos while allowing others their fair share of window time. This is easier said then done when you are caught up in the moment trying to take that perfect photo – completely forgetting the person behind you can’t get their shot in with your head in the way! This was probably the most frustrating part of a safari drive in our overland truck. We often had a better vantage point than the smaller vehicles, however, we had less window space per person because the view was typically out one side of the truck and you typically had three or four people trying to look out one window!
We saw lots of ellies and lots of giraffes, which always makes me happy. I love to see the huge stately giraffes striding along. It’s also amusing to watch them drink – they go from supermodel cool to ungainly teenager as soon as they arrange themselves into that awkward drinking position. The sheer numbers of animals here was in stark contrast to the other places we had visited thus far. Often, large groups of many different species would be grouped around the same waterhole. It was drier than usual and we even saw some eland among the group at the waterhole. Apparently they are quite shy and are more difficult to see up close; especially in among the crowd at a waterhole. Still no cats though.
We rolled into Namutoni Camp on the other side of the park to eat lunch and drop off our stuff for that night’s stay. This was a MUCH nicer lodge than the other one. We have definitely been spoiled by the quality of accommodation on this tour! We still had to set up a mosquito net for Jessica, though. Even though they provide beds for her, apparently mosquito nets are optional! Once again, I was really glad we brought ours and that it was so easy to set up. There weren’t too many mosquitoes around, but I’d had a few bits the previous evening and it only takes one! Grant opted to stay at the lodge and relax in the sun (aka burn himself) because his back had taken quite the beating with all the driving we’d been doing over rough roads. He needed to take a break. Unfortunately, that meant missing out on a game drive. Still, he looked pretty happy as we waved goodbye – sitting in the sun with some tunes playing.
Jess and I jumped back aboard the truck for the afternoon drive. A few people had decided to give it a miss, so there was less crowding at the windows this time around. We still didn’t see any cats, however, we managed to see hyena, warthog, zebra, elephant, giraffe, rhino, tons of pretty birds including a hornbill, and – of course – all different sizes and shapes of antelope. I think my favorite moment was right as the sun was going down we came across giraffe and some rhino drinking from the same waterhole. The light was magical and I was disappointed when we had to leave – all trucks are supposed to be out of the park by sunset and we were pushing our luck! As usual, Misheck was helping us wring every last second out of each day. Exhausting, but definitely not a single moment wasted on this tour!
Dinner was lovely that evening. There was game meat on the menu again and Jess tried the kudu. Of course, she loved it. I’ll never be able to find any of this meat to feed her again! Still, it’s really wonderful to see her trying and enjoying different types of food. It was Tony’s birthday so Eva (I’m assuming) had arranged for a cake and we all sang happy birthday. Etosha National Park – what an amazing place to celebrate your birthday!
Our resident Italian principessa had changed into what was perhaps her fourth outfit for the day; swapping her animal print ‘safari’ tights for some sparkly ‘evening wear’ tights. I don’t know how she had the energy to keep up with hair, makeup, and wardrobe changes throughout the day. I barely had the energy to shower and put my hair in a ponytail!
Jess and Grant were both exhausted (and – surprise – SOMEONE was sunburned!) so they headed back to the room shortly after dinner. I headed to the waterhole. This time, however, I was sensible and brought warm clothes and my tripod. Unfortunately, this waterhole was much tamer than the other one and there wasn’t much action. There were lots of people and I was too tired to sit for long without anything interesting to watch, so I headed back to the room for some much-needed sleep.