When my alarm clock at home buzzes at 6 a.m. I’m never so eager to get out of bed. But when the plan is to go on a gamedrive and spot wildlife, 6 a.m. is pretty ok. Our guide today is Melvin, one of the rangers of the lodge. Turns out it’s a private tour. A whole open safari truck, just for us. We climb on the truck and Melvin tells us to just knock on the roof of the driver’s cabin when we want to stop or ask something.
It’s a bit chilly in the early morning air, but we know that soon the temperatures will rise. After a few miles we leave the main road and enter the ‘permit only’ zone. You need an experienced driver here, not only because it’s rough terrain but also because you don’t want to get lost out here in this vast landscape. Melvin is very careful in creating expectations for today’s wildlife spotting. Again we hear it’s very dry and as we look out over the landscape we first see nothing. But we know the animals are there somewhere. Melvin gives us a quickstart course in recognising the droppings of different animals, and it proves elephants walk here, as well as giraffes, springbok, orynx, ... We learn that the Damara people smoke out the elephant droppings as a remedy for headache. All you need to do is hang your head into the smoke. Who needs Dafalgan? Driving along the rocky paths we also learn a bit more about the plants and bushes. Very typical here is the Damara milk-bush, named so because a white fluid leaks out of the bush when you cut it. By the time you see this you are close to being dead because this stuff is poisenous. People have died using branches of the milk-bush to start a campfire. The animals just know somehow this is not for them. Except for orynx and rhino who can eat the fruits growing on this bush. Wonders and dangers of nature ...
Despite the interesting explanations of Melvin we still hope to spot some actual wildlife. We stop at a higher viewpoint and in the distance we see zebras and giraffes. He doesn’t even need his binoculars to see them, while my eyes really need to adjust to the colours and structures to finally distinguish the animals in the far distance. At least now we know where to go to. Soon we spot zebras nearby. Water pools are the way to go! A couple of giraffes are eating from the bushes. They don’t seem too bothered by our presence. The special thing is that no one else is around, we are all alone here. Unfortunately the elephants don’t seem to be around, but there’s no point in driving around with a checklist here. Nature presents itself as it comes and we enjoy the experience fully. This isn’t something we control als humans, it’s the area of the animals and so I think we should be humble coming into their territory.
We drive around for hours in a very slow pace, sometimes creeping over rocks on the road with the truck, but we don’t really have a sense of time. This is living in the moment. Here and now. Wind in our hair and enjoying the views. It’s heating up and Melvin stops under a big tree for lunch. We set up a table and enjoy the cold drinks and salads. We learn our guide lives in Opuwo, our next destination on the roadtrip. He works for 6 weeks in Palmwag and then gets to go home for 2 weeks. A lot of the staff in lodges seem to live and work according to his system.
Melvin is determined to find more wildlife for us to see, so after lunch we continue our drive towards Aub Canyon. In rainy season water can rage through this canyon, but today it’s dry as can be. Just a few pools down there. It’s clear we won’t see the elephants today, but we are happy with the zebra’s and giraffes.
We leave the rocky paths and return to the main road. Two men are on their way in a small cart with 5 donkeys in front of it. Melvin slows down so we don’t cover them in a cloud of dust. He must know them because he gives them some water. Only then we notice there’s a donkey lying down on the cart. He (or she) doesn’t look well. Dead actually. I feel so sorry for the poor animal. “Is the donkey dead?” we ask rather shocked. The men smile and hold up the poor donkey’s head. “No no!” The story is that it’s a young donkey and he can’t walk next to the adult donkeys yet ... I don’t know. They continue their journey and so do we. Again we admire the vast landscapes seated on our high safari truck. Palmwag lodge comes back in sight and we thank Melvin for the great day. It’s late afternoon and we take some time to chill and watch another wonderful sunset. Little birds fly in and out in the last sun rays of the day. Pure zen.
On the menu tonight: ‘wildebeest’ with pepper sauce ☺