Etosha - Grootfontein - Fiume Lodge
We realise how little we’ve seen of the huge Etosha park and regret that we’re not spending more days here. Before heading to our next destination we have half a day to do our own game drive in the park. We leave Onguma Bush Camp, but not without saying goodbye to Edwil. We shake hands and he asks if we will come back to Namibia and tell family and friends to come too. We promise we will. And while the springbok are drinking at the pool and the gardeners are sprinkling the grass, we load our bags into our loyal Ford vehicle. Soon we reach the entrance gate to the park. I register and then we enter, not knowing what to expect. You can drive hundreds of kilometers around here, but with limited time our strategy is to focus on a few waterholes and be patient. The start of our game drive is very promising. At taking our first turn on one of the gravel roads we spot a rhino! A bit in the distance, but clear enough for us to see. The rhino is an endangered species and we’ve seen many ‘save the rhino’ stickers. We take it as a promising sign for the game drive, spotting this animal straight at the start.
We continue to the ‘Pan’s Edge’ where we see large groups of zebras. And this time we are taking our time to observe. No Moses today, no hurry. But the real treat comes when we stop a Groot Okevi, a waterpool. We’re the only car stopping there and a large group of zebras is hanging around the water. Then we see a giraffe coming over the hill. The zebras seem to make room and move away from the water. Then there’s a second giraffe, a third, a fourth, ... untill we count ten. We can’t believe our eyes. They bend down their long legs to drink, while a few others seem to keep an eye on the environment, including our car.
I don’t easily use the word awesome, but this sight really is. It’s getting a bit hot in the car, but we are just spellbound by what we see. The giraffes move away a bit from the water. And once more this is the sign that another species is coming over the hill. And there it is: an elephant. I feel the kind of excitement normally only kids seem to feel (glad to know I still got it in me!). We’re sort of holding our breath because this is all happening so close to us. And we hold our breath even more when the elephant doens’t seem to be interested in the pools and walks straight through in the direction of our car. I feel my heart pounding like crazy and try to remember the words from my guide book:
Don’t panic. Console yourself with the fact that animals are not normally interested in people. You are not their normaal food, or their predator. If you do not annoy them or threaten them, they will leave you alone.
Our car window is open, but I don’t want to disturb this big guy in any way and we stay quiet, very quiet. No photos. ‘Don’t look him in the eye!’ Lesley whispers. In my imagination I can see the elephant’s snout coming into the car, but he passes right in front of us. I’m so glad we didn’t stop the car 2 meters forward because it seems to be a path. We breath again and can’t believe what just happened. Even if we don’t see anything for the rest of the day, we are over the moon already.
We decide to take our chances at nearby Klein Okevi, a smaller water pool. There are already 3 cars in front of us and it takes us a minute to see why. There’s a lion chewing his lunch, hidden behind a rock. And after about 15 minutes we suddenly see there’s a second lion by the water, waiting his turn to eat. A group of springbok is watching from a distance how their family member gets eaten. Waw, Etosha is one fascinating place. It’s great that you can explore by yourself and stay as long as you like to observe (as long as you make sure you’re back at your camp by sunset).
Then we hear heavy steps coming out of the bushes. It’s an elephant. We’re guessing it might be the one we saw at the other pool. He was one his way to somewhere. So there you have it, two lions and an elephant. There’s clearly and understanding between them, they are no natural enemies. Just when we feel it can’t get any better, more elephants approach untill there is a group of 5 drinking and taking a mud bath, spraying the water over their backs and bellies. Even the lions give us a closer look. The first one gets up from his meal, allowing the other one to have a bite.
Before we know it, half a day has gone by and it’s time for us to go and pay our park fee, fill the diesel tank and then leave for our next address near the town of Grootfontein, the gateway to Bushmanland. It takes us about 2,5 hours to get there. Fiume Lodge is situated in the middle of nowhere. We open the gate from the main road and drive a few more kilometers on a bumpy little road. The lodge is set in wide gardens and is part of a working farm. At reception we inform about the visit we planned to a Bushman community and then our perfect day gets a little crack as it seems our travel agent has made a mistake; the lodge doesn’t organise visits anymore to the Bushman. The best place to do that is Fiume Bush Camp, from the same owner, but 75 kilometers away. Timo, the manager at the lodge, does many phone calls and the proposal is to spend one night at the lodge and then drive to the bush camp the next morning, spend the day with the Bushmen and stay the night at the camp. “Don’t worry, we will sort it out,” Timo says. We hope so, because the Bushmen are the only reason we are here.
The lodge isn’t very lively today. There are only to other guests: a man and his daughter. We have cool cola as sundowner watching antilopes (although I’m not even sure now they were antilopes....) on the surrounding fields. Diner is served at 18.30. On the menu today: zebra meatloaf. “You won’t see the stripes,” Timo jokes. I’m hungry, so I’m not thinking too much about the kind of meat. All I know is that once more it’s a delicious meal. Father and daughter finish their meal and then go tot o their room, but it’s bearly 7 p.m. Timo comes to our table and we start a conversation. He confirms we can go to the bush camp in the morning. We should be there around 8.30 a.m. to start the day with the Bushmen. He says we will like it. We ask him about Grootfontein and he says it’s a town of military and government officials. Which explains why we saw some better housing there. Once Timo starts talking, i’s hard to stop him, so we also hear about the many bars in Namibia. Even houses and huts that don’t have BAR written on it, sell alcohol if you just knock on the door and ask. “Yes, alcohol is a big problem in Namibia,” he says. And so is speeding in cars. Not a very good combination. The police road blocks are set up to reduce speed accidents, but some police officers are corrupt. Luckily, we have only met friendly police people or uninterested officers who just read their newspaper and wave their hand to tell you to drive on. I have a feeling Timo is a bit of a speeder himself, but his trick is to invite the local police officer for a meal in the lodge now and then.
It’ still early when we get to our room, but we’re still processing all the impressions of the day and need a good night rest to make an early start. Above the beds are photos of the Bushman people. We can’t wait for tomorrow.