Monday, October 10, 2011

LIONS: etosha national park (2 of 2)

continuing from part 1 of my adventures in Etosha National Park

these little guys are so cute

The next morning I woke feeling like I had slept pretty well, except for the times when my friends had woken me up in the tent for snoring too loudly. Dean was upset that he had missed the lions; he had given up and decided to go to bed before his feline namesake had turned up at the watering hole. I tried to explain to him that God rewards patient people, but all he said was that he’d be really pissed if that was the only time we’d see lions on this trip.

Luckily, it wasn’t.

When we arrived at Goas, which is the name of the setting of the Namibian novel I read The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, we saw seven lions sitting peacefully around a partially eaten dead elephant. Last night had been a special moment for me and the lions alone, without the interference of the camera lens; today the lighting was perfect and I couldn’t believe what a perfect view we had. They were so close, no more than fifteen metres away. One of them stared at me hard, and I found myself drawn into a staring contest with one of the most feared animals on the continent, who just fortunately doesn’t feel like eating me today.

extremely dead and partially eaten elephant

“what are they doing?”
“I think they’re gonna fight.”
“Maybe they’re mating.”
“There’s no dude lion.”
“Lesbian lions!!”
"I think they're gonna fight though."

On our way out of Goas, we passed a field of about a hundred and fifty zebras. It doesn’t really matter how many zebras I see – they continue to look so strange and unreal to me. Eliza commented that it looked like some prankster had painted them overnight as a joke.

It was a good day for animal watching. The sightings became more and more surreal. As we drove, I was on animal watch duty, but my contact lenses were bothering me so I kept rubbing and rubbing my eyes until I felt sleepy and – as usual – fell asleep. When I woke up again, I saw a flash of giant grey pass by and I shouted as Allison who was driving “Stop the car!”

The elephant was mostly hidden at first and we were disappointed that she was hidden behind the burned trees. “Babar, baby, come look my way,” Allison whispered into her camera. And then the elephant answered her, slowly making her way toward the car, crossing the road right in front of us, and into the grasslands beside us. A male elephant with very large tusks followed her across the road. They moved slowly but gracefully. I couldn’t believe this was happening right in front of me. I couldn’t believe that my camera batteries had died at this exact moment.

so all of these photos are from Allison, who is actually competent at photography, unlike this blogger...

“Why did the elephant cross the road?” I joked.
“Shh, Gloria, not now.”

Dean suggested we check out the watering hole at Chudup, where we saw a lone kudu drinking. Then a herd of oryx approached, swinging their heads and kicking the dust and sending all the birds scurrying away. Black-faced impala and springbok soon followed the oryx, and soon a whole zoo of animals were drinking from the water hole, each sticking closely to their own group. I sensed tension, the kind of tension that you’d expect at a high school cafeteria. I expected a gang fight to erupt any moment, or maybe a magical Disney dance-off between animals.

Then we saw elephants (including two babies) chasing away the giraffe and springbok to have the watering hole to themselves. They indulged in a refreshing bath, followed by a nice butt rub against the trees. Watching the elephants drink their water made me wish I could stick my nose in my mouth. After the elephants left, the giraffes and springbok returned to the whole. Clearly, the elephants are the high school jocks and cheerleaders of the African safari social order.

like a salvadore dali painting

spot the giraffe

Watching all the boks made hungry for some bok burgers, so we pulled into the rest camp at Namutoni, which was where we were supposed to stay last night but hadn’t made it all the way. It’s a former German military post where they had once held English prisoners of war during the world war. Now it’s been converted into a really nice rest camp, one nice enough that Dean commented he wouldn’t have minded being held captive by folks like Eliza if it was like this. We had sandwiches and cider by the turquoise pool and then headed home, feeling hot and tired and overwhelmed by all the things we had seen that day. We’d only read about these animals in books and on Wikipedia; and now they had come out, shaken their butts in front of our car, and walked on into the burned savannah as though we didn’t exist at all. Etosha was every bit a church sanctuary as it was the animal kind.