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Day Twenty One – Water Hole Theatre

13th October 2011

sunny 43 °C

We woke up to the faint sound of a diesel engine. Wiping the sleep from our eyes the rumble grew louder. The vehicle was approaching from the direction of the locked gates. I dressed quickly, ready to have a friendly chat with the land owner. I wasn’t out of the tent as I head the engine slowing, clearly on the track we’d turned off 12 hours previous. As I unzipped the tent the engine gunned and the vehicle continued its journey. Our hearts slowed back to normal.

The reception of the Okakuejo Camp in Etosha National Park was dimly lit with a high ceiling. A chandelier made from wooden sticks hung from the roof and just a few posters adorned the walls. Behind the desk sat two ladies each with their own computer. One of them was dealing with a couple who were checking out, the other talking to a large Dutchman, wearing khaki shorts, shirt and socks pulled up to his knees, about the recent bush fires. As the couple finished, Emma and I approached the desk. It was 9am.

“We like to check in please,” said Emma. “What? No, no. No. This is check out time.” The lady motioned to a small basket of papers in front of her. “If I was to start checking people in now, before I’d checked them out, I’d have a queue from here out of the door.” Dumbfounded, Emma and I slowly turned to see the empty, high ceilinged room in which we stood. The Boer had gone, the second lady was sat quietly tapping at her computer. We turned back to our lady, “Really?” we said, half expecting a smile and laughter at an only half-witted joke. “Yes,” she confirmed, “It might sound silly, but the queue would be very long. After ten, you’ll have to come back.” We left the building, giggling at another episode of African office work. We went for a game drive to kill time!

Check in was straightforward post 10am and we lounged at the pool to beat the midday heat. After an evening game drive, we saw honey badger, “pound for pound the most aggressive animal on earth,” we headed back to enjoy a couple of cold ones by at the water hole. It was like an evening at the theatre. The water hole is floodlit which creates an imaginary curtain around it where the lights do not reach. As if some sort of safari stage production the animals took it in turn to enter the stage in a bizarre game of chess. First came the giraffe, who spent most of their time looking at what was around them unsure as to whether it was safe to drink, they didn’t make it to the water. They spotted two lions, and cantered awkwardly into the shadows. After the lions had drunk and exited stage right, in came the rhino. Slowly and loudly, bashing rocks and large pebbles with their clumsy feet as they went, they paused with every few metres to sniff the air and listen for danger. A short while passed and three elephant wandered in. Their huge feet made virtually no sound as they carefully padded as if the ground were covered with a layer of marshmallow. Somers suddenly gasped as another elephant appeared from the shadow stage left. It was trotting, almost silently, but covering the ground very quickly. The rhino stopped, sniffing the air, the other elephant looked up. As the new arrival began drinking elephant after elephant arrived from the left, babies, teenagers and matriarchs. Twenty seven of them in all; playing, splashing, drinking the cool water. Proper boss!

After an hour the elephant left as the lions came back in. The lion skulked keeping their distance but not losing any ground as the elephant walked away. Mothers stood in front of their babies, staring the lion down. One mother waited for the other elders to arrive as they crossed their path in convoy always watching the lion. The ensemble continued into the darkness as occasional trumpets signalled that the game was still being played.

Posted by ibeamish 10:11 Archived in Namibia

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