Down the road from Ozonjutji M’bari we find a rest stop. After watching the animal show for half the day it’s about time. The whole place is gated off to protect you from the wilds. There are picnic tables and park restrooms with amazing smells. We figure it’s craft beer o’clock. The Namib Dunes pale is nice and fresh and hoppy. Skeleton coast IPA is too malty and sweet. Boggom blonde hmm decent.
Driving through the park with beers spotting animals. The best. We’re over zebras at this point. Seen a million zebras now. Oh look a thousand more zebras in the distance. Here’s 50 more by the road. Boooooring. Well ok, they’re still adorbs, but we ain’t stopping any more.
The park is huge. Large swaths of nothing in every direction sometimes with scarce trees or shade. All the animals congregate around the water, naturally, so a lot of the park is open grassland.
Suddenly there’s a bunch of deciduous trees coming up. We pull into a loop called Haunted Forest and take a look around. The trees are cool but not really any animals in here. Oh except that there’s a large Secretary bird walking around in the distance. Wish we could get closer, it looks stoic. About four feet tall with long stork-like legs. Ahh get back here, you
We get to the main established area of the park called Okaukuejo. We should look into a camping spot. Mark and Jamie go over to check it out. They come back a few minutes later, “Most unfriendly person in Africa”, “So, no spots I take it?”, “Solid nope”, “You should go meet her. She’s a sweetie.” We look around for a bit at the shops and whatnot. Nah, nothing here but touristy shit. One place has a bunch of cool stickers on the window though
There’s a watering hole right outside some cabins here. That would be a cool place to stay. You might be able to just watch elephants from the porch with a beer. We walk over to see what’s happening. Absolutely nothing at the moment. It is pretty though.
Peter and I feel the need to also check in with the most unfriendly person in Africa. We go up to the desk and this larger girl is there. We go in extra nice, “Good morning! How are you doing?”, she doesn’t even look up. “You folks have any camping available?”, “No”, “Oh really? What about in Halali?”, still doesn’t look up, “No.” Peter looks at me and rolls his eyes, “So, no camping in the park at all then?”, she still doesn’t look up, “No.” “Ok then, have a wonderful day!”
Get back to the truck, “Ah yeah, you guys were right about her. Marriage material”, “So where are we gonna camp tonight?”, “No idea. Maybe check back later?”, “There’s still a lot of day left.”
We take off and follow the map to some other watering holes hunting for another animal wonderland like Ozonjutji M’bari. We boogie around the park but there’s nothing much going on compared to that one. Not even close.
We get to a place called Nabroni. “Place is gonna be full of jabronis”, “Animal wrestling in Nabroni.” There are a bunch of cars and safari tour groups up here, gotta be something good. Hmmm seems to be some excitement but we can’t make out what everyone is looking at. Oh shit, yes we can. It’s a female black rhino! Holy shit. Look at that! Amazing.
Oh wow, she’s coming right towards the road! We’re in the perfect spot.
Everyone starts playing leap frog with the vehicles to get up ahead of her while she struts just off the road. What a powerful, beautiful creature. Can’t believe we get to see one. You’d have to think this a rare sighting, aren’t there only a few thousand of these left? Seeing his spirit animal, Mark gets giddy as a methed up girl scout.
The rhino moseys away from the road back to the plains. We take it in for another moment before moving on. Well that rules. Not even 24 hours in Etosha and we’ve already knocked off two of the big five, elephants and rhino. Eyes peeled for leopards, lions and buffalo now.
On the way to our next watering stop there are a handful of cars pulled off on the side of the road by a bush. What’s in there I wonder? We pull up quietly and ease to a stop by the road. What is it? Looks like there’s a hairy shape sleeping in the shade of the bush. “Looks like maybe two brownish hyenas?”, “Yeah, I can’t tell. Can see it’s chest breathing though.” Suddenly it rolls over. It’s a lion! “Damn, can’t get a good shot”, “You sure it’s not two hyenas having sex?”
The French guys in the Duster next to us keep whistling at it. They’re opening and closing their doors trying to make enough noise to get the poor thing to move. Revving their engine. Douchebags. Just let it be. If you’re lucky it’ll get up on it’s own. Cute little sleepy lion.
We wait and wait but the sleepy cat doesn’t get up. It rolls back and forth a couple of times but that’s about it. Ahh man. I wanted to see how big it was on all fours. It does stick all fours up in the air while it lies on it’s back for a while though. That’s super cute.
We leave nappy cat be and head up the road some more. A few more uneventful watering holes. Small gatherings of animals but nothing as incredible as what we’d seen earlier. “Go back and check on the lion?”, “Sure.” We get back and the French dudes are still there. They’re still running their car too. A heavy truck goes by and the cat stirs a bit. Aaaaand back down. This lion just doesn’t wanna get up. We have a great vantage point if he does though. We go into a whisper version of ‘The lion sleeps tonight’. “A whim-o-way a whim-o-way.” Another roll over. We get a big cat yawn. Another roll over. Ear wiggles. Nope, this lazy cat ain’t budging.
Alright buddy, you win. Suns going down and we’ve gotta figure our camp situation out. We roll back to Okaukuejo and try to see if they’ll do overflow camping. Nope. Not only that but “You’ll have to get out of the park before sundown or there’s a fine.” It always turns into a race.
And so we race the sun yet again. This is going to be a close one. And doing 120km/h through a park teaming with springbok by the road is asinine. But here we are. Peter’s on high alert dodging potholes and swerving from curious springbok, “Shit boys, this is intense!”
It’s getting dark, damnit. We can see the gates ahead. Peter’s flooring it. “Ahhh, better slow down dude”, “We’re not gonna make it”, “Speeding fine or park fine, you pick”, “Shit!” Up ahead we can see the guards walking over to close the gate. They’ve got rifles. The sun is. Down. We are fucked. Aaaand it’s closed just as we get there.
A guard in military fatigues comes up to the truck window, “Why are you late?” Peter blanks. Shit. Mark pipes up, “We took a wrong turn”, “Well, now I must wait for you. On a Friday night. You are making me late for beer on Friday.” Haha yes. Love a man with a sense of humor. Thank fuck. “We’ll get out of your way so you can meet up with some ladies then”, “There’s nothing here, man!” Everyone starts laughing. “You have a good night”, “Thanks, you too!” He walks over and grabs the gate with a smile and a wave of his rifle.
Now we’re driving after dark again. Us. Doing stupid shit, again. Animals off the road a ways. Looks like it’s fenced. Might not be so bad actually. “Ok, so where to?”, “There has to be something close by”, “I see a spot on maps.me called El Dorado, we could check that out”, “It’s all we’ve got”, “Check it out, Blood Moon!”
We find the road to El Dorado. It crosses a little dip off the road and a small bridge across the gap. Can’t see where it goes. No other choice really. We drive in to investigate. The headlights glint off of something shiny passed the fence by the road. “Wha? I think I just saw a cheetah!”, “A cheetah? No way”, “No seriously. There’s a cheetah on the other side of the fence.” We slow to a stop. Holy shitballs! There is a cheetah. What the fuck, there are two cheetahs?! Hard to make out but yeah. Pacing around in the dark. Two cheetahs.
Ok El Dorado, what exactly are you? We’re on the case…