Ready for our next adventure, we got up early and started driving to Etosha National Park! This was the largest park we were going to visit, located in northeast Namibia, and spanning a total of 22,000 square kilometres. Well, no wonder we were going to spend the next couple of days driving through the park – it is huge!
I could not wait! I was still waiting to see a rhino, a cheetah and a leopard and was hoping I would get the chance there.
It was a long day of driving to get to Etosha in Namibia from Botswana. The drives, however, are never boring because there is always something to see in Africa! While I was surprised that some places were so developed, I am always in aw to see how some people still live in more classic African villages.
After a day of driving and sight-seeing, we headed to camp to set up. After setup, it was time for us to complete our daily chores. Today, my group was scheduled to clean the truck. Like I have said before, overland trips are all about everyone pitching in to help whether it be truck cleaning, food prepping, doing the dishes or setting up camp.
For those of you that know me – you know that I love cleaning. In fact, when I was in university I commonly cleaned houses for extra cash. My business was called “Cleaning Under the Table.” I was a cleaning superstar!
So, I was stoked about getting on truck cleaning! I grabbed the broom and started sweeping with determination. I was so focused and into sweeping, that I did not notice I was at the edge of the stairs. Quickly, my foot slipped out from under me, my arms began to flail to catch something, then my shin smoked the steps and my hip and shoulders thudded to the ground. Friggin’ fell right out of the truck down about 4 feet to the ground!
Damn klutzy gene.
Frankly, I was surprised it hadn’t happened early. Luckily, my cat-like reflexes saved me from seriously getting hurt. At least I had not yet hurt myself in the wild, like slip in the mud and then get eaten by a crocodile. A very real possibility for me.
Being me is just… well… dangerous.
ANYWAY, after dinner we headed back out to the park. This time we ditched our large ATC truck and got into a smaller, open safari truck for our NIGHT drive. That’s right. Night drive.
To assist in locating the animals at night without frightening them, we used red lights. It was so exciting – out in the dark with our red light shining around looking for animals. It was like we were being sneaky detectives but looking for wild african animals!
I love my life.
Our first stop was at a nearby watering hole. We quietly waited in the dark until eventually, we heard some splashing into the water. The driver shone the light and confirmed we found our first Rhino! We were so excited! Finally!
Afterwards, we drove through nearby park routes hoping to spot some lions. Eventually, we found some way deep in the bushes sleeping. Normally, this would be extremely exciting as they were less than 100 metres away – but we had been in Africa for a couple of weeks now – we wanted to see them closer! We were a little disappointment but then as we were spying on the lions, we heard something behind us. We whipped around to find a couple of hyenas walking beside our truck!
Nevermind. This is pretty friggin’ awesome.
After that, we drove around for a while longer. Seeing very little, we finally headed back. Frankly, I was relieved as it was well past my bed time and I was exhausted! Just as we pulled up to the gates, however, the driver swung back out into the road to do one final loop.
And thank god he did! We rounded the corner and came up to 15 lions laying next to the road. Literally, only 5 metres from the truck.
I was petrified and excited all at the same time! I mean 15 lions with nothing but an open-air safari truck between us. Come on!
I started off petrified but then I swear my heart stopped when the driver turned off the truck – turned it OFF! There we sat, in an open safari vehicle with all these lions next to us. Some were sleeping and some were just STARING at us. Luckily, they all looked well fed and sleepy – but still! I wanted to be closer but this may have been TOO close for my comfort.
Then another truck pulled up in front of us.
Great! If we were to get attacked and some how the driver manages to turn on the car before we were all dead, we will now have to find a way to drive around another vehicle to get out of there. This all seems real safe.
After about 20 minutes, we headed back to camp. Nobody got killed.
I’ve said it once and I will say it again – Africa is crazy!
The next day, we were up early for day 2, as the animals are more active in the mornings before it gets hot.
While we had driven through a couple of game parks already, Etosha was a little different as we could take our own truck into the park. Unlike the other parks in Botswana, the roads in the Namibian desert are flat and wide, so we were able to drive through with our huge ATC truck!
But like every other park we went to – Etosha did not disappoint.
The scenery was incredible with lots of animals to spot along the way!
Not to mention some sweet salt flats where we got to take some pretty awesome photos… this time of ourselves… not the animals…
After a successful first full day in the park, we setup camp and explored around the site eventually finding a spot in the restaurant with our boxes of wine to reflect on the last few days!
Was it possible this trip could get any better?
We were up SUPER early the next morning hoping to see the animals while they were hunting. While we never saw any hunts in action, we did get to see our largest group of lions yet! There is just something about seeing lions in the wild that makes your heart skip a beat. It is unbelievable.
While this brought on lots of excitement, it also brought on fatigue and a major headache after a night of wine. As it can be seen, it got the best of Pam and I at one point on the drive…..
How does Pam look so good sleeping? Seriously? I look like Gumbo..
After some breakfast, a toilet break and some more driving, it got HOT! Too hot for any animals to be wondering through the desert. At this point, we decided to stop in at a local watering hole for humans…. also known as a pool! Who knew they had these scattered through the park?
In addition to getting refreshed in the pool, something we referred to as getting “stung” got started. Pam and I know about getting “iced” from Canada and were sharing it with the group the previous day. Why not add a little twist to the day-to-day excitement? We settled on the term “stung” because they did not have Smirnoff Ice, they only had Smirnoff Spins.
It gave it an African feel.
This went on pretty much non-stop for the next couple of days…
After our pool stop, we started driving back to the site. We were feeling a little defeated on what we saw as we still had not seen a cheetah or a leopard and were running out of time. Then we got about as much excitement as we needed…
A run in with a bull elephant!
Elephants are magical. Seriously, I think that they are my favourite animal. But when an elephant is not happy with you and challenges you – Look. Out.
We had been watching a couple of elephants down at a water hole for a bit when huge bull elephant approached. It was exciting to see because Etosha elephants are different from Chobe elephants – they are much larger. We watched for a while and then decided it was time to leave.
Well, unfortunately (or fortunately now that we survived), the bull elephant also decided it was time leave. We rounded the corner and saw the elephant on the side of the road.
Our driver did what any good driver in Africa would do. Stopped and waited so we could get a good look! We all frantically grabbed our cameras to get a close view of the elephant!
Then it happened.
The elephant turned to us and stared down our truck. I imagined him saying to us, “who the f*** are you?” I stared back. “I’m Tori… who the f*** are YOU?”
Just kidding.. I totally put my camera down and ran to the middle of the truck for extra protection.
It got angry. He lifted his trunk and trumpeted loudly warning us to back off.
But we held our ground. He then wrapped his huge trunk around his tusks and began shaking his head vigorously to further warn us how angry he was. We still held our ground.
This went on for a while. Frankly, I was freaking out. After hearing about how the truck got charged and the windows got broken during the Serengeti trip prior to us – I was not taking any chances. I would be missed! Our guide Dale confirmed that the elephant could not hurt us. We were much larger than it, so it would not charge us. At the most, it could roll the truck.
Seriously, at the most, it could just roll the truck? What the hell would we do then in the middle of the game park? Get out and walk for help?
Luckily, after a while the elephant got bored with us and moved on. We all cheered with excitement! That was AWESOME!!
That’s the thing about Africa. When something crazy happens – and nothing bad happens – it is one of the most incredible experiences of your life.