A Travellerspoint blog

Goodbye Africa!

It's been awesome

Well it’s hard to believe, but I’m sitting here only a few hours away from flying to Buenos Aires which means our 3 month adventure of Africa is officially over! It’s really hard to sum up the experiences of the last 12 or so weeks but I’m going to give it a try. It’s been simply unreal! We’ve seen so many different sides to Africa during the trip, and as this is the goodbye Africa blog, I guess it would be appropriate to list what we considered to be the highlights and lowlights from the trip, although choosing these is proving to be fairly difficult.

The Masai Mara in Kenya was simply amazing. True it was our first safari and so was likely to be our favourite (it was amazing how blaze even we were about seeing the big 5 by the end of the trip), but seeing the lions, cheetahs, leopard and leopard cubs and what can only be described as the most stunning sunset we’ve ever witnessed means the Mara will forever be imprinted on our hearts. We’ve already chosen a few pictures that will be enlarged and adorning the walls of the house when we return.

The rest and relaxation enjoyed on Zanzibar was fantastic too, and felt a million miles away from the 1* accommodation we endured for most of our stay just a week or so earlier in Ethiopia. Ethiopia itself was fairly hard work, a very humbling and unforgettable experience, and was definitely the country which stirred in us the biggest range of emotions. From the elation of climbing to over 4,500 metres in the beautiful Simien Mountains, to the abject poverty suffered by so many in the various villages we visited.

The adrenaline junkie activities undertaken in Vic Falls and Namibia certainly won’t be forgotten, especially rafting the Zambezi and sky diving over the Namib Desert, although the impact of such activities wasn’t so enjoyable for the bank account…..whoops! Keely and I still vividly recall our numerous conversations back in London which revolved around how we weren’t going to get carried away with all the extra activities! Oh well, you only live once!

The people in Africa also deserve a mention! Not just the great group of people we travelled with which definitely made our trip that much better, but also the locals that always seemed to have a big smile on their face, even though it often seems they don’t really have all that much to smile about.

The only thing that makes the conclusion of our African adventure bearable is that we’re now off to South America to do it all over again! Although in fairness the experiences of the two continents are likely to be very different. Africa was generally laid out on a plate for us care of the 3 tours we travelled on, and we only ever had to rely on being up at the right time to ensure we got to the next destination. South America will be very different in that respect as Keely and I will be organising it all independently, and so it’s more than likely we will end up going the wrong way on a long bus trip due to a wonky Spanish translation! But this will also be the first time we’ve really had to chance to travel on a flexible itinerary, and we’re really looking forward to being able to choose just where we go and how long we stay there.

So it’s with a great sense of mixed emotions that we sign off from Africa, but check back soon as the Adventures of Mike and Keely continue in South America! Hasta la vista, baby!

'Stiffler', our home away from home for 8 weeks

'Stiffler', our home away from home for 8 weeks

BACK L-R. Kim, Simon, Derek, Chris D, Nathan (on windscreen), Chris P, Me, Mike, Kat, Cordelia, Lauren, Hussain, Alex. FRONT L-R. Gilly, Manola, Annie, Sam

BACK L-R. Kim, Simon, Derek, Chris D, Nathan (on windscreen), Chris P, Me, Mike, Kat, Cordelia, Lauren, Hussain, Alex. FRONT L-R. Gilly, Manola, Annie, Sam

L-R. Alex, Chris P, Sam, Chris D, Hussain, Mike, Me, Kat, Vicci, Graham

L-R. Alex, Chris P, Sam, Chris D, Hussain, Mike, Me, Kat, Vicci, Graham

L-R. Hussain, Alex, Me, Chris D, Vicci, Graham, Mike, Chris P, Kat

L-R. Hussain, Alex, Me, Chris D, Vicci, Graham, Mike, Chris P, Kat

L-R. Mike, Me, Graham, Chris P, Kat, Chris D, Vicci, Sam, Alex, Hussain

L-R. Mike, Me, Graham, Chris P, Kat, Chris D, Vicci, Sam, Alex, Hussain

Mike

Posted by Mike.Keely 15:02 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

South Africa: good wine, good times, goodbye

One last border crossing; our days in Africa are numbered

A few weeks back I was casually reading our daily itinerary; a fairly comprehensive run down of what’s in store for us. It had all manner of useful information like: when and where ATM’s could be found, when we needed to provide our own lunches and which camp sites had pool and/or bar facilities. All the really important information! So when I read “get dressed up for wine tour” I went into immediate panic mode. As any overland traveller will know good clothes, even average clothes are ridiculous things to pack. I’m in Africa and I had an “I’ve got nothing to wear crises”. Hilarious I know. Luckily we had a few weeks before said “dress up” gear would be required so great – a valid excuse for us girls to go shopping……but in Botswana? As it turned out finding something ‘nice’ to wear wasn’t difficult at all; even though what I purchased is something that I probably wouldn’t even try on if at home.

Retail therapy – done! And you must take into consideration that when we stop at a location we generally only get about 45-60 minutes to do banking, buy lunch, do cook group shopping and take care of all other personal bits and pieces so fitting in changing rooms was time critical indeed. Nothing like a bit of impulse buying every now and then.

Wine district here we come. Our base for the first three days in South Africa was a town called Stellenbosch; our wine tour booked for the second day we were there. Nursing a slight hangover the mini-van picked us up (looking lovely if I do say so myself) for a short drive to the first of four vineyards. Over the course of the next 8 hours we sampled a minimum of 26 wines, a selection of whites, reds, roses, desert wine and even a glass of champagne. I won’t tease you with all the specifics other than to say that the Viognier at Fairview Estate was a clear winner. Fairview estate in general was a winner as they provided free cheese tasting and Mike and I were sure to get more than our fair share of that. Pretty sure we got about 10 people’s share of cheese. Each.

We had a lovely day, met some new people, tried lots of different wines, and soaked up the beautiful South African countryside. Back in town though the party had only just begun.

1. All dressed up for the wine tour, Stellenbosch, SA

1. All dressed up for the wine tour, Stellenbosch, SA

2. Fairview vineyard, my favourite, Stellenbosch, SA

2. Fairview vineyard, my favourite, Stellenbosch, SA

3. The group, wine tasting, Stellenbosch, SA

3. The group, wine tasting, Stellenbosch, SA

4. Dieu Donne Vineyard, Stellenbosch, SA

4. Dieu Donne Vineyard, Stellenbosch, SA

5. Stellenbosch, SA

5. Stellenbosch, SA

Apart from having hundreds of vineyards Stellenbosch is also where all the YOUNG people hang out. Seriously the average age of our group was a decade; no make that considerably more than a decade, older than the average party goer in Stellenbosch. It was so noticeable we even asked where all the old-ER people hang out. Apparently they don’t exist. (Young) people watching became very entertaining for us that night. The only possible outcome, we all decided, was to get absolutely rip-roaringly plastered and have a brilliant night. So that’s exactly what we did.

(Time allowed here to go check out Facebook and all the horrendous pictures we have been tagged in).

After Stellenbosch it was time to hit Cape Town and our base for the next 8 days (owing mostly to a cancelled/rescheduled Malaysian Air flight). We weren’t particularly upset about being in the same place for so long; in fact we were looking forward to it. A chance to see Cape Town at leisure, sort our bags/all possessions out and get ready for Argentina. We had one more massive night out on the town which literally did us all in, stumbling back to the hostel just before 5am.

(Again time allowed here to see all the incriminating evidence on Facebook)

6. Final night drinks, the girls' before photo, Cape Town, SA

6. Final night drinks, the girls' before photo, Cape Town, SA

7. Final night drinks, Mike, Chris P, Kat and I, Cape Town, SA

7. Final night drinks, Mike, Chris P, Kat and I, Cape Town, SA

8. Final night drinks, most of the gang, Cape Town, SA

8. Final night drinks, most of the gang, Cape Town, SA

A few of the ‘better’ photos from that night. lol

9. Table cloth mountain, Cape Town, SA

9. Table cloth mountain, Cape Town, SA

We had decided not to climb up table mountain on the first afternoon we were in Cape Town; big night on the town to follow, and we had the luxury of several more days than any-one else in our group. When day 2 dawned a bit misty and then day 3 even more we began to appreciate the nickname “table cloth mountain”. It’s incredible how great the weather can be at the waterfront say, but the mountain be closed only a short distance away because of high winds. We still had great hope of getting up it at some point the only question was when? We needn’t have worried on the weather front – the rest of the week was glorious 35+ degree C temperatures. Only problem was a small case of stomach upset for me which I won’t go into details but trekking up table mountain – essentially 2 hours of straight up climbing the day after a bit of vomit action in 37 degrees almost killed me. Please don’t ask us why we climbed up at 11am in the morning when there was absolutely no shade anywhere up the path. Crazy. But the views up there were worth the agony and after a small snack in the café felt re-charged enough to walk back down again. Who needs a cable car anyway?

10. Look what I can see .... on top of Table Mountain, SA

10. Look what I can see .... on top of Table Mountain, SA

11. Penguin time at Boulders Bay, SA

11. Penguin time at Boulders Bay, SA

On our penultimate day in South Africa, we treated ourselves to a road trip. I wanted to go to Cape of Good Hope, the furthest south west point you can go in Africa. It seemed to complete our journey – Cairo to Cape Point - nicely. So we hired a car and took off down the coast. First stop; penguins at Boulders Bay. We spent about 30 minutes watching them, well do not a lot really – we had wanted to see them swimming around their little beach cove but standing up sunbathing seemed to be the only activity of the hour. Every now and then one would tease us by waddling down to the surf line but then only get its feet wet before returning up the beach for more sunbathing. There were a few very cute fluffy babies giving themselves a sand bath so that was great to see. Next stop was Cape of Good Hope and the required picture in-front of the sign displaying the exact longitudinal/latitude positions followed by a very chilled out dinner on the sea front.

12. Sun Set, West coast peninsular, SA

12. Sun Set, West coast peninsular, SA

One of the best coastal roads just happens to be on the west coast peninsular so as the sun started to set, we found a great spot half way along it, right on the cliff edge to enjoy the view. Not that we need any more photos of sunsets/sunrises mind, but seeing as we refrained from including one in the last blog entry – there is one included in this one to add to our collection.

By the time we got back to the hostel that night Mike and I were the last remaining people from our tour. Each day we were forced to say good bye to another friend, the group getting ever smaller until Mike and I found ourselves on our own. It was a strange feeling; awesome to be independent travellers again but missing our new friends at the same time.

One thing I will say after a week in Cape Town – I am over 8 person dorm rooms. The snorers, talkers, door bangers, late night party goers, incessant bag openers at all hours of the night - you know who you are. Dare I say it – but bring back the days when we were in a tent. We got our own back on our last day by getting out of bed at 3.05am to catch our flight and no – I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt when turning on my bed side lamp. Payback’s a bitch.

We love Africa. We loved our tour, the friends we made, the places we visited and the experiences we shared with them. We even loved camping, long driving days and the hectic pace. We’d love to do it all again; we’d love to come back one day.

Pero tiempo para ir! Aqui llegamos de America de Sur. (“but time to go – here we come South America”). Or something like that anyway?

P.S. The next blog will be entirely in Spanish.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 14:59 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

We’re not quite finished with Namibia yet!

Best of the rest of Namibia

When we weren’t getting thrown out of planes or lugging it up sand-dunes we did quite a few other things in Namibia; best shown in photo format me thinks. :-)

1. Largest Baobab Tree

1. Largest Baobab Tree


Largest Baobab tree in Namibia. While we did get some lovely photos taken of Mike and I in the tree; even some very arty black and white ones, we couldn’t resist the group jumping shot. Hilarious. (From left to right: Sam, Chris P, Graham, Vicci, Me, Mike, Kat. MIA: Chris D, Hussain and Alex). We (illegally) bush camped near-by on our first night in Namibia and fortunately didn’t get busted.

2. Chris Brit's dam photo

2. Chris Brit's dam photo


Bush camp at Dam on our last night in Namibia. Noteworthy/memorable for two reasons: Firstly needing to put both very large rocks inside the four corners of our tent and to use multiple tent pegs for the first time on the trip to avoid getting blown away – think desert sandstorm. And secondly for having breakfast while watching an incredible sunrise over the dam. I thought I would include a photo of the actual dam and not another photo of a sunrise as would be my usual inclination.

3. Driving through desert

3. Driving through desert

4. Driving through some more desert

4. Driving through some more desert

5. Just a tiny bit windy in the back

5. Just a tiny bit windy in the back


Driving days through the desert. Amusing ourselves by taking photos out the window, of the reflections of the desert in the windows, or the air in our hair.

6. Sand dune scenery

6. Sand dune scenery


Typical view out the window while driving past. I took this photo while literally hanging out of the truck and am quite chuffed how it came out. It is particularly difficult to get a decent photo while driving as most shots are blurry but this one is a keeper. If I didn’t know any better I would say our driver had an unusual ability to time every pothole with the exact moment a camera button was pressed.

7. Tropic of Capricorn

7. Tropic of Capricorn


Sign says it all really – can’t really drive past that without getting a photo!

8. Fish River Canyon

8. Fish River Canyon


Apparently the second biggest canyon after the Grand Canyon but the distinction is controversial – it depends how one measures the size of the canyon so some argue that Colca Canyon in Peru is actually the second biggest. Having not been to the Grand or Colca Canyons myself I thought the Fish River one was pretty impressive. It provides some of the world’s hottest walking trails (think 50 degrees C). Thankfully we enjoyed the canyon from above and only had to endure the searing hot sun for about 2 hours.

Next stop South Africa and lots of wine (yay!) but almost the end of our African trip (boo!)

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 07:33 Archived in Namibia Comments (6)

Spitzkoppe, Seals, Skydiving and Sand-dunes.

Not a moment to spare in Namibia

sunny 36 °C

Hopefully the heading says it all as we’ve only got a few days left in Cape Town and a billion things to write about on the blog. If we have any hope of finishing all the African entries we had better get cracking but there are just too many things luring us away in Cape Town at the moment – like the cafes, beaches, table mountain and not to mention penguins (any mention of animals and Mike and I are there, ready to go). And then there are the ‘daily goodbyes’ to our tour mates and the corresponding ‘last night dinner and drinks’ which we do every evening of late. But first let’s go back to a few weeks ago when we were still in Namibia!

Namibia provided us with the best bush camp settings of the trip. Literally in the middle of the rocky desert, with hardy any other people in sight, we would park the truck and set up camp surrounded by the most spectacular scenery. One such place was at Spitzkoppe. Arriving mid-afternoon in baking hot mid 30’s temperatures we all took one look at the nearest rocky mountain and proclaimed “I’m climbing that”. So we did. In 30+ degree heat, with sunscreen literally dripping off us (attractive picture I know), puffing and sweating we climbed as high as we could and then scampered down as carefully as we could. I say as high as we could because there are no paths or trails; this was proper mountain rock climbing just without any of the usual rope and harness equipment. It started off being pretty easy but got more and more challenging the higher up we reached. About ¾ of the way up most of our little group (sensibly) turned back down and returned to camp but Mike and I decided to go just that little bit higher. This turned out to be a very bad idea for two reasons. Firstly the rocks became all but un-climbable almost immediately so Mike went up ahead to scout out the way leaving me to enjoy the views solo. But then couldn’t get back down the same way so ended up having to go around a few other rocks to get back to where I was, causing me to worry (just a fraction until he came back into view). And secondly once we were both on the way down Mike twisted his ankle so he had to hop back to camp rather gingerly. All in all a great day though – great to be outside getting some exercise and enjoying the views. The scenery in Namibia is like no-where else we have been; it’s certainly very different from the rest of Africa, and even different to other desert countries we have visited. Spitzkoppe also featured highly on our ‘like list’ as our tour leader did all the cooking (he doesn’t cook very often) and with the help of our driver Charles we had BBQ steak with baked potatoes for dinner. The following morning the mountain was shrouded with mist which cancelled all plans we had to check out the sunrise. We were too busy anyway stuffing our faces with sizzling bacon and French toast. Love it when the tour leader cooks as clearly he doesn’t have to stick to the $1.50 a head budget. Hence the addition of steak and bacon to our diets. As we packed up camp we were pretty happy with our decision to take hundreds of mountain photos the previous day as we were shit out of luck weather wise the next.

a. Not a bad view from our tents...

a. Not a bad view from our tents...

b. Yellow truck and our tents in the distance, under my right wrist

b. Yellow truck and our tents in the distance, under my right wrist

c. Sam and Alex's photo, Spitzkoppe

c. Sam and Alex's photo, Spitzkoppe

d. Chris P's photo. Wouldn't be the desert without a cactus plant

d. Chris P's photo. Wouldn't be the desert without a cactus plant


e. Sam and Alex's photo.  Sunny one minute, misty the next

e. Sam and Alex's photo. Sunny one minute, misty the next

Next stop: cape cross seal colony. It was hard to determine who smelt worse: the seals or us? Only kidding! As we turned the corner in the road we caught our first glimpse of the Atlantic coast and shortly after that more seals than you can ever imagine. As our itinerary promised: “The Cool Atlantic Ocean and the prominent Benguela current provide a perfect location for feeding and breeding for the Cape Fur Seal”. And that’s exactly what we got: thousands and thousands of little black pups, playing in groups under the walkway, hanging out with their Mums, or tearing up and down the beach with their biddies. While a seal isn’t particularly graceful on land they definitely are in the water – we watched as they surfed the waves and dived in and out of the water towards the shore. While we can’t portray the noise or the smell in a photo we can provide a cute and furry face.

Not being able to shower for a few days mingled with multiple layers of sand, sea-salt, sunscreen, sweat and dirt meant we were all pretty happy to depart the seal colony after an hour or so and head to our next destination. However there was definitely a little bit of reluctance in the air, a bit of fear floating around. As desperate for a shower as we were, arriving in Swakopmund after the seals also meant that Skydiving day was upon us. Ekk!

f. Is that a seal I see

f. Is that a seal I see

g. Just one of many cute seals

g. Just one of many cute seals

h. Seals everywhere

h. Seals everywhere

I’ve got no idea why I signed up for Skydiving. We hadn’t budgeted for it, I’ve done it before and I don’t like scaring myself shitless. Maybe because Mike wanted to do it (and I wanted to see his face the moment he left the plane), maybe because I didn’t do any of the adrenaline activities at Victoria Falls. For whatever reason when the question was asked we both said “Yep – sign us both up” without the slightest hesitation or doubt. We had been so busy in the preceding days to even discuss it, much less analyse what it would be like to throw oneself out of a plane. As the resident expert I was asked all sorts of questions and gladly shared my experience. I was still a little bit apprehensive on the day though – who wouldn’t be; 10,000 feet is a long way up. For all those who have done a skydive you will already know just how awesome it is; for those who haven’t you ARE missing out and need to do it at least once in your lifetime. I will say though, that the 20minute “scenic” flight to reach jumping altitude was the longest 20 minutes of my life. The pilot took off with so much upward acceleration even the guides had to hold on to their stomachs. And when I say I jumped out of the plane, when you do a tandem there is no jumping; you get one giant push. Out the door for 25 seconds of free fall over some of the best desert scenery anywhere in the world before that sense of relief as the parachute finally opens. That falling feeling is indescribable: no single adjective does the job: awesome, exhilarating, terrifying, mind-blowing, overwhelming, intense. Take your pick. I think I enjoyed this skydive more than the first one though. True I knew what to expect so enjoyed it more than feared it. And I seemed to free-fall for the LONGEST time ever, after the initial OMG I’m falling there was still plenty of time to look around, see the sun reflecting through the clouds, the sand-dunes, the ocean and of course to check on Mike’s progress a few thousand feet below me. Would it be mean of me to say I’m disappointed Mike showed no fear – where’s the fun in that?

i. The before photo, looking calm and relaxed

i. The before photo, looking calm and relaxed

j. Coming in for landing

j. Coming in for landing

k. Double thumbs up from Mike - awesome

k. Double thumbs up from Mike - awesome

l. Me waving to people on the ground, enjoying the descent

l. Me waving to people on the ground, enjoying the descent

m. Smooth landing for me

m. Smooth landing for me

We had two more days to chill out in Swakopmund so we did some very civilised things: coffee at cafes, lovely group meals at decent restaurants, even saw a movie at the pictures. There was also some very un-civilised nights out drinking. The photos I’ve been tagged in on Facebook say it all really so there’s no point trying to deny it. We’ll get some of our own photos up on Facebook soon enough but here’s one I actually like. There were tons of activities on offer; quad biking on the dunes, sand-boarding, deep see fishing and the list goes on and on (there was another DVD presentation on arrival). We decided not to do any other activities in Swakopmund after a heart stopping, eye watering assessment of our spending to date. Shocking stuff. lol

n. Swakopmund drinks

n. Swakopmund drinks



After leaving the relative civility of Swakopmund it was back on the truck and back to the desert. When I conjure up an image of Namibia, first and foremost is always a sand-dune and Namib-Naukluft Park is home to some of Namibia’s highest and most beautiful. Dune 45 is one of the most spectacular and we were going to see it in all its glory – sunset one day followed by sunrise the next. But to do either requires some rather gruelling sand climbing – not for the faint hearted, but running down them at a hundred miles an hour sure is a lot of fun afterwards. FYI: the sunrise was better than the sunset, walking up was ten times harder in the morning for some unexplainable reason. Our driver Charles (bless him) absolutely gunned it in the truck to get us to the dune in time for sunrise after being delayed by a sleepy gate keeper. The 4.30am wake-up call was a bit tough, as was taking down the tent in the dark, but it was all worth it. What better way to start the day, than breakfast at the foot of a sand-dune in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

o. Taking a break on the way up, Mike enjoys the view

o. Taking a break on the way up, Mike enjoys the view

p. Are we almost at the top yet

p. Are we almost at the top yet

q. Hussain's photo.  The group at Dune 45 watching sunset

q. Hussain's photo. The group at Dune 45 watching sunset

r. Chris D's photo.  Dune 45 sunrise

r. Chris D's photo. Dune 45 sunrise

s. Chris D's photo. Dune 45

s. Chris D's photo. Dune 45

So just to state the obvious: we have thoroughly loved Namibia. It is an absolutely stunning country with a little slice of everything.

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 05:59 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

Big Cat Week; Lions, Cheetahs and a Leopard

In the right place at the right time; amazing animal encounters in Namibia.

sunny 29 °C

Botswana may not have been on the travel ‘wish list’ but Namibia certainly was: sand dunes and stunning desert landscapes here we come. But first we had 2 game drives in Etosha National Park, a place that I will honestly admit to never having heard of prior to commencing the trip. I for one was extremely dubious about our chances of seeing anything in the park as we were taking in ‘Stiffler’. Yep- that’s right, the biggest brightest loudest yellow monstrosity of a vehicle on the planet. There is nothing even remotely stealth or camouflaged about it, especially with 10 people literally hanging out the back side windows. The entire thing shakes and rattles but as we needed to cross the park anyway to continue our progress south we didn’t really have any other option but to drive the beast through the park. We would need all the luck in the world to see anything amazing, and we all knew it too. A few of us were eagerly looking out the windows right from the start (those who hadn’t seen a leopard yet for example) but to do this from some of the seats in the back requires some rather awkward backward kneeling which can’t really do done for any extended period of time, especially over extremely bumpy roads. A few of us were treating the National Park as just another truck day so had assumed their usual relaxed positions and activities; sitting, reclining, reading, sleeping etc.

We had been in the park 20 minutes. We were still on the main entrance road and I’m sure you can guess what I’m about to say happened next? A leopard, literally metres form the path. Yep – we really were that lucky. A shout went up from the front of the truck: “cat – right hand side”. At first I thought maybe we had found a cheetah – all I saw was movement from a skinny animal and quite a few spots. But as we all moved to the windows on that side of the truck, desperately seeking a good vantage point we saw that it was indeed a leopard. Sweet! But the story doesn’t end there; the leopard was in the classic ‘stalking’ pose – body close to the ground, tail flat, head up and eyes focused. But looking at what? Certainly not us – the cat seemed totally oblivious to our presence. It seemed to dawn on all of us simultaneously that we had stumbled upon the leopard while it was hunting. What made this even more incredible was that it was just after mid-day. I for one have seen countless National Geographic and various other wildlife programmes and none of them has ever had leopards hunting in the middle of the day! It seemed that a group of impala had caught the eye of the leopard; the impalas just off in the distance in front of a small bushy area. So far they hadn’t seen the leopard. The cat got even closer to the ground, shuffled a few meters forward, dropped down again, shuffled forward, and then its head went up for a quick check on his quarry. They still hadn’t noticed the leopard. So back to the ground, more shuffling forward, head back up, more shuffling forward. Each time the cat dropped down it would disappear from our view. Every single camera was aimed and zoomed onto the last place the leopard’s head popped up. No-one wanted to miss this; everyone wanted credit for taking the best picture, Mike and I included. There were a few tense moments when the leopard seemed to have vanished completely but between us we always managed to find it again. The impala were inching towards the small bushy area though; which was disastrous for us if we wanted any chance of seeing the fatal strike. We were having a hard enough time seeing the leopard in the grass area, let alone through bush and scrub also. After a few agonizingly slow minutes the decision was made to move the truck to the other side of the bushes. We were finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the leopard’s progress through the grass and the impala were moving away from our position. Starting the engine sounded even louder than usual and perhaps the truck noises distracted the impala – anything to give the leopard a helping hand. Sorry impala. We soon found the leopard again on the other side of the bushes and ended up a lot closer to the impala also – the perfect position to see the kill. It became clear why the leopard was hunting in the middle of the day though; two of the adult impala were injured. What luck! And then disaster did strike – in the form of another jeep driven by an absolute idiot! First he drove up to our truck, then in front of it, then past it, then did a million point turn, reversed a bit more, came back down the path, turned his car off, back on again, revved the engine a few times, entirely blocked the track and in general made a complete arse of himself. It was obvious we were looking at something exciting. We were parked, the engine was off, we were all silent and 10 cameras were pointing out the windows. Clearly we weren’t taking photos of impala. Anyway I’m sure we will all remain very angry at that man for some time. In the end a bush did obstruct our view of the actual moment the leopard pounced but we saw all the other impalas spring away in panic and the leopard dragging its prize to cover. Despite the annoying man this was an amazing experience and to date our most memorable animal encounter. We must have spent an hour and a half on either side of that bushy area waiting and watching. The rest of the afternoon was spent discussing the leopard, the annoying man, who took the best picture (sadly not us), how incredible it all was. I don’t think anyone even looked out the window after that for about an hour – so intent we were on our discussion. We were all in agreement that had the annoying man and his jeep not prevented us from moving the truck a second time (as we would have like to) it was unlikely we would have seen the fatal strike anyway; it all happened in the space of about 3 seconds and the leopard only had about 3 meters to jump. We were also all in agreement that the ‘Stifler’ played an essential role; being so far up from the ground gave us an exceptional view.

1. Spot the Leopard in this picture - sneaking up on its prey (right centre bottom)

1. Spot the Leopard in this picture - sneaking up on its prey (right centre bottom)

2. Leopard somehwere off to the right, Stiffler approaches for a closer look

2. Leopard somehwere off to the right, Stiffler approaches for a closer look

3. Sam and Alex's leopard photo, dragging its kill to the bushes

3. Sam and Alex's leopard photo, dragging its kill to the bushes

We’ve stayed in some pretty nice campsites along the way and the place we stayed at after our first day in Etosha was definitely one of the better ones. Of course we’re happy if there’s a pool, bar, shop and multiple shower rooms etc but this place had a watering hole as well. The sunset was awesome and the fact that we didn’t see any wildlife at the watering hole didn’t in any way distract from the beauty of the place, or our enjoyment in being there. We stayed after it got dark for several hours but in the end had to retreat to our tent for some much needed sleep.

4. Sunset at Watering hole, Etosha National Park

4. Sunset at Watering hole, Etosha National Park

5. Chris P's photo, Watering hole at night, Etosha National Park

5. Chris P's photo, Watering hole at night, Etosha National Park

Our second day in Etosha National Park turned out to be just as good as the first. This time it was lions that caught our attention: a pride of 7 lions just chilling by the side of the road. They didn’t get up to much in all the thirty minutes or so we stayed with them. Some fool got out of his car to stand on the roof and that certainly got their attention but unfortunately the lions decided not to eat him. What is it with idiots in National Parks in Namibia? After the lions we made a speedy exit out of the park onto our next big cat activity.

6. Hussain's Etosha National Park lion photo

6. Hussain's Etosha National Park lion photo

7. Lion's in Etosha National Park

7. Lion's in Etosha National Park

We had lions and we had a leopard, so the next activity for us had to do with cheetahs. The cheetah park we visited is run by two brothers who provide homes for cheetahs from all situations: abandoned, orphaned, captured by local farmers and trapped/injured animals are all represented. There is no ambitious rehabilitation or breeding programme; the animals are cared for and that’s that. We had two activities – the first of which involved playing with the 3 tame(ish) ‘house cat’ cheetahs who roam freely around the house and backyard area. They have a little dog who either thinks he is a cheetah or wishes he was one. Either way they all get along and are unbelievably cute together. We could pat these animals and get up close and personal; we even watched as they got fed some tasty cow fillets. At one point Mike was lying on the grass on his stomach with the camera in front of him with a cheetah devouring lunch about a meter away from him - this type of thing can only ever happen in Africa. One thing I will say is that a cheetah purring sounds like a helicopter taking off right next to you: it is loud loud loud! We shot off a few hundred more photos, and then it was time for the main event: watching the wild cheetahs get fed. After piling into the back of a pick-up truck we sped off to the wild cheetah enclosure with a barrel of bloody giraffe carcass bits wedged into the corner. The pick-up truck would provide absolutely no barrier between them and us, and we were worryingly close to the ground but presumably the brother’s do this all the time so off we went. Moments after the gates closed behind us some of the cheetahs were already in pursuit of the truck. At first only two or three, then a few more, then quite a few. There are 14 cheetahs in total so by the time we got to the official feeding location the truck was completely surrounded. One of the owners jumps out of the jeep with only a thin stick for protection. We all noticed straight away that these cheetahs are nothing like the ones we had played with only minutes before: these cheetahs looked and behaved like wild, feral and dangerous animals. One cheetah in particular; nicknamed Gadaffi took it upon himself to fight (for no apparent reason) with every single other cheetah and ended up with half his nose gouged off. Luckily for everyone there was enough giraffe for everyone but the noise and the speed with which they grabbed the meat was incredible. There were a few good videos taken but I don’t think the ‘Dodgy African Internet’ can handle the upload again, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say it was terrifying but really cool.

8. Attention loving cheetah, Cheetah park

8. Attention loving cheetah, Cheetah park

9. There's a good kitty cat

9. There's a good kitty cat

10. Mike goes in for a closer look

10. Mike goes in for a closer look

11. Chris D's photo, Cheetah Park 1

11. Chris D's photo, Cheetah Park 1

12. Chris D's Cheetah Park photo 2

12. Chris D's Cheetah Park photo 2

That’s it for animals for a while. The next blog entry will be the rest of Namibia; a country that we already like A LOT!

Keely

Posted by Mike.Keely 03:45 Archived in Namibia Comments (1)

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