My departure from Etosha yesterday was soul wrenching. I had really settled into the routine camp life, the daily excursions out into the Savannah on the edges of the salt pan. Spotting animals for close encounters. The nightly sundowner at the watering hole as the birdsong boomed and the sky turned orange and purple.
I have taken to doing life drawing with the giraffe, elephants, springbok. Any creature that will stay still long enough and is close enough for me to view well. My drawings are not very good , but every now and then I grab the gesture and it makes sense. I love the opportunity to closely watch the muscles moving , the twist of the of the neck , the munching of grass on the faces of elephants, giraffe, zebra. What has really struck me is just how tactile they are with each other. Resting heads on each other, staying in touching contact with their flanks as if is a game. It just has been such an fantastic time. The giraffe at close quarters are just so cute. They have a kind of cool swagger, like John Travolta street cruising in Saturday Night Fever! It entices you to follow. Of course if you make any move out of your car they run really fast. It's only for viewing.
No touching allowed!
I saw Lions again. Two huge Hunting males. The Batchelor males are dangerous and huge. They were lounging near the edge of the Rietfontain waterhole. I Knew something was up because there were few animals. I saw a zebra train heading nearby and stop. Similar a group of Impala come from the other direction. They went to the waters edge tentatively, far enough away. They can smell the lions. Then the two Lions stood up to move to the shade. They slowly meandered over to the trees, super chilled. However in threesixty every animal was poised facing the lions as if at attention. It was quite a sight. All facing forwards. As the Lions lay down , everything went back to normal.
Apparently later in the day, when the Rhino came in for a drink they chased the Lions out from their shady spot. Too close!
Horns facing forward.
I found a really small idyllic waterhole down a really bumpy road. No people, no animals. So I parked up with my book and waited. It's a low stress occupation waiting for wildlife. Africa Time.
I started to think about this small natural waterhole. Spring water showing small bubbles on the surface. How long has it been here. Fifty thousand years, Hundred thousand years, Hundreds of thousands of years? How many hoofs and feet have trodden the circumference of this small pool. Elephants parading around, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, humans. It starts to dwell on you this sort of thinking. Africa is a place like no other. It is the fountain of life. Where our very being has bubbled from the mud. Lived , died , evolved. I had this thought in the desert , how each grain of sand is a life lived and died. Dust to dust. How the dune is like a living organism , who need the dust of lives lived in order to grow itself. This place gets me thinking like this. How from this mud of Africa our seed have spread , washed, blown, carried global. How we have sprouted our lives in any piece of fertile soil, to become almost weeds in foreign lands. Yet the one thing that ties us all together is our common genetic source from the fountain of life that is Africa. It gets to you this place.
Back at the waterhole a giraffe slowly swaggered in , ever cautious, checking me out across the pool. It was just such a visually beautiful moment. Fleeting, for me important, for the giraffe just another slurp of water from the ancient waterhole.
The whole afternoon a train of Zebra had been lurking around the back of the pool. Unsure of me they stood and watched, pretended to leave , came back, left, came back , stood. It's Africa Time! Everything just takes the time it needs. I waited and waited, I love this low stress wildlife watching! Eventually the zebra came down to my little pool of Eden and took turns to drink as they probably have for all time.
I have been looking for The Leopard. I hear tales of , I saw it here, I saw it there.
I see it everywhere. When sitting at the pool of Eden I was out of the car, when I saw a dark shape in the long grass. It sure looked like a Leopard, pointy ears , mouth, spotted body. Just sitting and watching. Gave me a fright. I stayed in my car.
Just a rock with a bit of dead wood.
The camp attendants Keep asking me have I seen it and suggesting where to look. They tell me that ‘ you only see the Leopard when you are not looking for it’. I look into his eyes and I see the Leapord looking right back at me. He even has spots.
I see the Leopard everywhere.
But it is not my turn.
I had to wrench myself away. I want to stay, just one more night! But I know I have to leave sometime.
My friend Peter died today. I sat drawing a springbok at that time With tear filled eyes. The wind gusting huge clouds of dust off the endless Pan. I sat and drew the Springbok, sitting there looking back at me. I got out of my car and said ‘Can I name you Peter’. The springbok looked at me, got up and ran off into the endless vastness of the Pan.
It was hard to leave Etosha, every Giraffe I stopped by seemed to ask,’ where ya goin?’ ‘Why ya Goin? Stay here in the Garden of Eden.’ I turned back , I turned again. I was getting Dizzy. My heart in a twist.
Eventually I made it to the gate. The women in Uniform saw a sprig of daisy on my dashboard. ‘Did you get out of your Car?’ No , I lied. “You are not permitted to Leave your car. You must have left the car to get the Sprig.” She called the Police over to search the back of my ute. No I havnt a stash of wildlife to take home! Maybe they won't let me leave! But I was on my way and out of Etosha.
Even now sitting on the outskirts , I feel the pull to return. I have a million elephant , Zebra, giraffe and……. Pics. It is not the same. As long as I can remember I have wanted to visit Etosha, it shows something of life. I am so glad I made it here and had the time to slow down and get to appreciate this in 'Africa Time'.
6th June 2016