Posted by: Mrs. HSH | January 5, 2012

Namibia and the Lions; House Blog meet Travel Blog

Huh? Yeah, it’s confusing, I know. However, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more often. And, it’s hard for me write a lot more about home improvement because, frankly I haven’t been improving my home that much lately. So, I had this idea to try to incorporate one of my other passions into this blog— a passion that I do manage to weave into many of my home-improvement related posts anyway —  travel. So, from now on if you happen upon random posts about our recent trip to Africa, or one of our weekend getaways to the mountains, know that you’re not in the wrong place. I’m just sticking to my convictions (day 1) and writing more often this year – just not necessarily about spray painting furniture or renovating kitchens.

Here goes.

I guess I’ll start with our most recent trip to Namibia. Yes, Namibia rhymes with Libya. Apparently this is why I got so many strange looks when I told folks at work where Jon and I were going on our latest adventure.  I’m pretty much used to the blank stares by now. It’s not that I have anything against Hawaii (those blue skies and white beaches are amazing), but I’m at the point in my life where I still crave excitement on my holidays/travels/vacations and I’ve somehow managed to con my husband into going along with it. Admittedly, it’s getting tougher by the day.

Anyway, back to Namibia. Angola borders it on the north, Botswana to the east, and South Africa to the southeast.  It takes about 23 hours of flying to get there from the West Coast, and it’s pretty much as freaking far away as possible. Thus, I highly recommend spending more than the two weeks we did. The place is about the size of Texas, but I read somewhere that there are only about two million people who live in the entire country. Amazing. It’s hard to find places in this world that remote that you can actually visit. Desert – real sand dunes, desert – covers a good portion of the country.

Another good chunk looks reminiscent of the canyons and rock formations one might find in Utah.

And, then there’s Etosha National Park. Think Yellowstone meets San Diego Wild Animal Park. Thousands upon thousands of acres of protected land full of elephants, rhinos, springbok (deer-like), lions, cheetah, you name it.

I really wanted to go to Namibia to see the desert, but I think it was Etosha that sort of stole the show for me. And, that’s because I got to see cats. Correction, I got to see BIG cats. You see, Jon and I had actually been on an overland trip the year before in South Africa and Mozambique. We traveled through the famed Kruger Park and up through some really remote parts of Mozambique. And, while we heard lions at night and saw their tracks during the day, we never actually saw any of them.  So, on my second and maybe last African safari I was damn set on seeing some fucking lions. Excuse my French.

On our first day in Etosha, our guide Joram drove us all over the park, miles and miles. We saw elephants, giraffe, oryx, and all kinds of interesting animals, but no cats. Our big, clunky overland truck cooked us in the desert sun while we searched to no avail.

Discouraged, one of our fellow trip mates from Germany decided to read me the blurb from her guide-book about wildlife viewing in Etosha. She promptly informed me that Kruger National Park in South Africa had hundreds, if not thousands more lions than Etosha, and since I hadn’t seen any lions there, I really shouldn’t get my hopes up here.

The Germans…so practical. But, I wasn’t giving up. I knew they were out there.

On our second night in Etosha, we stayed at a campground on the far eastern edge of the park. Like the other two campgrounds, there was a flood-lit watering hole where you could sit at night behind a low camouflaged fence and wait for the animals to show up, although not always guaranteed. After about 30 minutes of sitting and staring into the dark, Jon and I and a few fellow travelers were about to head back to the camp when we heard a loud,  almost crying noise, a kind of cry-roar.  It’s a really hard sound to explain and one that I won’t forget.  It was coming from what sounded to be really close, not too far from the fence. Jon jumped up  to follow the sound, in the dark. We all scrambled to follow, hoping to catch a glimpse. And then suddenly, I think we all realized what we were doing, froze and stood in silence, waiting for another cry/roar or whatever the hell you call it. But, silence rung out instead.  Probably for the best considering we were a bunch of idiots following a lion in the dark.

On our last day in the park, I was a bit discouraged but we’d happened upon a huge family of elephants about mid-morning and spent so much time sitting and watching them that I almost forgot about lions.

And then turning a corner, we saw a couple of safari trucks sitting, motors off. And, there they were. Two of the biggest cats I’d ever seen, sitting right in front of me. It took my breath away for a moment until I realized there was a lot of steel between me and them. I was still frightened to stick my camera to close to the open window. Just because I go to Africa on safaris does not mean that I’m not scared of lions! And, they were beautiful.

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