START: THIS WAS WRITTEN ON THE EVE OF OUR DEPARTURE NORTH BUT NOT SENT BECAUSE, AS USUAL, I WAS INTERRUPTED!
BUT WORTH A READ I HOPE.
IT COMES IN TWO PARTS:
PART ONE! (Parental Note: Not suitable for suicidal adolescents). Not suitable for the suicidally inclined … at all.
It’s happened again! My macaw article has been interrupted again!!
This time by children in the pool (that’s becoming a pattern) and today (Dec 21 2009) by Billy and Joe who turned up to repair a ceiling fan following a complaint from our current tenant. The fan upon inspection was working perfectly. The PhD student currently inhabiting one of our flats, and lamenting the fan’s non performance, hadn’t turned it on. There’s a dial you can turn. It starts the ceiling fan!
How obvious is that? And to render assistance, it is marked, “Fan”. A label then offers additional sound advice.
To further clarify matters, it is also marked, “Off.” Should, for example, you wish to turn it off.
Before we go North I’ll explain to him how a telephone works. He had tremendous problems this afternoon.
BUT ON TO THE ONE LEGGED MAN! FAR MORE INTERESTING!
Billy and Joe are good old Namibian White boys. When they come here they stay a while. A couple of beers on the stoep; it’s hot and everybody’s relaxed and comfortable with each other. The stories came as they always do.
I now know how someone may hang themself from beneath a bed. I am categorically advising that you don’t try this out for yourself – it would, after all, be fatal and as Shakespeare puts it ” God has fixed his canon against self-slaughter” amongst other kinds of slaughter. Surprisingly easy! I was informed that you could wrap something tightly around your neck, attach the chord to a fixed object that won’t come loose. A bed leg does nicely. Loss of breath. Conk out. Fall backwards and gravity finishes the job. I always thought people had to dangle themselves from the ceiling!
We touched on other topics. Billy, Joe and I.
Recipes. How to repair cars. The weather. Always, the weather!
One Legged Man Foils Burglary
Conversation turned to how Joe had blocked an Owambo robber’s car the previous night. Joe spotted something wrong, pulled up and asked the scumbag, “What are you doing here, sir?”
The scumbag then said, “I’m waiting for a friend.”
Joe, who is built like a pickle barrel, stayed with him for seven minutes and then said, “Your friend’s not coming. I think you are up to mischief, sir.”
The scumbag made the mistake of making racially charged statements of the “Fok you Boer, you Racist!” variety (hardly fair, Joe was calling him “Sir”), then started his car, and attempted to reverse with the obvious intention of doing a runner. Joe blocked him with his own car and then removed his artificial leg and threatened to brain him with it.
This is no empty threat. Joe has removed his leg, hopped into action and cracked several skulls in his time. The criminals are always disconcerted by the performance. In this instance a Windhoek City Police cruiser arrived by happy chance and recognised the villain, confiscated his car and took him away. A sorry sight. Not so much disarmed as dis-legged. If word gets around in the holding cells of how the outlaw was arrested (and it will) his reputation is shot in the exhaust pipe big time!
The target householders remained blissfully ignorant of the incident. Or maybe they were hiding. Either? Whatever. They didn’t help.
A few more stories, and then Joe and Billy finished their drinks, gave Annabel a hug and swung her around, threw her about and said things like, “Give us huggies!” (Annabel loves horseplay and she loves these bold, reckless but respectful pirates) and then they drove off in the latest cranky vehicle they’d bought and were renovating.
A typical Billy and Joe visit!
PART TWO: ETOSHA, LIONS ETC. THIS ONE REALLY IS FROM THE ARCHIVES!
TITLE: JUST A MOMENT!
Namibian lion, yawning
Hi! It’s me, Annabel, again. I’m now four years old and to the best of my knowledge I think it’s safe to say I am still Africa’s youngest travel correspondent. It’s my job to suggest places you parents can take your offspring. Just don’t sue me if it all goes horribly wrong, OK?
I recall, with clarity, my first intimate encounter with an Etosha lion for the very good reasons that my father and I nearly broke our noses. And a springbok jumped over my car.
Here’s what happened: We were approaching Okaukuejo after an afternoon’s drive, thinking happy thoughts and looking forward to drinks and dinner. Basically with the rest camp’s tower in sight we had subconsciously slipped from mentally “red alert game watch” status to mentally “inert dinner watch” status. The safari was over. Time to chill and pig out.
Then we observed a small herd of springbok grazing right beside the road verge.
“Springbok,” said my father who has a patronising penchant for explaining the blindingly obvious. Young as I am, I have seen thousands upon thousands of springbok. Don’t get me wrong. I exult and delight in springbok. They’re lovely animals. But I don’t need to be told what I’m looking at when I’m looking at them. And after a few minutes in Etosha neither will you. There are springbok all over the place.
But I must move on with my tale!
My father slowed the car slightly to avoid alarming them and prompting panicked pronking and resulting vehicle/springbok denting, and we drew level. The elegant antelope observed us with their liquid, soulful eyes. Panicked pronking didn’t seem to be on the agenda.
“Lion!” shouted my mother. I really couldn’t fault her on that one. A mere ten feet from the herd, lying on its stomach inching forwards very slow and low to the ground like a bulging fur rug with attitude was a large, dusty female. Things then moved fast.
The lioness seized the moment to charge (in my opinion taking advantage of our presence and engine noise as a distraction). She rose to her feet and pounded forwards. My father didn’t pronk but he panicked (in his defence the lion was bloody close) and floored the brake far too hard and fast. My mother lurched forward dropping her camera. And my child seat belt snapped with the result that both I and my seat sailed merrily off and into the back of my father’s head which in its turn jerked forwards into the steering wheel. Triggering the horn.
The springbok herd exploded. Bokkies everywhere! Pronking. Sprinting. One sailed over the bonnet. The lioness took in the bedlam, all but brushed the passenger door, put two and two together and recognized that it added up to a wasted stalk and an empty belly. She skidded to a halt.
Dinner was already 100 meters away and receding at full speed. She gave us a long, hard and very reproachful stare but I missed most of it. I was too busy howling. And so was my father. The lioness shambled off in disgust.
So what you might be wondering is the point of this story? Apart from its obvious value as a warning to those who brake too abruptly, use their faces to press car horns and buy defective child seats for their offspring?
It is this.
Bashed noses, missed photo ops, thwarted lion hunt, and all other mishaps considered, the incident was nonetheless what I call an Etosha “moment.” And trust me, Etosha throws up a lot of moments. Usually when you least expect them. These moments sometimes only last a moment but if they are pedigree moments they’ll stay with you for a lifetime.
Luck is a factor. I won’t deny that. Timing, too. Things become potentially a lot less momentous if you take a game drive at high noon when everything’s asleep. Or if you arrive in the wrong part of Etosha at the wrong time of the year. Times, climates, vegetation, game movements change quite significantly. But don’t despair. This timing thing can be remedied by purchasing one of many useful Etosha related guide books*.
Luck I can’t help you with. Or maybe I can.
There are some ways of stacking the moment cards in your favour. I find checking the game sightings book at the guest camps’ receptions helps. Unless no tourists have bothered filling in their sightings or have entered hot tips such as “We saw five baby zebra”. Without saying where. Come on chaps. Etosha’s over 22,000 km2, one of the biggest parks in Africa. If you do experience a moment how about letting us know when and where it occurred? No need for a GPS reading. Just a waterhole name, time and date. Not too tough, huh?
Running out of film or having your digicam’s battery die on you is normally a sure fire way of guaranteeing an immediate encounter with brawling elephants, a leopard kill or a wildebeest stampede.
Turning your back on the waterhole and saying “Well, nothing’s happening. I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to bed” is another good one. As soon as you’ve shut your chalet door and undressed, you will hear the crunch of footsteps and an excited voice saying “I simply can’t believe that oryx charged the lion. Damn near speared it” or “That’s the first time I’ve seen 100 giraffe. And so close!”
It won’t of course be your moment. But by grumpily turning in early you’ll have provided a very public service to others who didn’t.
Finally, (and regular Air Namibia readers of my column can be excused for finding me repetitive, because in this respect I am, remember “Small is Beautiful”) Etosha isn’t just about elephants and lions and black rhino. The little guys are just as active and equally capable of providing their own fair share of moments. So give ‘em a chance!
*Helpful hint: the Etosha Centenery edition of The Sandpaper magazine, available free of charge from the Strengthening the Protected Areas Network (SPAN project) has an excellent review of Etosha books. Tel: 061 2842569 or email email@example.com