At breakfast in Toshari Lodge there was an egg chef preparing omelettes, scrambled egg, fried egg, etc, all on a flat griddle. Vegetarians should try to ignore the fact that he was also frying bacon on the same griddle. On the vegetable front, he was armed with an array of other omelette ingredients, too.
Beside Mr. Omelette there were various pots of other stuff to which you could help yourself. One of our number had gone for the baked beans but declared them only slightly warm. One pot that caught m y eye contained what appeared to be meat extracted from some of last night’s leftover Eland sausages. Since I had enjoyed those so much yesterday evening and wasn’t likely to see them again, that’s what I opted for, together with some scrambled egg.
Today, we were leaving our little slice of African luxury and heading into Etosha National Park at last. This was what I’d been waiting for, game drives. Hopes were high, despite our leader often stressing that, because of the wet season, the animals would be dispersed and much harder to find. The driving force is water which was now abundant everywhere so the animals did not now have to rely upon the few main waterholes. This dispersal strategy makes life much safer for the prey species, such as Springbok, the fast food of Etosha. By contrast, in the dry season the animals are forced to converge on the few main waterholes to drink where they become an eat-all-you-can buffet for the predators who simply have to wait for dinner to come to them. “Springbok, Mr. Leo?”
We entered Etosha early-ish and were soon stopping at a human waterhole to take on new supplies of live-giving liquid. The guy in front of me grabbed the last remaining 5 litre container so I was left with two 2 litre bottles. No matter, that’s enough. Outside, a colony of Southern Masked Weaver birds (Ploceus velatus) was busily engaged in nest building. Francine had been watching and clicking away while I was n the shop. It was good to be able to watch them up close.
Our inbound journey continued and we saw a good variety of birds from the truck as we worked our way along the tracks. The most intriguing feathered beauty was the curiously named Shaft-tailed Whydah (Vidua regia). I get the Shaft-tailed bit but Whydah? Guess which one of these that is:
Despite downplaying expectations, our morning game drive was reasonably entertaining. We saw antelopes: Oryx, Springbok and Black-faced Impala, along with a lone Wildebeest (yes, one) and a backlit ostrich. Somehow, in the distance Louis spotted a Hyaena. No, I’ll rephrase that, the Hyaena was already spotted – Louis saw a Spotted Hyaena loping along; our first predator, albeit about 1km away. The drive took us to our accommodation at another NWR rest camp called Halali; here we’d be spending two nights and going out for further game drives. After arriving at the camp, Leader Louis set about making Bolognese “South African” style, which seemed to include sweetcorn. Oh joy! 😀
Halali camp has a waterhole which we went to investigate as lunch was being prepared. Despite the presence of a large sign at the entrance saying “Silence Please” – noise scares away wildlife, don’t ya know – a gang of Germans seemed to be having a rather vociferous picnic, almost constantly querying the wine requirements of each other loudly. Any attempt to attenuate voices? No, of course not. I began rehearsing my polite German version of “shut the fuck up”, i.e. “please shut the fuck up”, but mercifully they finished the wine and departed before I had to put my well rehearsed speech to the test.
Respite was brief, however, as the Germans were almost immediately replaced by an equally rowdy bunch of Americans, who now began discussing their picnic enthusiastically. Americans are prone to think anything below 90 decibels is a whisper. This was going to be easier; no need for mental foreign rehearsals; I would be able launch into my polite Anglo-Saxon with impunity. I did so. They could hardly hear me above their own conversation so I had to repeat my pleading twice, whereupon eventually they did calm down. You want a picnic? Go to the picnic places not to a wildlife observation platform. Sheesh! Miraculously, once calm had descended, a group of black-faced impala turned up around the waterhole to entertain us for a while. They were alert to the very slightest noise, though, and kept staring our way. They could probably hear the cameras clicking.
We wandered back for lunch. I really didn’t feel hungry but I went with the flow and ate some of Leader Louis’ sweetcorn-containing Bolognese anyway. After all, he’d made a considerable effort, including a special pot of sauce for our lone vegetarian. As usual three meals a day is just too much food for us. I felt bloated and regretted my actions almost immediately.
As the afternoon game drive approached, I regretted my actions even more as I began feeling distinctly off-colour. As the situation worsened, I just couldn’t face being bounced around in the truck having a Bolognese martini, shaken not stirred, mixed using my stomach as the cocktail shaker. Reluctantly, I decided to skip the game drive. Francine went with my 100-400 lens and 1.4X extender. At least that would help the reach of her full frame camera. Unlike the Maasai Mara in Kenya, vehicles are not allowed to leave the roads in Etosha so you really can’t have too much lens. I retired to our room to lie down.
Shortly I began feeling a bit nauseous. My condition appeared to deteriorating quite quickly but I chose to speed matters along with the old finger-down-the-throat trick. If something is upsetting your equilibrium, get it out ASAP. I emptied myself of some diluted squash nonsense first. I felt better immediately, though the bad feeling did, of course, return. Throat and finger were re-introduced and this time I got rid of the sweetcorn-containing Bolognese that I hadn’t wanted to eat in the first place. My digestive system is usually pretty bullet proof and, feeling brighter again, my mind began trying to understand the cause of my affliction.I settled for suspecting the Eland sausage meat from breakfast at Toshari Lodge, which I think had been only warmed rather than fully reheated. Who knows, though? Antimalarial tablets are always a good scapegoat but I didn’t fancy them for causing nausea, not three days in, anyway. Had it been the Bolognese, with or without sweetcorn, surely others should have been stricken.
Francine returned with more black-faced impala and some giraffes. The group had seen a small pride of lions shortly after leaving the camp gates. Louis suggested they’d still be there in the shade when they returned. The truck had driven round a couple of waterholes but those, as predicted, produced nothing but a few birds. The drive did yield more Black-faced Impala and a small group of browsing Giraffes, along with some too-distant-to-bother-with Hartebeest.
The truck had apparently needed yet more water in the radiator. I could see a possible mechanical problem.in the offing.
I skipped dinner.