Big Rocks & Big Kitties

Thursday

By James

After a wild night on the town with the crew we spent most of the day on Thursday cruising around Swakopmund looking in shops and stopping at an Internet cafe to post our last blog entry.

I was able to buy a new pair of sandals, since my knock off Havianas from Thailand didn’t last three days in the African bush. Tarynne also hunted down some packs of beads to enhance the hemp bracelets she’s been making on the bus.

Swakopmund is a pretty bizarre place. It’s half German, half Namibian and half empty. Also, it turns out the ocean current is too strong for swimming and if the current doesn’t drag you out to sea, the sharks will. Needless to say, we stuck to the land.

In the evening we reconvened with the rest of the group for dinner at Tug Restaurant. Tug Restaurant is a seafood place on the water and it’s named Tug Restaurant because it’s actually inside an old tug boat. The food was good and so was the conversation with the rest of the group.

After dinner we headed back out to the Namibian night club to drink and dance before calling it a night around 1:30 a.m.

Friday

By James

The truck rolled out of Swakopmund around 11:30 in the morning after we stopped in town to buy supplies, as our next camping stop was officially in the middle of nowhere with no facilities.

The drive was about 300 km and we arrived at our campsite, Spitzkoppe, at about 2:30 in the afternoon.

Spitzkoppe is positioned in the middle of the bush between a set of gigantic rocks that loom like mountains over the camp grounds.

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As soon as we arrived we were eager to stretch our legs so we set out on a small expedition with our buddy Jeremy to explore the area. On our hike we saw some pretty cool exotic birds and had to shimmy down a tree to get over a huge stone as we trekked through a gorge between two of the rock mountains.

After we returned to camp we connected with some of the larger group to walk out to one of the other rock mountains to see rock paintings painted by Bushmen.

Just as @o_mac and Johnny stated about the rock paintings just outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, I reckon these little stick figures were painted 15 years ago by some bum trying to make a couple extra bucks.

But we took photos of them anyway.

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We took the long road back to camp and stumbled upon a gecko or two.

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The sun was getting low in the sky as we arrived back at camp so we packed a few beers into our backpacks and climbed the closest rock mountain to watch the sunset over the Namibiam bush.

It was a beautiful scene as the sun slowly dipped behind the rock mountains and cast its orange light onto the sides of the massive rocks surrounding us.

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With the sun tucked below the horizon we climbed back down the rock under the fading light and the sky above the mountains far in the distance glowed shades of pink and blue.

As dusk turned into night we arrived back at camp just as the cooking team finished preparing our dinner of gluten-free chicken burritos.

With our bellies full we gathered our mattresses and sleeping bags and climbed back up the rock to spend the night as the Bushmen did – without tents, sleeping on the cold flat rocks under the stars.

It was the best night of sleep I’ve had since arriving in Africa.

Saturday

By Tarynne

We rolled out of bush camp at 8 a.m. and had 350 km to cover before our next stop. We made some serious time, only stopping once for a “dodge scorpions and snakes side-of-the-road pee stop.”

We arrived at the entrance of Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park by 1 p.m. After passing through a series of gates we arrived at camp, setup camp and James cooked hot dogs while I went for a swim. After a few hours of pool time we all jumped into an open-bed truck and trailer for a short 3 minute drive to reception, aka the digs of four resident cheetahs.

Before we were able to play with the cheetahs we had a quick briefing that included mostly common sense tips for dummies: don’t pet their tails, tummies, or basically anywhere but their noggin, don’t kiss their faces and don’t get more than 2-3 meters near them while they destroy their lunch meal. The cheetah master also instructed us to remove sunglasses as the cats don’t like to see their own reflection on your face. He also warned us that the eldest of the four girls wasn’t the most welcoming to visitors and that your limbs would likely benefit from giving her some space. Lastly, he gave us permission to smack the kitties on the head if they decide to playfully nibble on us.

“Smack them as hard as they bite you.” Ha, got it.

Twenty something ecstatically excited people (okay, some more than others) entered the pen and the four cats remained relatively disinterested. They calmly laid on the grass as they received an endless session of nookies.

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The eldest made it clear she wasn’t really in the mood for social hour by finding a place to relax furthest from the group. Lets just say she wasn’t exactly purring.

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The youngest, closely resembling Mr. Crookshanks, was a fireball and was clearly excited he had fresh flip flops and hats to steal from visitors. He playfully bit Prospere, ran laps and terrorized the more mature cats.

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The two middle-aged cats seemed welcoming to the abundance of attention, lying calmly and purring 10 times louder than 2-Pac reading Martha Stewart in front of the fireplace. That’s loud.

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After the mellow photo session it was time for lunch. Not ours (we had amazing hot dogs remember), but the cats. The cats danced impatiently around the owner as he brought in lunch. He quickly distributed equal portions to each of the cats. I’m pretty sure an entire horse was sacrificed for their meal.

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We watched in awe as they enjoyed and destroyed their lunch. Ten minutes passed and then the cat that eats at the same speed as James daringly went for the slowest eater (my buddy) and snatched up some seconds.

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It was a gentle reminder that although they are tame cats, they still have those innate wild animal instincts and can be quite intimidating.

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James and I of course rolled around in the grass snapping pictures of the cats before realizing everyone else was long gone.

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We quickly caught up and loaded back in the trailer to head out into the sanctuary where wild cats roamed.

We learned the Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park is a family run park that started back in 1994. The four tame cats that we pet all sustained injuries or were abandoned as a cub and were since raised there. The open sanctuary serves as a home to many more wild Cheetahs.

Cheetahs are a huge problem for local cattle farmers, so rather than shooting and killing them, farmers have the option of bringing them to the sanctuary. We should’ve asked how the hell they “simply drop them off” because I can only imagine that ending like the scene in The Hangover returning Mike Tyson’s tiger.

Anyway, these wild kitties are a bit more badass, with some gnarly scratches, piercing eyes, serious drooling issues, and Jordan-like hops. Lets just say I took my eyes out of that zoom lens a few times to make sure I wasn’t going to super size their Happy Meal.

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About five cats slithered out from the bush as soon as they realized lunch had arrived. Chunks of horse were thrown and the cats aggressively battled before one was declared winner and disappeared to enjoy his meal.

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After the drive wrapped up we were dropped off back at camp. James got his grill on while I, yes again (it’s the desert remember) headed to the pool. A few hours later a bomb rice veggie dish was served and James smelled like a rack of ribs. Purrrfect (get it?), cuz a cheetah enclosure was a whopping 10 meters away from our tent. Needless to say, we survived a malarone-influenced night of sleep.

Sunday

We departed cheetah camp at 8 a.m., making a “quick” stop at reception for people to pay their tabs. I’ve never been more thrilled that everyone isn’t an accountant, because it meant another hour of watching the tame cats cruise around the yard.

We then boarded the truck for another 350 km trek north towards Etosha National Park. We stopped halfway to get supplies, aka booze and snacks. So 23 happy campers bounced into the grocery store only to be hit with the realization that booze isn’t sold on Sundays in Namibia.

Oh man.

Luckily we had another opportune tire-tread blowout so we had to kick it there longer than planned. Some resourceful campers reported back they’d discovered a shop up the street was illegally selling booze. Back in the game.

After another hour and a half drive and we finally arrived at our camp in Etosha National Park.

Etosha National Park will be covered in the next post.

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