Zebra, giraffe, kudu, oryx, springbok, impala, ostrich, eagles, vultures and more, and, above all, the wonderful elephants.
It was a beautiful drive from Kipwe to Etendeka, still in Damaraland, with one or two scary bits on the road just to spice things up!
While at Hoanib we had left our car at Camp Kipwe. Derek, the relief manager was at the airstrip to meet us and take us to it. We had realised at Hoanib that we'd thus added an hour to our journey time from what had been scheduled (originally the car was to be left at Doro Nawas) and as the flight out of Hoanib was delayed by over half an hour we knew we would be rather late for our pick-up at Etendeka. The system there is usually to leave your vehicle at Palmwag just inside the park and be driven to Etendeka by one of the employees.
The people at Hoanib tried long and hard to contact Etendeka to let them know we would be late and were eventually successful. As it turned out we were only an hour behind time. It was actually very lucky for us because we arrived at a prime time to see the animals as they were coming out to feed. The drive was an hour and a half through fabulous landscape looking lovely in the low early evening light. We saw springbok,oryx, giraffe and lots of beautiful mountain zebra. Also a jackal basking on an airstrip!
At Etendeka everything is very basic (quite a change from Hoanib!) and we were sleeping in a tent which nevertheless had a comfortable bed and was well-sealed against any incomers. We had a bucket shower which was great fun but which I only used in the afternoon - much too cool in the morning!
Because this is another open camp the wild animals are all around. This includes scorpions, and the warnings were dire including not to leave your shoes outside because they like to get into them!
At Etendeka we met up with quite a few people we'd already crossed paths with: John and Jackie who we'd met at Windhoek and Kipwe, and Matthew and Bridget who'd been at Sossusvlei. All really nice people.
Dinners were taken at a long communal table. I don't think anyone spends more than three nights here and there are actually only three variations on dinner - the staff must get a little bored with it but we thoroughly enjoyed particularly the beef pie and the chicken which was cooked in foil around an open fire.
Dennis, the owner, was a first class mixer of gin and tonics and very accomplished amateur astronomer. After dinner he took us outside and gave a talk on what we could see in the night sky. He had a laser pointer which was remarkably effective at pinpointing the stars etc. he was talking about. It was really fascinating.
It started to get light at around 6:30 so we got up and watched the dawn develop. At 8:15 after breakfast we set out with Boni, the resident guide, to spend the morning walking and learning about the plants, animal, rocks and people of the country.
Boni was another terrific guide, along with Tafi at Kipwe one of the best we had in Namibia. Like Tafi he was extremely knowledgeable with the gift of making what he said interesting, even though he must have done this walk many times.
To begin with it was cloudy and quite pleasant walking, but it soon began to heat up. It was nice just to get out into the landscape, we'd done so much (admittedly fantastic!) driving that it felt good to stretch the legs for once.
The ground here is extremely rocky and would seem to be very inhospitable for elephants, but they are here and apparently can even climb over the mountains.
For most of the walk we were stepping in the tracks of two lions who had passed this way not long before us. We never saw them, but they may have been watching us from a distance!
The star of the walk, however, was the landscape itself, especially the latter half when we climbed a steep slope to a flat grassland which led us back towards the camp with magnificent views over the mountains and valleys.
The ground was always rocky, sometimes we were walking on flattish plains, sometimes in a narrow defile between steep cliffs. In many places there was very little shade.
The area is characterised by wide plains dotted with sparse vegetation and low trees, surrounded by flat-topped mountains. Apart from the camp there was not another sign of habitation anywhere in sight.
Back at the camp we downed extremely welcome ice-cold beers - Tafel which we found we preferred to the Windhoek.
After lunch we all retired to our tents where I discovered a gecko in our toilet - but only after I'd flushed it! Dennis said they were very hard to shift so we used the main block toilets thereafter!
A lovely refreshing bucket shower then we rested through the heat of the afternoon. I found even with the front and back flaps of the tent open there was insufficient air movement to cool the interior so couldn't have an afternoon nap. Instead we sat in our camp chairs in front of the tent in the shade looking at the beautiful view, reading and writing up my journal. It was extremely hot.
After tea and biscuits at 4pm we set off for an evening game drive. We saw many animals including giraffe, mountain zebra, oryx, springbok and kudu and finished with a sundowner before returning to camp.
The nice thing about this drive was seeing several different types of animals grazing together. To some extent they are mutually beneficial - one species might have good hearing, another good eyesight or sense of smell, all useful in detecting the threat of a predator or finding water.
Towards the end of the drive we spotted a very young giraffe not far from the track. It was standing on its own watching us intently but very quickly its mother walked up and stood protectively nearby.
The following morning we left Etendeka after breakfast. The transfer to Palmwag became a fantastic game drive.
We saw kudu including a female with a young male, probably around six months old as his horns had just begun to show. The females do not have the majestic horn.
A black-chested eagle was again in the same tree we'd seen it perched in yesterday evening. We got very close to zebra, giraffe and oryx.
But the absolute highlight was three elephants wading through high reeds and grasses near the water source we'd seen yesterday. Our guide said that they had been spotted here recently and they were obviously finding enough to eat and drink. We were so lucky to see them in their natural habitat, though I think they were aware of us.
We watched them graze for quite a while but eventually had to leave to make sure we completed the rest of our day's travelling in good time. A great ending to our stay at Etendeka though.