Our first overnight stay in Namibia was a very busy one. We set up camp at the NamibRand Nature Reserve, Maltahohe. It’s one of the largest private nature reserves in Southern Africa. To our great delight, this was our campsite for two nights. Gorgeous!
I have to say, I loved the bathrooms here. They were open to the sky, so technically we were showering outdoors!
Something we didn’t anticipate, though we should have, was the fact that we had more than a few local visitors come through the bathrooms. On the first night, a few of the ladies on our tour who were on their way to the bathroom turned back, screaming. They had nearly had a close encounter with a porcupine who had taken up residence in the ladies’ washroom!
The next morning our tour leader gave us a crash course in tracking African wildlife. Mostly, he taught us about pee and poop. Specifically, how to identify animals by the size and shape of their droppings, and even how to tell male from female animals.
For example, you can tell male from female by the placement of the footprints in relation to where the urine patch lies. In many cases, a urine spot close to the droppings indicates a female; if the droppings are farther away this indicates a male, for the obvious anatomical reasons. See here, we’re learning:
Now, this was where the lesson took an unfortunate turn. Because our tour leader proceeded to teach us about how gemsbok, a type of antelope, are herbivores. Which meant, in his mind at least, that their droppings were perfectly safe for humans to put in their mouths. And so, he challenged us to a gemsbok-poo-spitting contest.
Yes, you read that correctly. We had to put dried, pellet-shaped, wild animal droppings in our mouths, then spit them for distance. Now guess who lost, and had to do the dishes for the group that night after supper? Yup, that would be me. But I’m not bitter. We had a lovely outdoor kitchen, actually.
We also learned a little about this creature; a Namib desert beetle. They harvest moisture from the air by collecting it on its back and storing it. The troughs on its back are coated with wax to repel the water, while the peaks are uncoated, drawing the water naturally to the beetles’ mouth.
We didn’t just learn about wildlife on our walk, though. We also discovered these insane prickle-bushes, called a camel thorn tree. They can grow up to 17 meters, though we encountered many that were more bush-height. Surprisingly, giraffes have little trouble getting their lithe tongues around these vicious thorns to get to the succulent leaves and fruit.
Later that evening, we convened for the requisite Sundowner; that moment where you grab a drink and contemplate the events of the day. NamibRand Nature Reserve is a pretty sweet place to do it in, too:
Unfortunately, at our last rest stop in civilization, we had underestimated the amount of beer we would require for our camp out. So we were relegated to making cocktails with a mix of Cape to Rio cane spirit and lime squash concentrate. It was an unholy alliance of flavours that we quickly learned to tolerate in our time of need.
Though the view itself was more intoxicating than the liquor:
Our lessons in Namibian wildlife didn’t end here though. I had brought some homemade soap as a luxury item and placed it in our charming little outdoor bathroom. On the second night I noticed it had disappeared. At first I assumed that we had used it up, or that it had melted in the Namibian heat. No, as it turned out, we think a critter got hold of it and ate it. Most likely a nocturnal tree rat. After all, we had caught them nibbling rice off a spoon in our outdoor kitchen after supper one evening.
Also, on our second night in camp, I awoke abruptly to the sensation of something crawling across my shoulder. I bolted up with a screech, grabbed the flashlight and clicked it on. I shone the beam of light into two big, black marble eyes set into a tiny grey body. Another tree rat!
Mark and I chased the interloper out of our tent and went back to sleep. But my day pack suffered several small nibble-holes from where the wee beastie chewed its way in, probably smelling our toothpaste inside. It was a sobering reminder not to bring food or other scented items into a tent with you!