Wednesday, May 24, 2006

From Etosha to Damaraland

Up early on this, the 6th day of our honeymoon, to see what visitors the dawn has brought to the watering hole - none. I climbed the tower near the camp gates (part of the original German fortifications) and spotted zebra converging on the watering hole from several directions. Back down the stairs in double-quick time, I arrived at the watering hole in time to at least 100 striped heads dipping to drink, all in a row - quite a sight. After breakfast, we left the camp and drove north; lions gone, but where they had lain, a jackal was driving two huge vultures off something we couldn't see. Further on, we met all the "staple" animals of Etosha - wildebeeste, zebra, antelopes galore - and some "minor" game, which was often more fun to watch - like the ground squirrel below.

Groundsquirrel posing with blossom, Etosha

Eventually, in a grove of ghost trees (as odd looking as the name suggests) , pressure of time forced us to turn south and begin working our way out of the park. South of our last rest camp, we found distinct indications of elephants - enormous lumps of dung, dinner-plate sized footprints, and broken branches littering the ground. Sadly, the stench of fresh droppings was as close as we got to finding Etosha's elephants. Leaving the park, we drove south on a very monotonous arrow-straight tarmac road till we reached Outjo, at which point we turned west and drove towards Khorixas. Gradually, the flat country fell behind, and the hills of Damaraland rose about us. This region was noticeably more rural than the central area of Namibia - traffic was very light, and consisted exclusively of pickup trucks ("bakkies"), usually driven by whites, and pedestrians (black, skinny, and usually with nothing but the clothes on their backs). Eventually, we reached the turnoff for Vingerklip Lodge - a 19km dirt road, all of it through privately owned land - essentially, a 19km driveway. Just as I'ld planned months previously, the vistas for which Vingerklip is known opened up before us, epic in scale, golden with the last of the sun.

Sunset at Vingerklip Lodge

The lodge itself occupies the spine of a ridge, with a bar, restaurant and gazebo strung out along the ridge line itself, while the guest cottages sit just below these, each enjoying panoramic views. The gardens - of local, drought-hardy plants - are beautiful, as are the structures themselves: huge timbers, still with their old trunk form, soar above to form an exceptionally high roof vault; the heavy thatch and low eaves keep out the heat of the day. We drank our sundowners - entirely fruit-based, for once - in the gazebo, enjoying the view you see above. After sunset, I had a starlit dip in the plunge pool; later, we sat on our balcony and watched a massive storm rage with true tropical fury, hurling a barrage of lightning against the parched land far to the south. Dear visitor, if you happen to be anywhere near the general vicinity, don't miss a trip to this place.

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