The next morning after breakfast we left for Hobatere Lodge to visit Tammy Hoth-Hanssen and the AfriCat North project. We drove through Otjiwarongo, Outjo and Kamanjab 350 kms. We planned to stay two nights. The drive into Hobatere Lodge (leaving the tarred road) was 16 km on gravel / rock / sand and hills. It was about as much as we wanted to tackle with our rental car. The scenery driving into Hobatere Nature Conservancy was stunning. Moping trees, parkland – treed grassy hills, many small mountains (maybe 350 metres high) and sandy rivers. The conservancy had had 70 mm of rain a few days before our arrival so it was green. Wildlife had moved away from the main water hole because it wasn’t the only source of water.
AfriCat North is about trying to manage lion and livestock conflicts in the traditional Herero cattle / goat farming areas. AfriCat has built corrals (stock-kraals) for farmers to herd their livestock into if a lion has been seen in the area. AfriCat is working to educate chiefs, farmers and children about wildlife / livestock conflict and management. It’s a harder job with the drought and farmers letting their livestock go further afield to graze. If a lion kills livestock, the Herero get the lion declared a problem animal and then it can be shot by the Herero. Tammy and the Africat team are trying to keep these lions alive. Namibia is estimated to have 1500 lions. Wildlife / livestock conflict is getting to be a bigger issue every year.
Tammy and her lion guards travel via 4×4 Toyota Land Cruisers. They use sponsored GPS collars on lions and telemetry equipment to track when in close proximity. These lion are not the ones you drive up to and they’ll hang out for some pictures. We caught glimses of lion and only got a couple of far away pics of lions. Very rough terrain for tracking lion as well. We went lion tracking for at least 8 hours with little to show for it.
We went to visit a cattle kraal (corral) which Paul photographed. We had to appease the farmers for keeping their cattle in the kraal for photography purposes only (when they should be out grazing) with supplies like bags of maize and sugar and some chewing tobacco. This kraal and village was close to the tarred road. Easy travel for a 4×4.
Then we went to see a traditional Herero village, meet with the village chief and see the Onguta village school, AfriCat co-sponsors to take pics of the 58 learners. The drive was incredible! Maybe 25 kms navigating steep rock roads, gullies of rock and sand looking up canyon walls, sand rivers, and it went on and on. AfriCat supplied and installed the playground for this school. It was a fairly simple playground with monkey bars, flat stones for skipping from one to another, piles of tires filled with sand, swings, a few barrels to roll about and some benches under trees. In the heat of a harsh landscape these 58 children (ages 4 to 12) skipped on stones and hung on those monkey bars without even breaking a sweat. I was overheating standing in the shade of a tree, not moving. We spent a while sitting under some shade cover with the chief making some requests. “A bigger school, a permanent kraal and a salary for himself ‘working’ for AfriCat North”. Oh the politics . . . . and the tortoise crawl of life there.
We left the next day after more lion tracking. On our drive, Thursday, from Hobatere Conservancy which borders Etosha National Park and into Etosha and back to Okonjima, temperatures reached 38.5 degrees. In the dry plains of Etosha we saw dust devils. One was large enough to span the area I imagine a tornado would upon touch down. A dust devil doesn’t seem to have the power of a tornado (no cows flying around within) but I would not want to test that theory and be outside the vehicle while one was surrounding us. Dust would be in every orifice of your body.
Friday morning we woke up bright and early to go for a 32 km bike ride through the nature reserve with Luigi (Rosalea’s husband). Luigi goes for a bike ride almost every morning for 2 to 3 hours. This is his “training” as he “cycles” in the Cape Argus at the beginning of March in South Africa. Two and a half hours fly by when you’re viewing giraffe, herds of wildebeest, eland, impala, springbok, zebra and troops of baboons. Very special. We had to keep an eye out for wild dog, but the park only has 4 in the 22,000 hectares and we didn’t see them. It’s a lucky life one has to be able to enjoy this every morning. It was one of the best game drives we have ever had. We had dinner with the extended family group. Rosalea and Luigi’s children were picked up from boarding school for the weekend so it was an animated group. Janek (Tammy and Uwe’s son) had just earned his helicopter pilot’s licence and so we supplied the bubbly. Yolandi (Wayne’s partner) cooked. Karin (Tristan Boehme’s step Mom) supplied dessert, lemon cake. It was a wonderful evening with our Namibian family.
Saturday we decided to sleep in. Enjoy the oryx at the watering hole from our bed. We watched a big warthog go for a dip. Then we had brunch, packed and loaded up and stopped at “headquarters” as everyone was arriving for a big Saturday lunch – casual on their day off. The kids were swimming and watching movies. The dogs were playing ball and going in the pool. The ‘braai’ smelled yummy (steak and boerwors). Roasted potatoes, salads, buns, veggies and and and. We needed to go. We had a 3 hour drive ahead of us to the Windhoek Airport. We hugged, promised we’d be back, invited them to visit Canada, and were off.
The dust of Africa coating our rental car and flowing through our blood.
Shirley and Paul Martins