The sun had just come up as I awoke. Another colourful display by Mother Nature.
It was eirie quit and peaceful all around. The lion pride was nowhere to be seen and it looked and felt like Kalahari Paradise. I heard an unusual sound in the distance. It sounded like two metal or hardwoods sticks banging together. An ancient technique used by early hunters and gatherers, announcing their arrival whilst walking through the Kalahari. I wasn’t imagining it, I clearly heard it. I grabbed two large wrenches from my toolbox and replied for a good a while. Drastic situation, drastic measures, and hope. But none was replied. Up until now, I still don’t know who or what could have caused this sound. I used my loud whistle in hope someone would hear it, that didn’t happen either.
There were plenty of positive signs all around. A warthog came straight towards me from the bushes where the lion kings had laid a few days ago. This would have been an easier snack option for the lions if they were around. Eland and wildebeest showed up a little while later, even an ostrich was seen in the distance towards the waterhole. I was anxious to walk now, but refrained myself to wait till noon, the hottest part of the day. I settled for coffee and breakfast first and enjoyed the meanwhile well-known area. I scanned the bushes and shady trees for any lion movement, but none were seen.
The solar panel from ‘Doringstraat’ was easily seen, a few Roan Antilope grazing nearby. It was time for my last preparations to walk my longest mile. I had no other choice to walk through this lion territory to ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’ and wait for either tourists or rangers to pass by. I had given up hope to be on the parks missing person list and for rangers to come and look for me, due to its remoteness and insufficient telephone signals or other communication methods. I realized by now that Khaudum Camp thought I was in the southern end and that Sigaretti camp didn’t even know I was in the Park.
That didn’t change my situation though. Every half an hour, I banged the metal sticks together, observing the area for possible movements through my 600 mm zoom lens. The Roan Antilope were still grazing near the solar panels of the well. If the lions wouldn’t be seen by high noon, I would walk over to ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’. I chose this time for many reasons. It is the start of the hottest time of the day. The lion pride would seek shelter from the burning sun and therefore are less likely to attack. I am sure they would if I pass close enough. The sun is at its highest point in the sky, casting smaller shadows. I also wouldn’t have to stare into the glaring sun, which makes spotting any movements easier. And lastly, if the Rangers do refuel the water pump generator every afternoon, wouldn’t want to miss that moment.
I still had a few more hours for my preparations. I wrote a note in my diary on what happened and which numbers to call, when Zimba was found eventually. I even left a quick ‘last will’ on my iPad. Next question was, what to take with me. In case the Rangers wouldn’t come by, I needed sufficient water and food for a day at least and some warm clothing for a possible uncomfortable sleep on the Hyde. Desert nights can be surprisingly chilly. Just as important were defend and escape utilities. I had a few practice shots with my slingshot. They are useless against lions but could scare off hyenas or so. My hand sized axe was sharp and strong for possible close up encounters. The 5-meter towing rope and bracket would help me to climb up high branched trees in case I needed to. The most effective defense would be a can of pepper spray though. I packed the two large wrenches I used earlier to detect movements. Thinking back, I should have used them from the very beginning and see the lions reaction to that sound.
The sun felt even hotter today as the trade winds weren’t as gusty as over the last few days. One last coffee while I was changing my outfit to brown and green colours. I didn’t fancy walking like a parrot. I soaked my dark green ‘Amsterdam’ singlet with water to me keep me cool for at least a little while and wore it inside out to hide the white writing. The crocs were switched for my hiking boots and I placed my diary with instructions on the driver’s seat. I left the car keys in the ignition and rolled the windows up. I had one last check up on Zimba’s roof for any movement, none seen. As I shut the driver’s door, I had a thankful word to my usually trusty companion and kissed my greenstone for good luck. This may sound overly dramatic but make no mistake. I gave myself a 50/50 chance at best, 5% if I had been detected in close range. The most difficult part to cross was right in front of me. High grass north of the track which would be unlikely for lions to be in this heat. South of the track was rather thick bush and a few trees, giving plenty of shade.
Moving 50 meters. Stop. Check for movement through my lens all around. No movement detected. Onwards for 50 meters. Stop. Check. And so on and on. Was I scared? Shiteless. But I couldn’t afford to lose concentration and panic. I arrived sweaty at the open plains at ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’. Still no movement is seen in surrounding bushland.
A solitary elephant bull enjoyed the waterhole to himself on the eastern edge. I was hoping there would be more elephants as a distraction. Guess they are standing in the shade somewhere along the plains. Nevertheless, I walked straight towards him at the waterhole. With no grass or scrubs in a hundred meter radius, a surprise attack was unlikely. And it was. The long-awaited moment of relief came as I reached the sheltering Hyde. My singlet was still wet, covered in sweat. My plan worked out extremely well, or I was very lucky. Maybe both. But I couldn’t help feeling quite proud of myself, and very relieved.
A herd of Roan Antilope came for an afternoon drink session.
I enjoyed the tranquility sitting on two tires, no lions to be seen or heard. Well, until I heard a lion roar, not very far from here at all. The roar I heard many times while he was feasting and scaring the kids off.
The Roan heard it too and had their heads up quickly.
Sure enough, there the lion king was. Coming out off a thick shady bush in the southern direction and appearing rather annoyed.
Looking into the bush, there was the rest of the pride. They have most likely been there whilst I was walking over to the waterhole and seen me at some stage. From what point or distance they noticed me? Were they thinking off an attack? If so, why didn’t they? Was I too far away? Was it too hot? Or did they actually recognize me as the scary human peeing on their turf? All these questions didn’t matter. What mattered was that I made it through. I was safe.