Sitting on the Hyde watching the lion pride, I was wondering when the Rangers would get here. If it wasn’t a daily routine, then I would have to portion my water and 500 grams of lightly salted ‘Raisin and Peanuts’ very well. I will cross that bridge when I find it. For now, I was happy and a little arrogant, watching the lions in sweltering heat. It wasn’t long after when I saw the same white Landcruiser arrive out of Northern direction. A taste of déjà vu? Yes, my plan worked out perfectly.
How would they react I wonder, as they stopped for a short while a few hundred meters away? ‘Guess the spotted me now’ I thought. As the Landcruiser pulled up next to the Hyde, I saw two familiar, but very surprised faces looking at me. Manfred and Servier Must have thought they were dreaming. ‘Hey Ben, how are you?’ Servier asked. ‘What are you doing here? And where is your car?’ I am good’, I replied. ‘I am healthy and not dehydrated, but man am I happy to see you two! By the way, there is a full lion pride in the bushes a bit further south, watching us as we speak.’
Their looks were just priceless as I jumped from the Hyde. I tried to sum up my last 3 days in quick words as they were refueling the generator, which was received in amazement. ‘We still have to refuel the other generators. Then we return back here and check out your car. Would you like to join us?’ they asked. Sure, there aren’t many elephants here. I come for a drive. Servier jumped on the tray back and I joined Manfred in the driver’s cabin. An old army gun laid in between my legs. ‘Is it loaded?’ I asked. ‘Not any more’ he said. ‘We thought you were a poacher at first and took safety precautions. It’s safe now!’ ‘Well, you couldn’t have missed me, sitting up there like a shooting duck!’ I joked.
Driving the soft sand tracks to our next destination, I noticed that there was no UHV Radio installed. My instant question was, on how he communicates with other rangers.’We can’t’ he said.’ There is no communication network tower anywhere near. Mobile phone reception is not existent, UHV radio only works short distance.’ This summed up up my previous thoughts. Khaudum Camp thought I was on my way to ‘Sigaretti Camp’ whilst they didn’t even know, that I entered the Park. Luckily, all worked out well in my dire situation. But this is still a scary thought. For a Park, this size and remote location, at least the basic emergency and recovery assembly should be in place.
We arrived at ‘Leeupan Waterhole’ which is the driest of them all. To my big surprise, there were hundreds of elephants coming and going.
The well was occupied by a larger group, most likely two herds. The usual pushing and shoving went on, a little tension was noticed.
There seemed to be another queuing system in place around this waterhole as well.
The local lifeguard seemed to be in control.
Maybe he was just modeling for me?
A larger herd stood congested under a large tree,
making the most of the shade they could get.
The muddy pond was just big enough for 5 elephants maximum capacity. As usual, the young ones made the most off that opportunity.
A small herd with a few young ones hastily arrived at the mud pond, trying to jump the queue.
These appeared quite desperate to refresh as the young ones tried to keep up with the larger members of the herd.
Looking cute as usual. That wasn’t well received by the mud bathing herd at all, a little elephant rumble started.
They retreated to a little bit of shade there was,
looking rather sad.
A change over at the well saw a few different herds moving in. I was just hoping that the youngster would tread carefully.
It was cute to watch how one elephant filled another ones mouth with water.
A love affair? These were quite dramatic and desperate scenes around the waterholes yet again.
It really shows the importance to keep these waterholes pumping water for desperate animals. The rangers here are doing the best they can. I and particularly these elephants, appreciate their efforts and commitments. I was just really surprised to see so many elephants at the driest waterhole, whilst a few km further up at ‘Tsau Waterhole’ were none. This is the biggest and best flowing waterhole of them all. The Kalahari and its inhabitants never seize to amaze me.
After clearing yet another elephant roadblock, we arrived back at ‘Doringstraat Waterhole’.
The lions were still undercover in the thick bush. ‘Ben, you are so lucky to see lions so often. Many people come here and don’t even see a glimpse off them.’ Servier said. ‘Ha ha, I know I am lucky. It wasn’t always a very comfortable feeling though!’ I added. I was glad to see Zimba again where I left him. I didn’t think he would have moved, but it is a comfortable feeling being reunited. Manfred and Servier wasted no time to look under Zimba’s bonnet. Checking the areas as I did before, Manfred asked for jumper leads. ‘The batteries are full!’ I said. ‘But oh well, let’s give it a go’. To my great surprise, Zimba’s engine kicked off first time. I wasn’t sure to laugh or to cry, hearing Zimba’s engine going. I admitted defeat, job well done.
Some happy faces joined the group photo. I stopped briefly were the lion pride was hiding in the bush, keeping the engine running. After all that we went through together, I wanted to wish all of them well in this harsh land. Life is tough out here, no one realized that better then I did.
I noticed an elephant seemingly sneaking up to the lion pride. Did he not notice them? Or is he really going to charge them? I was astonished to witness the following.
The lioness came out off hiding and placed herself on the termite mound, attracting the attention of the elephant.
She knew that there was an easy escape as the elephant wouldn’t climb over the termite mound.
Mission accomplished, she returned with proud gestures to the male lion. ‘This is what I do for you, darling’. Most elephants only charge once and move on somewhat satisfied. However, this one didn’t. He came around the bush and charged again. This time the lioness wasn’t as brave and ran off skitty cat. The lion king stood his ground a little longer, but this elephant was determined to teach him a lesson. He charged him for a good 20 meters, blowing his trunket. I had a wee chuckle to myself. The elephant had the last word and some sort of revenge. Seeing this behaviour after my 3-day experience was just the icing on the cake. I guess the elephant saw the lion feasting on the unfortunate one and was afraid that lion would be hunting and killing another elephant. The lion king blended in the high grass and I was sure, it would be the last time I would see him.
I followed Manfred and Servier’s dusty tracks into yet another amazing sunset. I sipped on my coffee and was very, happy to be driving Zimba again. There were a few more surprised faces at ‘Khaudum Camp’, as Manfred explained the situation to Alex, the community camp manager. Servier came over with following words. ‘Ben my man! You are one very, very lucky and courageous man. I still can’t believe all this!’ He is right, I was very lucky. Alex apologized to what happened to me as if it was his fault. I really don’t know why.
I knew the risk I was taking. This is Africa. This is the Kalahari Desert. I just didn’t expect it to teach me such a harsh lesson. I set up camp and watched the almost full moon shining brightly over the dry Khaudum Riverbed. A cold Gin and Tonic hasn’t tasted this well in a long, long time.
Just when I thought this is it, another unexpected dramatic twist added to my Khaudum National Park experience.