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Massive lion, we followed him for a long time, an incredible sight

We woke again with the sunrise at about 6:00am and were again treated to a fabulous sky full of the oranges and reds of fire. Deep low rumbling sounds acted as our alarm clock which could have been rhino or elephant nearby but we were both too comfortable to throw clothes on and run and have a look, fully expecting that whatever it was would be long gone by the time we got to the waterhole.

We were on the road by 8:30 having checked again whether there had been any new sightings. A guide from one of the many tour groups said that he had seen rhino yesterday on the main road out of the park so we were again hopeful. As we drove along scanning the surroundings I spotted something moving. Not a rhino or an elephant but a male lion walking through the bush about twenty metres away from the main road. It was an incredible sight to see and we followed him slowly for about five minutes before he turned in land and out of sight.

We had our papers checked at the park gate, glad that we had remembered to pay our extra night's park fees before we left. The people behind us obviously hadn’t and they were sent the 14km back to the park office to pay before they were able to leave. From Etosha we headed south on the C38 to Outjo the first main town you reach and a stopping off place for fuel and food. We were soon glad we had stopped here rather than carrying on to Kamajab, a smaller place further north.

Outjo really is a just a filling station. There is nothing that we saw here that would make us want to stay. The supermarket was surprisingly good although it had little choice and was plunged into darkness a few times as the power supply cut out. The bottle store next door topped up our supplies of wine and gin and before long we were heading out of town. Here there really was a sense of people sitting around with nothing to do, the majority of whom seemed to be male. Here too we had our first taste of women in traditional local dress although I have to say that at first sight it was as if someone was walking the streets wrapped in their duvet.

From Outjo we headed northwest on the C40 up to Kamanjab, an even tinier place. We stopped for petrol and opted to push on rather than spending the night here which is what we had planned to do. The C35 leading north out of Kamanjab reinforced that we are now heading into the less inhabited parts of the country. It is wide and in pretty good condition but it is a dirt/gravel road all the way. Driving along through a landscape that rarely changes you lose all sense of distance and time.

We passed along the very western edge of Etosha, again both keeping alert for a final chance to spot the elusive elephant and rhino but again with no luck. It leaves us something new to see if we go to a game reserve in South Africa but even so I think we are both disappointed. We saw little along the way other than cows, goats and donkeys which roam freely around. We sometimes passed a few locals on the donkey pulled carts but cars and trucks were very few and far between. There were a couple of small villages along the way, really no more than a few mud huts with either straw or corrugated iron roofs. The people here have a very simple and poor existence.

The road seemed to go on much longer than we had expected and even though you have passed no junctions it makes you start to wonder whether you have missed a turning. A few kilometres further on the C41 heading west to Opuwo finally appeared and unexpectedly was a tarmac road. Works are ongoing on the C35 to level out the hills and troughs but it looks like the C41 was completed first. It was quite a relief to be able to do the final stretch of the day on a good road, particularly as the light was starting to fade. Along the road a few people seemed to be making charcoal and they were the only signs of life we had until we reached Opuwo.

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Boys in Kaokoland

Opuwo itself is another small village and we had opted to stay at the Opuwo Lodge which has a campsite. The road to the lodge leads out of the back of town and up the hill where a very friendly lady meets you at the gate. The lodge is new, having only opened in August 2005 and as yet visitor numbers seemed to be low. When we arrived we were the only people there and as we walked into the reception area we both knew that we would probably not be camping. It was a beautiful large thatched building, tastefully decorated and with a real home away from home feel. We asked about the campsite and the room rates and although it was yet another pricey accommodation spot they gave us a discount and Stef got us a free upgrade so we stayed in one of the rooms.

The standard rooms are small and pokey but the more expensive rooms are a nice size. A large boxed mossie net hangs down over the beds creating a very romantic atmosphere and there is a small balcony to sit out and enjoy the view. We were just too late to see the sunset but we reckoned we had just enough time for a quick dip in the pool. Reception provided us with towels and one of the ladies from the restaurant pointed out of the doors onto the patio and said “there’s the pool”. It took a while for my eyes to adjust to the changing light and at first I thought she was nuts as there was no pool. A flat shiny semi circular space which could have been a dance floor was a pool with water cascading down and over the edge.

It was cool in the water but very relaxing after a long day’s driving. I think they must have thought we were made as it was dark when we hit the water but neither of us cared. It was just great to sit and soak. Being the cheapskate that I can be I had brought our own little supply of G&T with us from the truck so we could have a late sundowner as we “dressed for dinner”. We ate outside on the patio and if there is one recommendation I would make to the hotel it would be to change their menu. It’s not particularly extensive and is all fairly standard western fare. I think we have both hoped to see something a little more traditional. That said it was very tasty food and we both enjoyed our meal.

Before long we were back in our room and tucked up underneath our mossie net looking forward to a good night’s sleep on very comfy beds.