Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 23

by david on May 8, 2015

Bad to Worse or a Day in the Park

We met for breakfast at 8:00. Somehow Vera had gotten word from Johann that he had shot a buffalo and it had not gone down. Worse yet, they were near the river and the buffalo had managed to make it across the river and was now permanently untouchable in Botswana. She had no other details and we spoke of it no more.

As we headed towards our morning destination of Chobe national park, it dawned on me that since we had arrived in Namibia this was to be our 5th and 6th border crossing (and passport stamps 10-12). I was glad I had plenty of pages in my passport. The border crossings went smoothly and we made it the few hundred yards to the park entrance with no problems. Our only hiccup came when we were paying our entrance fee into the park. The attendant would not take Namibian dollars but wanted American dollars. Why they wanted currency from a country on a different continent vs. the country next door only the attendant knows. Luckily, and for reasons unknown to myself, I had stuck some US currency into my pocket along with my N$. The only thing I can come up with is that the Boy Scouts motto of “Be Prepared” is etched onto my brain and it kicked in. Crisis averted. We entered the park without further incident.

The first thing I noticed was the park roads were in horrendous condition. In places, the sand was so soft it was possible to get a 4WD vehicle hopelessly stuck. In others, there were holes big enough to swallow vehicles whole. The roads in Chobe were a far cry from the ones in Etosha. The map we picked up at the park entrance was easy enough to follow and Vera deftly maneuvered her vehicle in, around, through, and over any obstacles, and we made it down to the river and started seeing wildlife. The girls were loving it, but to me it was simply a mirror image of the last few days spent traveling the river. We were now looking to the north across the river, instead of looking south. We had about three hours before we had to head back so I decided to sit back and enjoy the morning. I was taking a few pictures here and there but my mind was going wide-open, digesting what I was seeing. Almost all of the animals we encountered paid us no mind at all. They would move out of the way if we were going to hit them with the truck but that is about it.   The animals were also grazing right up to the campsites in the park. People were sitting in their camp chairs mere yards from the plains game seemingly oblivious to man’s presence. The frightening notion of “is this the future of wild Africa?” kept clawing it way to the front of my thoughts. Will the animals become so habituated to man and vehicles that they lose a part of their ability to be wild animals?

I also noticed the lack of vegetation was much more noticeable on this side. Once you left the immediate vicinity of the river, there was virtually no green plant life anywhere. We spotted a few giraffes that managed to find a little bit of green in the tops of a few trees once we headed away from the river, but that was it. What was more prevalent were the trees pushed over by the elephants. The elephants couldn’t reach the green leaves at the top of the trees, so they did what elephants do – they pushed the trees over and then ate the leaves. The result was a few moments worth of browsing and it resulted in a dead tree that will take years, perhaps even decades to replace.

A morning spent hunting with only a camera was actually quite pleasant and passed quickly. We saw a plethora of game animals including lion and sable. We even found a shady concealed spot and got out of the truck. Stretching our legs and taking pictures outside the confines of the truck was pleasant and I enjoyed every moment. What I did not enjoy was the feeling we were being watched. The fact we were hidden from the animals we were taking pictures of meant that they could be watching from a proximity of only a few yards away. If trouble sprang, it would be on us before anyone had time to react. I mentioned this to Vera but she seemed unconcerned. I guess it is all in what you are used to, but I still could not shake the feeling. Not having my rifle did nothing but add to my uneasiness. After taking our fill of pictures, we left with our hides unmolested and made our way towards the park’s exit and headed home.

A quick check of our map showed a road through the center of the park that we expected would deposit us on the tar road back to the border. We bounced our way along the road and encountered more wildlife in the interior of the park. The temperature was much warmer away from the river and I was thankful Vera’s truck was air-conditioned. I felt a little sorry for the animals, however, as the only shade was from leafless trees. I could only imagine how brutal the temperatures would be in a few more months. The map was true and we soon found ourselves back at the paved road and heading back to camp for lunch.

The guys already back at camp when we got there for lunch. The hunt went down nowhere near as planned. It started ok with Johann and Byron getting into position to take a shot at a nice buffalo as they moved back toward the river at first light, but that is about as far as it went. Right after Johann’s shot, Byron’s dog took off chasing the buffalo. Instead of backing up, Johann’s shot and anchoring the buffalo Byron took off chasing his dog chasing Johann’s buffalo. Between the two of them chasing it, the buffalo made it not only to the river but all the way across the river. Johann managed to hit the buffalo two more times (managing not to hit Byron or the dog), but the buff still made it across and out of sight. I could tell how ticked off Johann was as he related the story before lunch. Otherwise, Lunch was a pretty quiet affair.

After lunch and a little down time during the heat of the day we head out in search of a waterbuck. The animals seem to know this and the ones that have spent all week on the Namibian side are now on the Botswana side. We cruise the flats of the river bank for miles and only manage to find the old, broken-horned waterbuck on the Namibian side. He is missing one-third to one-half of the horn on his right side. I consider him again for a few moments, weighing the pros and cons of taking him as a trophy. He would make a most unusual trophy, to say the least, and he is definitely past his breeding prime. I also consider the fact that if he has left the herd for a solitary life, it may not be long before he is lion food. There is one little problem though. He is also over a thousand yards away in the middle of an open flood plain. Getting in range will necessitate crawling some seven hundred to eight hundred yards. This is doable, but it was a thought I hardly relished. In the end I went with my original decision to pass on this old guy. I want a better-than-average representative specimen for my trophy. Thus, the old boy got a reprieve for the evening and we made our way home for dinner.   If I thought lunch was quiet, dinner was even more so.

 

The entrance to Chobe National Park.  The entrance to Chobe National Park.

 

The road into the parks interior.  It is difficult to see in the picture but the sand is very soft and almost has the texture of talc.  The road into the parks interior. It is difficult to see in the picture but the sand is very soft and almost has the texture of talc.

 

Looking from the overgrazed wasteland of Chobe into the lush greenness of Namibia.  Looking from the overgrazed wasteland of Chobe into the lush greenness of Namibia.

 

From the elevated position in Chobe it is easy to see all the wildlife on the Namibian flood plain. From the elevated position in Chobe it is easy to see all the wildlife on the Namibian flood plain.

 

The animals paid the campers little to no attention.  I do not know how I would feel about camping with lots and lots of lions that have lost their fear of man The animals paid the campers little to no attention. I do not know how I would feel about camping with lots and lots of lions that have lost their fear of man

 

I want one. I want one.

 

A very large animal with great camouflage.  A very large animal with great camouflage.

 

 

Next: Ducks and Such

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