Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Waterberg Plateau – Erich

Our last posts were made on December 2 or 3 as we stayed one night in an exceptionally nice Hilton hotel in Windhoek, Namibia. Aside from the internet being a bit jumpy, the experience was delectable. There was a rooftop heated pool, set at a bathwater like temperature of 38 degrees Celsius. Next to this was an executive lounge that offered fruit and nuts and tea, as well as computers, printers, and a printout of news of the day from various nations (U.S.A. included.) We were given a free upgrade to a two room suite, each room as big as a standard hotel room. In the bathroom was a warming rack for your bath towels. I mean, this is serious spoilage. And the hotel's restaurant offered a buffet with delicious choices and so many desserts your head might spin. (Especially after the sugar rush.)

The next day, after another swim, we left the hotel and headed north out of Windhoek. As we traveled, we saw warthog, baboon, and giraffe. That afternoon we reached Waterberg Plateau Park. Here our accommodations were what they would call a caravan park. It's camping, but it would work for RVs as well. You have hopefully seen Syarra's post showing you what we are traveling in, so you know we aren't quite a recreational vehicle, but we pack our tents on our roof. The ablution facilities (as they call the rooms where the toilets and showers are) were very functional, though not fancy. Plus they offered two rooms with large sinks for cleaning dishes (which we took advantage of) and clothing (which we did not).

We grilled borevors (a special South African/Namibian kind of beef sausage that has been mentioned in the blog before) and had a relaxing dinner. Our dinner companion was a warthog who was grazing in the grass right next to our site. When warthog graze, they bend down onto their front knees and then walk that way as they get to the next bit of grass. But when anyone comes near, they hop up on their legs again and run with their tails straight up in the air. It was Alrica's birthday that day, so she got the honor of naming our friend. I'm not sure I would have chosen Mister Grumplestein, but he doesn't look entirely dissimilar from the Grumplesteins I have known in the past.
Mister Grumplestein
Also present in the campsite were packs of banded mongoose (is the plural mongeese or mongooses or just mongoose?). We saw a scrub hare. It was like a large tawny rabbit with extra long ears. But when he runs, it isn't in the back foot then front foot hop of the rabbits I'm used to. It looks more like the gallop of a horse.

The next morning, we got up just as dawn was breaking and had a quick breakfast. It was time to hike! Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to hike as there are more animals out and as it is much cooler than the middle part of the day. We hiked up the Mountain View Trail. Waterberg Plateau Park truly is along a plateau. The campground is at the bottom of the mountain. But the trail we took scaled the side of it and brought us up to the top of the plateau. Here we had amazing views of the landscapes below. They aren't lush, but covered with scrub.

The Plateau from below

Along the way we saw more banded mongooses (I'm going with mongooses). We saw a couple of rock hyrax, which are also called dassies. These look like large brown rodents. But apparently they are more closely related to African elephants than any other animal. You wouldn't know it from looking at them. We spied a family of black long low creatures. I'm not sure what they were, but they looked like the kinds of things one would have trapped for the furring industry. Maybe they were sable? We also saw several of the Damara dik-dik which is the world's smallest antelope species. They are small, maybe a foot and a half tall to two and half feet tall. The males have two short black horns.

The most dangerous creatures we saw were baboons. Everyone warns visitors about the baboons. They have figured out that humans with backpacks means food. They also know how to steal out of your vehicle. I was told that if I saw baboons, they probably would ignore me. But if not, I was to shout and throw a rock in their direction, that would scatter them. When we saw them, I had a rock at the ready, but I never needed to use it.

While we were able to climb to the top of the plateau, we had to stop there at the edge. The plateau is protected. To go onto the plateau you either must do a guided tour or get a permit. But the permits must be requested months in advance. And they only give out six or fewer at any one time. They are trying to protect the ecosystem up there.

We climbed back down the plateau and took a swim in the super clear pool there. After that we relaxed a bit, then had lunch at the park's restaurant. After lunch, we stayed at our camp in the heat of the day and played some cards. Later, Syarra and I went for another hike. After that, I went for a hike by myself (no one else really wanted to join me.)

I had a great time. At one point, I saw a bird in a tree with something in its beak. So I took out some binoculars and focused in. It was an owl, staring right at me. In its beak was a dead lizard. It stared at me, I stared at it, and eventually we both decided that was enough of that. I saw more warthog, mongooses, and a rodent that looked like a shaggy gray mouse but slightly larger than I think of mice as being. It was too quick for me to get a detailed view.

We stayed one more night at Waterberg, and wow, it stormed. But our tents kept us dry and the strong winds felt good. The next morning, we again got ready early. This time we packed everything up to head out for Etosha National Park.

That's where I am now, and as I type this, a black bird with red rings around its eyes is staring at me. But I will tell you about Etosha (or someone in the family will) in another post. Because this is already getting long, and trust me, there is a lot to tell about Etosha.

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