Making Tracks


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, March 31, 2004 was originally posted on April 12, 2004.

DAY 165:  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I woke up that morning in Windhoek, so I called up Simon at Outside Adventures to organize a ride to the nearby Daan Viljoen Game Park.  With all the free eggs I’d been eating, I really needed the exercise — it was better than another day of vegging out in front of the television watching movies yet another day.  Simon told me he’d send Ephram the driver by mid-morning.

Jackie, manager of Chameleon Backpackers, came over to reception.  She said the clouds were coming in and it might rain.

“Is there really going to be rain?” I asked.  “I’ve already booked a day trip to the reserve.”

“Well the reserve is on higher ground,” she answered.  “Maybe you’ll be lucky.”

EPHRAM CAME IN THE MINI-VAN and took me the 25 km. away to the Khomas Highlands northeast of the city.  I registered at the entrance gate stop and then Ephram continued through the park to drop me off near the main office and trail heads.  On the way, we saw an ostrich on one hill and a family of four giraffes on another, way in the distance.  Ephram said I was lucky to see them; the giraffes were rarely spotted in the park.

“If you want to closer look, follow the dirt road from the waterhole at the end of the trail,” he told me.  He said that the giraffes probably wouldn’t move from the spot we saw them.

DAAN VILJOEN GAME PARK IS A VAST AREA of desert hills and valley and inside its fences are wildebeests, springbok, warthogs and birds — no big predator cats, making it safe for campers and daytrippers like myself to roam around freely, or so they said at least.

I started down the 1.5 km. trail towards the waterhole and bumped into a forty-something(?) Canadian woman named Judith.  She and her husband had been living and working in Windhoek for the past couple of years and she knew the wildlife of the game reserve quite well.  Alongside her were her parents visiting from Windsor, Canada.

I tagged along the three Canadians along the trail that followed a dried up riverbed and eventually brought us to two waterholes, where dams were constructed to control the flow of the water.  Amongst the dozen kinds of bugs crawling, flying, chirping and flapping around us where the armored crickets, which where, for the lack of a better term, creepy.  About 3-4 inches big, the spider-on-steroids-looking-things (picture above) were just about everywhere on the trail and I was wary not to step on any of them.  Luckily they were more afraid of us and ran away when they felt the vibrations of our footsteps on the ground.

Judith was a great wildlife guide for someone who didn’t do it for a living.  She spotted a lone wildebeest that the rest of us didn’t find right away and pointed out the francolin and hornbill birds.  She ended her “tour” at the waterhole to go back the way it came.  I told her I was going to continue beyond the marked trail to find the family of giraffes.

“Should we be on the lookout for snakes?” Judith’s mother asked.

“They’re usually pretty timid,” I answered.  “They stay clear of big traffic areas.”

“You know there are two snakes that don’t go away when you get near them,” Judith said.  “The puff adder and the spitting cobra.”

“Oh, so just the two poisonous ones.”

“Yeah,” Judith answered.  “But we have friends who have been here for twenty years and can count the amount of times they’ve seen a snake with their fingers.”

The Canadian trio went on their way back and I bid them farewell.

“Good luck,” Judith wished me.  “Hope you see cool stuff.”

“Yes, except for a snakes,” I replied.  “But I’ll be counting them with my fingers.”

“When you get to ten, start taking it easy.”

“Oh, but I’ll be dead.”

I CONTINUED ALONE beyond the waterhole, following the dried up riverbed which led me to the dirt road Ephram mentioned — it was used by the park rangers.  I noticed there were several different kinds of footprints, mostly of antelope hooves on their way to and from the water.  But I noticed another kind of tracks:  paw prints with sharp claw marks dug right into the dirt.  But I thought this was supposed to be a predator-free park?

Alone and vulnerable, I went up the road in hopes of finding the giraffes.  Halfway up a hill, I noticed a sleeping wildebeest about 100 ft. ahead of me — which woke up startled when it heard me.  It stood up, sneered and just stared at me.  With its horns on its head — and the powerful ramming force behind it — I just heeded Judith’s advice to leave alone any animal that’s just looks cranky. 

“Okaay… leaving now.”

I turned back the way I came, avoiding getting lost in the unmarked zone by following my own tracks.  I hoped the animal with the claws didn’t take notice of me.

AFTER A FRIED CHICKEN LUNCH AT THE PARK’S RESTAURANT, I ventured alone to the longer Rooibos Trail for as long as time alotted.  Going solo, my adrenaline was up, especially when I saw the big spiders setting up webs over and between the designated trail.  In addition to the creepy armored crickets, there were half-inch thick millipedes around, which curled into spirals when they felt threatened by me. 

I hiked up the trail — avoiding the low rock bundles and hollow trees where snakes are known to hide in — until I was up on a hill where I lost all the trail markers.  I stood at the top for the view and eventually found my way.  Disoriented, I started going the wrong way on the trail but finally came to my senses before Ephram picked me up.

After paying my fees (after the fact) to the park office clerk who thought I was Namibian at first glance, I was back in the mini-van with Ephram.  He took me back through the park where, on the way we saw a family of wildebeests on the side of the road.

I told Ephram about the paw prints with the claws that I had discovered.

“You are the second person who’s told me that,” he said.  He told me that lately there were rumors that cheetahs had gotten into the park. 

It was no matter, I was already on my way out.

THE WEATHER HAD HELD THE WHOLE DAY — at least in the reserve, which was good news for me.  In town it rained for a quick bit — just long enough to produce a spectacular full-arched rainbow over the city.  It was quite an awesome sight and a nice end to a good day outdoors.  Any day where you survive possible snake, wildebeest and cheetah attacks is a good one.

Next entry: South With Samora

Previous entry: The Universal Language Of Beer

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Comments for “Making Tracks”

  • You’re going to make me slack at work, aren’t you? I have so many to read, and so much slacking to do… Thanks!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  04:54 PM

  • awww man…no episode of fox’s when animal attack on this blog…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  06:05 PM

  • Absolutely beautiful pictures. Esp. the one with the spider.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  07:11 PM

  • eew. To paraphrase a favorite movie:

    “Bugs… why did it have to be… bugs?”

    “Oh crickets on steroids. Very dangerous. You go first.”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  10:54 PM

  • I’m dissapointed too Markyt!  j/k

    I’m glad you’re not reporting from the ER… Again!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/12  at  11:57 PM

  • hey, welcome back, erik! man, i missed the blogs. that rainbow is awesome, but i am not jealous about being around all those bugs. yuk! i hate spiders, millipedes and crickets. and those are huge. so gross. =P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/13  at  04:18 AM

  • Hey Judith and parents! I’m from Windsor too smile
    Glad you are back from the evil NIZ Erik!

    Posted by Liz  on  04/13  at  04:34 AM

  • Hi there from Windsor, Ontario, Canada….I was reading your blog and saw Windsor mentioned…did you get their last names? Wow is a small world!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/19  at  09:01 PM

  • ROSE:  The only name I remembered was Judith… sorry!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  04/20  at  12:19 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
South With Samora

Previous entry:
The Universal Language Of Beer


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