Etosha National Park and Hoba Meteorite
I think it was around 01:30 outside of Etosha National Park when I went to sleep in the car and it was 02:17 when I woke up to knocks on the window and flashlights shining. When I really woke up, I realized that there were cops everywhere, with shotguns, surrounding my car (I would later count 18 camouflage-uniformed cops).
I had been sleeping in the reclined driver’s seat just outside of the western gate to get into the park. I had been so tired and sleeping so hard that I only awoke when the police had knocked on the window to wake me up. The three vehicles that had pulled up in front of my car with their headlights shining on me had not done the job. Neither had the sound of 18 men gathered around the car…
Once I had realized they were cops and not some kind of hijackers, I rolled down the window a little. The cop-leader asked for my passport. I handed it to him with a smile and asked, “You are not going to keep it are you?” He was not the giggly type.
I had driven all of the way from Terrace Bay to this western gate of Etosha. It had been a drive of many hours and I knew that the park would be closed when I arrived so late, but I also knew it would open at 07:00. I wanted to park directly in front of the gate to sleep and wait for the morning, but there was really only one lane into the park and I would be blocking traffic if I was not awake before traffic arrived to enter before 07:00. So I found an approach that was about 30 meters from the main gate that I backed onto and into the darkness so that I could get a little sleep before the morning came.
I had only been asleep for about 30 minutes. That had been quite a turn in events.
One of the cops at the back of the car said that there were footprints that went into the national park.
I told the cops that I had actually not even stepped out of the car from where I had parked it.
The cop-leader took my passport. I was looking at all of the cops everywhere and all of their guns that hung vertically from their hands towards the ground thinking about the excessiveness of all of this. Then, the interrogation…
What was I doing there? Was I alone? How long have I been in Namibia?
They thought I was a poacher.
“We are going to search your car.”
I had no problem with them searching my car. But as the searching went on and on and on, it got more and more personal, I began to get irritated.
What began to piss me off was their lack of any deductive reasoning. Here I was, a Canadian Caucasian, with a Canadian passport, and a Canadian accent, on a tourist visa, sleeping…sleeping, in a tiny compact VW Polo rental car with WB (Walvis Bay) license plates, parked right next to the tourist entrance point of the national park. What did they think I was doing there?
When they got a look at me, 16 of the 18 of them could have left and went off into the night in search of real poachers. But no, all 18 of them continued to surround me. The cop-leader began to go through everything I owned, through the entire car, through my entire backpack. He even went through my bag of dirty underwear. He sifted through condoms. He found a pitch-pipe I have for tuning guitars and was studying that. He was under the hood of the car. He was in everything. It began to piss me off and I started to make that very clear to him. He told me, “You do not seem to want to co-operate with us…” I asked him with a very harsh tone what I had done that had not co-operated with them up to this point?
What were they looking for? Rhino horns? Could I be storing hundreds of them in my backpack?
I was parked on an approach next to the gate of the park!
I was very angry and I wanted to really let my mouth run, but I was alone and I was sure I would have ended up in jail had I spoken the words I wanted to say. The search, which was more or less a humiliation, lasted for about 15 livid minutes of my time. When they finally realized that I did not have any heavy artillery or elephant tusks, they gave me a lecture about bush-parking. I asked them if it was illegal to sleep in a car where I had chosen to do so. No one would answer me.
They handed me back my passport and went to leave. I wanted to say so many things, mainly about how their investigative analysis was incredibly terrible and that this is why their rhinos are dying. While 18 men interrogate one tourist parked at the entrance gate, poachers are out stalking their animals. I wanted to tell them I could offer my services to their organization with classes on how to recognize the obvious. But, these comments would certainly have landed my innocence in more trouble than I needed. It could have mentally tore them apart for treating me so poorly, but sometimes a man just has to take it on the chin. So, that is what I did.
Once they were gone, I drove my car around to the main gate where I parked my car directly in front.
I managed to fall asleep again and awoke at 06:30 when I heard a vehicle running and noticed the gates were open. I paid 90 Namibian dollars ($6.18) to enter the park with a car and I drove all of the way from the west gate of Etosha National Park to the east side. It would take me about seven hours to get across the park and I was moving much faster than I really should have travelled.
The Etosha National Park is great. It is full of giraffes (who I have realized are very affectionate to one another), zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, impalas, oryx, and of course the stars of the show…elephants and lions. All of the animals get some attention, but all of us humans are fascinated by the elephants and the large cats. There are cars full of people stopped and watching cats during the day, even though they barely move during such times. Is it our innate fear of these predators that makes us so mesmerized by them that we are happy to spend time just watching lions sleep? I like everyone else in the park, was enthralled by the docile felines.
Here are some photos of the day. Animals are amazing and words can not justify them like images can…
Giraffes really have to bend down to get their heads low enough to get to water. Notice how far they have to spread their front legs to get down? I overhead a guide explaining that they have a valve in them that stops the blood from rushing to their brains so that the pressure does not kill them when they bend down to drink.
Also, I really love how all of the prey animals are friends and graze together during the days. That is really cool.
In the very late afternoon I left the park, drove though Tsumeb, and then visited the Hoba Meteorite, which is the world’s largest meteorite. The meteorite was discovered in 1920 and it weighs 54,000 kgs. 54 tons! It is a big hunk of minerals such as zinc, copper, gold, lead, and any other product that my guide could think of to name. I was there in the evening as the sun was setting, but he told me that no matter how hot the sun it, the meteorite always stays cool.
It is estimated that the meteorite fell to the ground about 80,000 years ago. Just imagine the impact and the thud when a 54 ton rock fell from space to smash into the earth! According to my guide, a 10 ton meteorite fell to earth last year not far from where this one had landed. He told me, “Locals thought was big bomb coming down. They run. People are afraid. Not know what happen.” One would imagine that would be pretty scary indeed!
At about 18:00 I went to hit the road to try to get myself all the way back to Walvis Bay from the Hoba Meteorite, which is close to Grootfontein, about 620 kilometers away. The guide who had shown me the meteorite whistled at my aspirations and said, “Long way…” I asked him if he thought I could make it. He said I could, but I had a long drive ahead of me.
With it being such a long time since I have been behind the wheel of a vehicle on my own for an extended period of time, I had a blast on the drive. I had my iPod with me that I had hooked into the stereo and was pushing the speakers as far as I could. As a result I was screaming along with Ozzy for Sabbath, Robert for Zeppelin, and Dave for the Foos. I am not talking about a little bit of singing…I was nearly blowing out my voice belting out lyrics as loud as I could with the bands! Once I had to brake hard for an aardvark crossing the road and a porcupine who did the same thing an hour later. An aardvark here is the size of a full grown pig! It is a huge and funny looking creature. It has a set of ears that you just know makes other animals would like to tease it about…