The more we moved into this land, the more my soul awoke and expanded into the openness.
I love this view best of all because you can see the road disappearing into the horizon …into light
We eventually came down into a wide grassy plain. In the foreground, a herd of springbok; in the back cattle grazing. The cattle are owned by local farmers who who do not have fenced in areas for their livestock. We frequently saw wild antelope intermingled with domestic animals in this area. Can you spot the one springbok looking out at us? and the one below?
As we continued through that wide valley, Frikkie spotted vultures circling a spot in the distance on the other side of the road. We got out to take a look, walked across the field and discovered a kill – a springbok – which had been brought down, probably by a cheetah. It had been there for maybe 48 hours and had been feasted upon by all manner of creatures. I once happened upon a mountain lion kill, a deer, in the mountains of northern California and I remember I felt I was entering a sacred space – a space where the sacrifice upon which all our survival hinges had taken place yet one more time. I felt the same thing looking at this cheetah kill as I respectfully observed the delicate legs and hooves of the springbok, the shallow bowl of blood cradled by her rib cage and heart space – even her eyes taken by the birds.
Frik was heading for a section of the Hoanib River which lay behind these mountains. Were there signs telling us where to go, telling us the names of places? Of course not. This is actual untamed wilderness. The river bed became our road.
This is what it looked like behind those mountains – more rugged mountains and a river bed below these trees and grasses and reeds growing all along the bank.
Frikkie pointed out that the condition of these trees was a sign that elephants were somewhere in this area. We got out of the car carefully and nibbled at our lunch snacks. Frikkie made sure we remained upwind so that our human scent would not disturb any wildlife.
Walking around in the sandy clay of the riverbed we found ELEPHANT TRACKS! The recent, unexpectedly heavy rains in Namibia meant that this river had water in it now. The elephants were here for the water and the vegetation. Would we see them?
What you need to know about seeing elephants in the wild, particularly desert adapted elephants, is that although they are large and powerful, they move very quietly. If they are among trees, you will not see them, even though they may be quite close to you. Then, all of a sudden, they appear. And that is how it happened for us on this day.
Elephants walk with unhurried deliberation. I remember when I stayed with the two lions, Zion and Trust, at Harnas wildlife refuge in 2012, how I would walk up and down the fence with them, following their pace, getting the rhythm of their walking into my body, into my heart. It was similar on this day. I matched my heart to the elephants’ steady, thoughtful plodding. To this moment, I still feel these elephants walking in my heart and it fills me with peace. For the most part, they are actually silent in their movements, so if you asked me what it sounded like, I would say, it reminds me of the deep music of the cello – the cellist, Jami Sieber, composed an album entitled Hidden Sky which is dedicated to elephants. She captures perfectly what the elephants sound like.
A youngster walks alongside an elder. I love the old elephants, the wrinkles in their skin, the years of weathering written on their bodies. The worn tusks on this one indicate much tearing down of trees for food. Notice the patch to the right of his eye. He has taken a dust bath, coating himself to protect his skin from the sun.Because of lack of habitat, desert elephants have learned to survive in areas without extensive grasslands. They are able to walk up narrow mountain paths on rocky trails, stepping between large stones. They move gracefully and with an elephantine grace.
there was a strong, warm breeze all day – strong enough to lift an elephant’s ears. Notice the veins on the back side of the ears. I believe she’s about to give her self a trunk load of dust.
The wind had blown all day and a thunderstorm was gathered heavy above us on the way back to the Khowarib lodge. The light created by the storm magnified the beauty of the landscape rendering the colors deeply vibrant and the air intense with the electricity of storm.The lowering sun sent its last beams of this day on the shadowed land.we could see the rain ahead of us….As we headed into the night we spotted a lone zebra on the hills. Was he waiting to dance in the rain?