I hate to leave Namibia – it has been so good to me. But my last days
here weren’t without memorable adventures. I wondered if the day would
come when Columbus would drown in the thick mud it often has to go
through. And that day nearly came.

Mamili National Park was going to be the last on my list in this
country. It was almost completely flooded and looked deserted. A few
successful river crossings finally led to an unsuccessful one. My team
and I found ourselves spinning our wheels in what the locals call
“black cotton” – fine black mud. The guys tried everything: branches,
logs, even rubber mats from inside the car, but it all just sank.
After three hours of hard work, sunburned and
up-to-their-necks-in-mud, Alexander and Vladimir had completed jacking
up one wheel, were almost done with another, and were about to start
digging out the front axle. Out of the blue, a jeep with elephant
hunters showed up and pulled us out. I wouldn’t have anything to do
with them if I had a choice, but beggars can’t be choosers.

It could have been a miserable and sad finale to my time in Namibia
a failed expedition to a national park and a rescue by killers. But,
as things often turn out to be, it was only for the better. Tired and
dirty, I suddenly realized that we were alone in the middle of a
heavenly oasis. Birds and frogs were chirping. Away from the muddy
pools, other water basins framed by reeds had crystal clear waters
sprinkled with water lilies. There were only small crocodiles around,
so I could swim in cool water and then peacefully rest in the sun. At
night, not wanting to risk drowning the car again, we made our way as
far into the park as we could on foot, careful not to surprise any of
its predators (or have them surprise us.) The walk was rather
uneventful, but so peaceful I didn’t even raise my camera when we
encountered a herd of elephants with their young. I just watched as
their caravan quietly passed by. Almost back at the tent, I got the
final and greatest surprise of Namibian wildlife – in the corner of
his eye Vladimir spotted a pangolin. The most peculiar animal I’ve
ever seen, it’s a tad like an armadillo, but its entire body is
covered with large thick scales, making it look worthy of sitting at
Arthur’s round table. It is like a giant spruce cone, with tiny eyes
and soft soles.