A Giant Playground, a Cheetah Feed, and a Space Pod

20 Nov

Giant’s Playground is stacks and stacks of gigantic rocks towering in random formations as if a bunch of giants had been playing with them. It is like a huge lego complex for giants. The boulder playground goes on and on and on, far past what the eye can see, even if you climb to the top of one of the rock towers. Those giants sure like to play.

Some of the giant's legos at Giant's Playground

It would have been fun to explore the area for hours, getting lost climbing up and over the towers, playing the lava game (jumping from rock to rock so you don’t get swallowed up by the lava ground). Unfortunately, we only had about fifteen minutes to climb a few of the formations, take some pictures, and take off.

A stack of giants' legos

Normally, I would have been very disappointed in such a hurried visit of something that seemed so fun. But today, we had more important things on our mind. We had to make it to a nearby campsite in time to watch their cheetahs eat dinner.

Yes, the campsite has its own resident cheetahs! – cheetahs that they’ve rescued from the wild because they are too sick, weak, or injured to survive on their own.

Adam getting a pic of the dining cheetah

The cheetahs were just starting their dinner when we arrived. We watched a lone cheetah devour his steak dinner to an audience of awed bystanders and flashing cameras. Then we headed to a neighboring enclosure where a mother, her two cubs, and another female anxiously awaited the pile of meat the proprietor brought with her.

Before entering the cheetahs’ pen, I got within inches of the fence so I could take a close-up picture of one of the cheetahs behind the safety of the crisscrossing metal. All of a sudden, he pounced at my head, growling (thankfully, the fence held strong), and my amazing picture opportunity was foiled, not to mention my stomach momentarily turning into a rollercoaster.

Ah, so cheetahs don’t like glasses because of the glare from the reflecting sun. I put my sunglasses away before heading into the insecurity of the pen. I was glad I found this out before entering the danger zone!

This cheetah was not happy I was wearing sunglasses.

Inside the den, the proprietor was handing out big pieces of meat to the four spotted ones. The two brothers shared a slab of meat for a while until one of the young guys decided he wanted his own piece. He walked right by me – I could have reached out and touched him if I had the nerve – climbed on top of a small wooden structure, and proceeded to tear apart his own piece of grub.

The two cubs sharing a slab of meat

Their mom was off on her own eating in peace. Our group gathered in a semicircle around the other female of the pack calmly gnawing on her hunk of meat, but I was too mesmerized by the cub feasting on his dinner directly behind me to pay much attention to the female.

This cheetah experience was especially awesome because the closest we’d gotten to seeing cheetahs before was far away in the Serengeti. Now we really got to see them up close and personal!

Cheetah cub feasting on his dinner right behind me

Our time with the cheetahs couldn’t last forever. We reluctantly re-boarded the truck to trek to our next campsite, which was about two hours away. Preparing for a boring night and not at all looking forward to putting up our tent in the dark, I was elated when we got news that the excitement was not yet over.

Gino and Matt had been discussing a change of plan because our flat tire fiasco the day before had delayed us a bit. They proposed their idea to us: What if we stayed at the cheetah campsite tonight and went directly from here to our next destination tomorrow?

Yes! I was all for this great idea. Not just because it would save us from an evening of driving. Because this campsite happened to have an option to upgrade into huts that can only be described as space pods.

The space pod!

Yes, that night, Adam and I paid just a few Namibs extra to sleep in a SPACE POD!

It was a large domed structure with a few windows protruding from the dome. Upon entering, you immediately take some steps down into the pod, where there were beds set up against the curved wall, a tiny kitchen complete with mini bar, and an enclosed bathroom. It was the most ridiculously cool room I’ve ever seen.

Inside the space pod

After the camping on the side of the road in Middle of Nowhere the night before, being in the space pod was the ultimate luxury. It was about a kilometer walk to the camping area where those of our group who decided not to upgrade were putting up tents, so we skipped out on dinner with the rest of the group.

Charles gave us a plate of last night’s delish game dinner leftovers, and we bought a bottle of South Africa’s finest (okay, the cheapest but still good) Pinotage from the campsite bar. It was a nice temporary escape from the rigors of camping life.

I dozed off to the relaxing sound of crickets mixed with the sporadic cheetah meow (yes, they meow!).

Now we are well rested, back in the truck, and on our way to the Fish River Canyon.

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