We don’t have to set the alarm, the sun burns us out of the tent anyway. The ladder of the tent sits in the loose sand and the fire still smokes a little bit. Slightly neurotic I scan the ground around our car for fresh tracks. I don’t see any. Satisfied I pull the salami out of the fridge for breakfast.
We put the coordinates for a waterhole in our navigation. Waterholes are often meeting places for different types of animals. A dry riverbed leads us to it. This riverbed is particularly sandy and the cars have to work hard to get through. It helps to be with two cars where one can follow the tracks from the first.
From behind a large tree and a curtain of leaves we get looked at by a large male elephant. He turns himself towards the cars the moment we pass him. He see him move rather nervously and his large ears move front to back. We leave him be and drive on slowly. We don’t have to wait much longer before we’re in luck again: a group of giraffes are gorging on the green trees on the side of the riverbed. The cars don’t really seem to bother them.
We leave the riverbed, drive for hours through the rocky desert and end up at another riverbed, but this time it has water. Recent car tracks prove that it is possible to drive through it. A narrow gap in the rock gives us enough cover to set up camp. We make a large fire to keep the animals and flies at a distance. We also cook on the fire and go to bed early while the fire still burns a little bit.
A low rumble gets me out of my sleep, it is 12 o’clock. I can hear it’s close. I squeeze Helga’s arm and she wakes up quickly. I stare out of our roof top tent into the darkness. Helga also turns her gaze outside, but we both see nothing, it is pitch black. Slowly our eyes adjust to the dark. We can feel the ground underneath the car tremble when the large thing moves: An enormous elephant, less than 4 meters away from the car. Silently we stare outside. We can hear it munching on the trees next to us. My heart is in my throat. My eyes are now even better adjusted to the dark and I can see a dark shadow. A deep rumble, next to our tent, we can almost smell its breath. We can feel the wind when it turns around and elegantly, without touching anything, it walks past the car in the direction of the water. We look at each other and take a breath. It takes a little while before we fall asleep again.