Petting Cheetahs in Namibia

The cheetah appeared suddently, and instantly I was overcome with fear. I saw it walking slowly on the porch of the farm house. I froze and my heart was racing.

“It must have come in from the wild,” I thought, “and now it will eat us.”

There were three of us looking at the cheetah: myself; my colleague from the Allgemeine Zeitung, which is the German-Namibian newspaper we were both guest-journalists for; and a boy who lived on the farm.

I was unable to move, but I heard the farm boy beside me say, “Come, come, it is tame.”


“Yes, yes, the cheetah lives here.”

My colleague had already moved on, but I still stood there with my heart racing.

Intuitively my hand reached for the boy’s hand. He took it and walked with me to the pool, where a group of people sat in chairs.

My colleague had an assignment at this guest-farm, called Burgsdorf, which is located 300 kilometres south of the capital city of Windhoek, and I joined him.

His assignment was to write about a group of German hang-gliders who come to Namibia every year to fly.

At the pool we met the organizer of the group and I felt better, but from the corner of my eye I watched the cheetah. It was lying down.

As the owner showed us our rooms, I had to walk by the animal. My heart was still pounding and the only thought I had: Can it smell my fear?

“You can pet the cheetah; it is used to humans,” I was told.

It turns out that a lot of farms in Namibia take care of young, orphaned cheetahs. But that didn’t make we want to pet the one at our guest house.

The drive to Burgsdorf was quite beautiful. On the way, we drove through endless wild country. Thorn bushes, acacias, open wide savannah under a burning sun. We were lucky to have air-conditioning in the car.

As we made a stop on the highway it was hot as hell. My brave colleague drove all the way. He is younger than me and had just got his driver’s license in Germany. He did a good job and I was thankful that he drove because I cannot drive standard and traffic in Namibia drives on the left side of the street.

He seemed to be braver than me and that was something I thought about, while he was petting the cheetah, telling me it was a dream come true, because they are his favourite animal.  

As evening came, we went for a drive on the farm land with some of the hang-glider group and saw a rhino with a baby walking close to the bakkie (that’s what they call a pick up here).

“Selfie with rhino?” a guy asked me and climbed out of the car, to take a quick picture with the rhino in the background.

No thanks, not for me.

As the sun settled and painted the sky orange and purple, I became quiet, taken away by the beautiful landscape not knowing that tomorrow my fear would be tested again.

A member of the hang-glider group woke us up the next day around 6 a.m. In silence we drove to the savannah where they had set up a tent with all their equipment that had been shipped in from Europe. Because of the warm winds, hang-gliders can fly up to 6,000 metres in Namibia – which is a height they could never reach in Germany.

So the group was flying almost every day. They use a trike to pull the hang-gliders into the air; it is like a motorcycle with wings and a propeller. Today, they offered to take my colleague and I into the air on the trike.

Okay, I am ready to do this, I told myself. I will fight my fear.

We would have the chance to see zebra and antelopes this early in the day.

“If you want to go back on the ground, tap me on the shoulder,” the pilot told me. I just nodded. I was determined that I could do it, but as we took off, my legs were shaking.

“Don’t look down,” I told myself.

I am scared, but I do it anyway, following one of my life-mottos, but…

I didn’t expect it to be that bumpy in the air. And we went back to the ground earlier than planned, because I was scared.

Can one feel so many extreme emotions in three months, as I felt during my time in Namibia? Great fear, great joy… is it Africa? Or is it me?

As we drove back I watched the landscape. The sky got cloudy; hopefully it would be raining soon. It is a dry country. The trees looked like they were screaming for rain. I realized that Namibia is a country of extremes. And for me it is also a place of extreme emotions.

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