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Published: November 11th 2008
I have combined these two days because they cover one event - the Kalahari Game Reserve. This park is quoted as being of greater land area than Denmark or Switzerland. It is vast, nobody lives in it except some bushmen in the very south, and there is no water in it to speak of. Certainly we had to be totally self sufficient on everything, and I mean literally everything! The regulations for entry encourage the minimum of a compass per car and a gps is almost an essential.
Indeed the maps publish co-ordinates for all important features within this park - as they do for most of the parks in the country. Ian has the latest gps which proved to be incredibly accurate and consequently so very useful and reassuring. The part of the park we explored was the northern quarter, some 150 to 200 km square. We entered from the town of Rakops
at the north eastern corner of the park.
We squeezed in every drop of fuel we could having filled our water tanks to the brim in Maun. The entry road to the park was quite extraordinary. Everyone knows what a corrugated road is like but
this one had deep corrugations with a frequency of about twenty or more yards! A huge great big roller coaster ride which had to be taken slowly. In the rains the dips would have been feet deep in water! And it went on continuously for about 25 miles to the entry gate! A most uncomfortable road to drive along and one I hope we don’t meet again.
The Kalahari, certainly the part we were in, is nothing like what I was expecting. I had thought it would be desert, with little if any vegetation and probably the odd sand dune. Instead, what we found was absolutely flat countryside, with quite thick scrub bush usually about 3 or 4 metres high and the road cut through this in a dead straight line. Regulations precluded any off-road driving (to protect the environment) and we found the whole place rather monotonously boring. There were hardly any animals whatsoever, only those which can survive on minimal water. We did see quite a number of oryx, a few dyker, steinbok, kudu, some jackal and one family of ostrich which included 6 very newly hatched chicks. They were ahead of us on the dusty road
Herero woman in tribal dress Botswana
and were loathe to leave it for the thick grass at the sides to give way to our progress The chicks were so small that they would be unable to see where they were going! Despite the mother’s encouragement, the chicks continued to run down the track in front of our two cars. In the end, to avoid stress and agitation from the mother - who had almost threatened to charge the cars _ we broke the park’s rules and drove into the bush to get around this bizarre situation!
We just hope the mother bird appreciated our efforts! The park did, however, provide a good variety of birds to satisfy us all. In particular the bustards and especially the lesser varieties whose flight never failed to amuse us. For those who are unfamiliar, the birds take off almost vertically and fly forwards with a very rapid wing beat before coming almost to the hover over a selected landing area which they then approach like a parachutist - an almost vertical descent to a well judged landing. Imagine a plump chicken being launched from a roof top and you can envisage the type of landing it might make -
but I doubt it would be as controlled!
Camping in the park is only allowed in designated places, with no more than 2 cars and 6 people per pitch. This was detailed in the permit, so we had to go to where we had preselected - there was no further option. There are about 40 or 50 of these campsites in the whole park and, from our reading of events, ie we were there at the least attractive time of the year, the height of the “off” season, there was only one other visitor. Imagine an area the size of Switzerland with but 5 people in it! One could feel very alone, especially if anything went wrong. But the sites were good. They were equipped with adequate long drop loos and showers - with no water. You have to bring your own. We made ourselves very comfortable on both nights. Driving around the park, on the day we entered, the day we spent there and the day we exited, we found the landscape extremely disappointing. It is dead flat, the bush is the same, almost continuously, and at this time of year the place is almost devoid of game.
Once the rains come it will transform into very green scrub, the animals will return, and the waterholes will fill up.
But the roads will be impassable so only the hardiest of 4x4 drivers will be able to experience it. But I must admit that we did all enjoy the bird life there. On the day we left we did find one waterhole, fed by a pump from a borehole. There was not much life about and we did find a very dead hyena nearby. While we were settling our account at the exit gate in the north west corner of the park, a lone man drove up behind us in a very old Toyota truck, converted for living in the same way ours are. He turned out to be an itinerant traveler all over the world, particularly in Africa. He was an aircraft mechanic so could always get employment wherever he wanted and he clearly spent his income on visiting remote parts. He was extremely helpful to us regarding our next country - Namibia
- and gave us all sorts of invaluable advice. Such an interesting man.
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