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Published: August 7th 2016
!Xaus Lodge is remote, 30 km from the main road through the park and 360km from the nearest town where they get their supplies. It's a community owned lodge by the San bushmen and the Mere and run by a South African company who get a management fee. The profits are split between the National Parks, the San and the Mere and all of the staff are from the Mere and San tribes.
The water comes from a bore hole and is salt water so showering and washing is different. They have a purification plant for drinking water, and you have a bottle of this in the room that you can use for washing and cleaning your teeth. We get electricity twice a day when they run the generator, and it's lights out at 10:30 pm as that's when it's turned off.
We are high here as well, well over 3,000 feet above sea level and with only 100mm of rain per year it's very dry, hence very low humidity all of which combined with the fact that it is winter makes it very cold, below freezing in the mornings. It does warm up during the day as the
sun comes out but not as hot as the midsummer where it's around 47 in the day and mid thirties overnight. I am sure to some people this sounds terrible, but to us it's wonderful, we are sitting on the deck outside our cabin watching and listening to the bird life, with the wind whispering as it blows by, bringing warmer air from the north.
Our morning started early with a game walk where learned about the different plants and how the San use them for medicine to treat various illnesses and which animals eat and use each plant or tree for which purpose. For example the shepherd tree is where lion cubs can be safely left shaded from the sun and mice build their burrows under the blackthorn tree because predators get trapped in its barbs.
We were taken to see the traditional San village, which is just a little way from the lodge. The manager Anthony told us that this is no longer their traditional way of life and small groups are shipped in on a two-week shift basis and as soon as the tourists have gone they are back in their jeans and on Facebook.
Mindful of this and the fact that it was a it cold for loincloths, we didn't hang about, but we were shown a few craft techniques that have been handed down over the generations. My own view is that if this keeps the traditions alive then it's a good thing.
A restful afternoon was followed by a sundowner game drive. We haven't seen too much big game in the dunes, but the place is teeming with life. As I am writing a pair of mating hyenas are making a hell of a racket - in fact they kept us awake for some of last night and earlier surprised the kitchen staff outside the back door. She sounds like a yowling cat and he a bellowing bull! There is also a resident owl, who leaves the place in a bit of a state, a semi-tame yellow mongoose named Winston and - my favourite - a guineafowl called Claudine. I'm not sure whether to believe the tale that she blew in on a dust storm and stayed, but she has certainly made herself at home here and stole my heart on arrival.
!Xaus Lodge certainly lives up to its promise
of letting the Kalahari work its magic - it's a place we certainly won't forget in a hurry.
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