Go­ing Fur­ther: the call of the Kala­hari

An­thony Ham drove the Cen­tral Kala­hari Game Re­serve, one of the Earth’s truly re­mote spa­ces, where lions, chee­tahs and or yx roam, and hu­mankind is con­spic­u­ously ab­sent

Lonely Planet (UK) - - News - Words AN­THONY HAM @an­tho­ny­hamwrite Illustration ROSS MUR­RAY @ross­mur­ray­il­lus­tra­tion

EN­TER­ING THE GREAT RE­SERVES of Africa al­ways feels like cross­ing a thresh­old into an en­tirely dif­fer­ent world where any thing is pos­si­ble. A nd so it was t hat, feel­ing a litt le like A lice in Won­der­land or the chil­dren who climb the Magic Far­away Tree in search of ad­ven­tures, I lef t the paved road and drove out onto the sands of Botswana’s Cen­tral Kala­hari Game Reser ve. This is one of Africa’s largest pro­tected ar­eas, but it en­closes barely a frac­tion of the Kala­hari, one of the great­est un­bro­ken stretches of sand on the planet. Ever since I ̭012 00'4#" ', 2&# * & 0 'Ơ & 4# "0# +#" of this jour­ney, of a cross­ing from nor th to south, less out of a de­sire to con­quer one of the great deser ts than to leave be­hind well­trav­elled trails in search of deser t si­lences and the wildlife of its re­mote reaches. Ahead of me lay a week of off-road driv­ing, deep-wilder­ness camp­ing and days with­out see­ing an­other hu­man be­ing. Oh, and a puff adder. On the sandy trail out of the vil­lage of Rakops I met one of the most

slow-mov­ing yet fear­some snakes in all of Africa. Go­ing too fast (yet to slow my pace to a pa­tient deser t rhy thm), I swer ved to avoid it – to kill a crea­ture, any crea­ture, be­fore my ad­ven­ture had even be­gun, would surely be an ill-starred omen. I re­versed to get a !*-1#0 *--)Ɵ 2 ̮'!)#" '21 &# " 2 +# ', ,%#0Ɵ I nod­ded in re­spect and con­tin­ued on my way. Soon I reached De­cep­tion Val­ley, one of 2&# $-11'*'1#" "0 7 0'4#0 4 **#71 2& 2 "#̭,# the Cen­tral Kala­hari – it is one of the great ironies of this arid place that it owes its to­pog­ra­phy to wa­ter. As the sun neared the horizon, the golden grasses swayed in a cool breeze of late af ter­noon, and gems­bok – the painted or y x of the Kala­hari – and spring­bok raised their heads, war y of the intr usion. Else­where, is­lands of aca­cias and salt pans be­came beau­tif ul in the sof ten­ing light: it was here Mark and Delia Owens de­scribed mak­ing their home in that clas­sic of deser t ex plo­ration Cr y of the Kala­hari. Where the Kala­hari at mid­day pos­sessed all the charm of an over-ex­posed pho­to­graph, it now ra­di­ated magic in the de­scent to­wards dark­ness. From my camp­site high on a sand dune haired with thin veg­e­ta­tion, I watched as stars lit up the night sk y, so far from the pol­lut­ing sounds and lights of the cit y. In the night, lions roared, and at dawn I fol­lowed, as close as I dared, as a black­maned male Kala­hari lion strode along the val­ley, king of all he sur veyed. Later, dur­ing a day spent driv­ing an­other an­cient val­ley, Pas­sarge, I saw not a sin­gle other mem­ber of my species, and in­stead shared the trail with chee­tah and honey badger, with bat-eared $-6#1 ," 2&# 5-0*"ư1 &# 4'#12 ̮7',% '0"Ơ the kori bus­tard, with gi­raffe and os­trich, as jack­als lurked, watch­ing for op­por tu­nity. Out on the salt pans in the west of the reser ve, as shad­ows length­ened, an aard­wolf ran and ran, not once look­ing over its shoul­der. An ex trav­a­gantly horned kudu imag­ined it­self un­seen in a thorn thicket. And an­other lone chee­tah, on the fringes of Piper Pan, set off on the hunt, an ap­pari­tion of fe­line grace and el­e­gance. Ve­hi­cles were few, and be­came even fewer the f ur ther south I trav­elled. Be­yond Xade Gate, deep into the former home­land of the San in­dige­nous peo­ples, there was no one, and the sand be­came deeper. Iso­lated camp­sites were quiet, save for oc­ca­sional gusts of wind and the night roars of lions close to the wa­ter­hole at Xaka. By the time I ar­rived at Bape camp­site, on a rise above the dr y river of Quoxo, I won­dered what strange land I had strayed into, so silent were the af ter­noon and night, and so pow­erf ul the sense of hav­ing lef t the world be­hind. And then, at Mothomelo, still some dis­tance nor th of the Tropic of Capricorn and with my fuel run­ning low, in an un­likely glade of green and pleasant trees, a com­mu­nity of San peo­ple ap­proached my ve­hi­cle. One of the last re­main­ing San com­mu­ni­ties still liv­ing in the Cen­tral Kala­hari Game Reser ve, the peo­ple of Mothomelo were ret­i­cent, like so many deser t peo­ples, and the en­counter felt like the briefest of meet­ings be­tween two dif­fer­ent worlds. We smiled of ten and, with no shared lan­guage other than mu­tual good­will, soon went our sep­a­rate ways. Much too soon, signs of the mod­ern 5-0*"Ơ $#5 2 ̭012Ơ #% , 2- ',203"# ƥ 4#&'!*# tracks in the sand, dis­tant com­mu­ni­ca­tion tow­ers – un­til they were im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. South of Gaugama, I crossed into the Khutse Game Reser ve, the Cen­tral Kala­hari’s south­ern ap­pendage. As I went I be­gan slowly to rec­on­cile my­self with my re­turn to the world. By the time I moved be­yond the Tropic of Capricorn, any lin­ger­ing re­grets that the jour­ney was com­ing to an end had given way to the joy -$ , "4#,230# $ 3*̭**#"Ɵ 4#, 1-Ơ ),#5 '2 would not be long be­fore I once again be­gan to long for the roar of lions and the si­lences of Kala­hari nights.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.