Have you been to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park? What about Mabuasehube on the Botswana side? Yes? Then you’re ready for Khawa.
The town of Khawa is in the Kalahari Desert. It’s about the width of a dune street and a half, with a cellphone tower at its centre. In Botswana, the town is known for the Khawa Dune Challenge, a motorbike race that attracts thousands of people in May every year. Even President Ian Khama attends. But it’s April now and I’m on my way to Khawa with my girlfriend Alice Inggs to see what happens here during the rest of the year.
We cross the border at Middelputs, or Middlepits as it’s known on the Botswana side. It’s a quiet border post. At 1 pm, there’s one official and one meerkat at the South African immigration office. The meerkat isn’t even tame, says the official, just bothersome. After he’s stamped our passports, the official and the meerkat both leave through the back door, but the meerkat scurries back to pose for a photo at my feet.
We drive on through no-man’s-land. The border follows the course of the Molopo River, which is mostly just a dry riverbed even after the good summer rains of 2017. Upstream, an optimist has planted a small field of mielies.
The Botswana office is on the opposite bank. There are more border officials here and we’re soon on our way. The wheels of the Duster meet a good tar road – a treat after the long journey on gravel from Van Zylsrus in South Africa, where we slept last night.
Let’s meet at the cellphone tower
Two months ago, Anton Boshoff from Cullinan sent me an e-mail about Khawa. Come check it out, he said. We agreed to meet at the cellphone tower in town on a certain day. Today.
Alice and I turn off the tar at the Khawa sign and drive for 70 km into the desert. Khawa is near the south-eastern border of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park; Mabuasehube is to the north-east. (See map on page 14.) The area between Khawa and Mabuasehube is known as KD15 (Kgalagadi District 15), a former hunting concession measuring about 140 km by 40 km. Pure wilderness.
A lappet-faced vulture sails overhead and a steenbok dances across the road.
Khawa 30. Another steenbok. Khawa 10.
Two donkeys and a cow later, we reach Khawa with its small houses at the base