Khawa’s Kala­hari

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

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