The 300 km house call
Leonora “Nooi” Wize
“We used to go on hunting trips quite often. The whole family. We’d camp in the veld, sometimes for up to two weeks, sleeping in the open without tents. We’d butcher and process the meat in the veld and return home with naturally air- dried biltong.”
“People are surprised to hear we have a fairly active dance culture here in Ghanzi. I dance with a hip-hop group called Flat Cap. We’re really dope. Other than that, I work at the Kalahari Arms Hotel. I dream of one day opening a car wash in Ghanzi that uses hardly any water.” done begins. “But then it took ages to be with school.”
One of the reasons Wiena’s school years during the 1960s and 1970s must have seemed interminable was because she was a boarder in Gobabis in Namibia and she had to travel to and fro in the back of a cattle truck. “It was about 300 km through thick sand to school,” she says. “There were no 4x4 double cabs like today. We knew exactly where the truck would get stuck – we’d jump off while it was still moving and start to push. By the time we got to Gobabis we’d be covered in dust and our hair would be filthy. We were known as the wild kids of Ghanzi.”
Ghanzi was a tiny settlement in those days. When Wiena arrived home for the holidays, she saw hardly any buildings, just Bushman fires burning at dusk. It’s no surprise then that many people in the area are related. “I had to go to South Africa to find a husband, to bring in some new blood,” Neeltjie says with a laugh.
Ghanzi remained wild for a long time. The road between Lobatse and Ghanzi, and on to Maun, was only tarred in 2000. Before then it was a sandy dirt road and you could see plenty of wildlife – even lions.
“Aeroplanes were a novelty,” Wiena says. “When the dogs heard the sound of an aeroplane, they’d start to howl.”
Neeltjie tells the story of a Bushman who heard a train for the first time while on a cattle drive to Lobatse in the south. “He came running to my father, his eyes as wide as saucers, and said, ‘Willie, thousands of wildebeest are coming this way!’”
It saddens and annoys long-time residents like Wiena when tourists sneer at their town. “I love this place and all the people of Ghanzi,” she says. “I enjoy travelling, but this is where I will spend my final days.” Albertus and Louise Louw live next to Ghanzi’s olive-green Dutch Reformed Church of Botswana (DRCB). They moved to Ghanzi from leafy green George in 2014.
“I was the minister of a congregation in George for 22 years,” Albertus says. “Louise and I wanted to see what would happen if we uprooted ourselves. The short answer is: Jy sien jou gat.”
Life in Ghanzi is very different to life in George, and the adjustment wasn’t easy. “We experience Botswana as residents, not as tourists,” says Albertus. “Things we used to take for granted, we have to do without.”
But they’ve also had some great adventures. “We have a horse that we can keep on our property,” Albertus says.
“He was a wild horse from the Central Kalahari,” Louise chips in. “He was running with zebras and giraffes when we saw him. He’s actually still a little wild. The other day he bucked Albertus right off.”
There might be no official connection between the DRCB and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, but Albertus’s congregants still call it the NG Kerk. His sermons are in Afrikaans and he also makes house calls, which might entail a 300 km round trip on dirt roads.
“When there’s a wedding here, everyone is invited,” he says. “It’s silly to wonder whether or not you’re on the guest list.”
The Louws will return to South Africa when Albertus’s contract ends in 2019, but they say they’ll miss Botswana. “It’s an amazing experience, to live so close to unspoilt nature,” Albertus says. “We love Moremi, and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve… It’s really wild. I don’t think we’ll ever go to the Kruger Park again.”