The 300 km house call

go! Botswana - - GHANZI -

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.”

Emang Do­bate

“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.”

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