Words and pictures by Kerry Fraser and Michael Barton.
Do you know,” Amadeus said gravely, “that the German people are in an uproar because wolves have recently migrated from Siberia into der Vaderland?” We smothered a snort behind our bottlenecks, the laughter in our eyes no doubt betraying our amusement. “The most dangerous game to be found in my home country up until then, ate only grass!” he said, squinting into the firelight with a broad smile.
We were sitting around the fire at Bape campsite, quite literally in the middle of the desert. Our foreign neighbours, whom we had met that very day, had defied their overly cautious travel agent to tour the “treacherous” Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana without having booked their accommodation – hence their sharing our campsite with us.
Michael and I had planned a 13-night self-sufficient 4×4 trip that would take us deep into the southern parts of the Central Kalahari (Khutse), to the northern reaches of Sunday Pan, and leaving via the Matswere Gate. It was December, the hottest part of the year, and we were surprised to find a relatively large number of visitors for a park that’s usually quiet on the tourism front. Meeting new people and sharing our campfire was not a social situation we had anticipated, but what great pleasure we took in seeing friendly faces after a few days of lonely, dusty road. Before crossing into Botswana through the Ramatlabama border post, we’d spent two nights in the Botsalano Game Reserve. Every time we’ve visited this magnificent little park near Mafikeng, we’ve enjoyed wonderful rhino encounters. This trip was the same, as a couple of the prehistoric giants took to munching the grass around our rooftop tent. As we drifted to sleep we could hear them ripping out blades of grass as they mooched about, grumbling and griping in the night.
The drive to Khutse Gate via Molepolole and Lethlakeng is a long slog, even with the sand road in fairly good nick until the last few kilometres, which are deep sand. Unfortunately, the slog didn’t finish there; I’d forgotten to print our receipts for the park’s entry fees, which led to negotiations and many phone calls before we were waved in and could continue our journey to the Khankhe Pan campsite.
There we spent two glorious nights; the first noteworthy for a delicious dorado braai, the second night for an entirely different reason. A powerful wind whipped up a sensational rainstorm, dampening our enthusiasm for another braai. As lightning danced around our campsite, we quickly packed everything away, grabbed some chips and beers, and retreated to our tent for the night. The storm raged on until the morning, when, with bleary-eyes, we packed our camp to trek further north into the land of sand and, ironically, thirst.
Bape transit camp was beautiful with its coat of yellow flowers, and breathtaking in the number of scorpion holes in the sand; some a frightening 12 cm in diameter! Needless to say, we balletdanced around the campsite that night, taking great care to mince around these nocturnal critters.