African shoestrings – South Africa Day Fourty five – Kalahari
The Kalahari Gemsbok Park is the South African section of one of the largest protected areas in Africa. The other section being the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana together they contain two million hectares of dry semi-desert and desert land. Incredibly this area supports nineteen species of predators, 215 species of birds, countless antelope and the odd bushmen.
Like most we had heard of “the Bushmen of the Kalahari” mainly through that crazy movie “The Gods must be Crazy”. To actually come across one, in fact a family, living (to a certain extent) how their ancestors did over many centuries was somewhat sobering.
We came across them on our way to the closest and biggest of the three camps in the park, Twee Rivieren.
Roland stopped and got out of the minibus, and in almost Crocodile Dundee fashion started a conversation with them in a mixture of San (Bushmen) and Afrikaans. I was impressed Roland knew his stuff. He crouched down with head of the family who wore nothing but a Springbok loincloth. His wife and his brother too wore loincloths and his small son was happy to wear nothing at all.
Their home was a Tepee style grass house by the side of the road with just dirt floors and no other protection. To one side hung the family name in a small basic frame made from branches of one of the few trees that grew here. Against this frame rested a bow and arrow and the skull of a Gemsbok. To one side sat the shell of a Pangolin, a rare small animal that is almost entirely covered with brown, horny, overlapping scales and slightly resembles an Armadillo. According to the Bushmen they’re insides are really tasty and the shell if left outside their ‘house’ will bring good luck. The thought of catching one is enough to be put me off, I’m not sure I liked the look of those sharp scales and I’m certainly not into eating its insides, good luck or not!
This though wasn’t poverty, this was people contentedly living life as they found it and were friendly and more than happy to pose for the five or so cameras that appeared with us as we too got out of the bus.
In the past we have often been approached for payment by the ‘models’ when taking pictures. In this case they seemed so genuinely happy to pose that payment wasn’t an issue. Roland told us later that even though both the men worked for the National Park, money wasn’t really a big thing with them. All I can say is that they must be the only ones in the world!!
Twee Rivieren was a welcome sight after the 240 kilometre ride from Upington. It’s a sealed road for about 180 and then becomes gravel for the rest. That makes for a hot dusty ride and now would have been a great time to wash down the dust with a tinny or two and a swim (there’s a swimming pool). But the camp had a night drive starting about 30 minutes after we arrived, so we had to rush to erect our tents and then be ready.
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