Kalahari sand in your shoes.
THEY say that once you have the sand of the Kalahari in your shoes, you will always return. If this is indeed true, I think I will be returning numerous times as every one of the three days I recently spent there, I could create my own desert which probably means I will be returning quite a few times.
This is not an adverse prospect as everyone should visit this part of the Northern Cape Province at least once in their lifetime. Three days in the desert is not nearly long enough to experience this culturally rich area nestled between the Namibia and Botswana border.
Close to both these border posts sits the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park (KTNP).
In May 2002 the Khomani San and Mier communities reached a historic land settlement agreement with the government of South Africa and South African National Parks (SANParks). The agreement saw land restored to the communities that had once roamed or farmed the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP).
Earlier in 2002 an agreement was signed between the Khomani San, Mier communities and SANParks on land settlement. Part of this agreement was that the Department of Environmental Affairs, together with SANParks, would translocate wildlife to one of the Khomani San properties in order to establish a game ranch.
More than 722 animals, including blue wildebeest, hartebeest, springbok and gemsbok, were originally translocated to the Erin Game Ranch.
Lion dance by the Khomani San at the Rooiduin Farm where the MEC of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism launched the Tourism Summer Campaign.
And, it is at Erin Game Ranch where our journey began. At this farm the community is still trying to find a symbience after the land was returned to them.
Even though there are still some hiccups between the different tribes, they are slowly overcoming their differences and starting to grab the opportunities presented to them.
One dear old lady who we met on the very first night, Magdalena Koera – or Aunty Koera as she is affectionately known – together with her helpers gave us a real taste of the Kalahari with a traditionally prepared meal. Venison in various forms was prepared along with beef and vegetables.
Aunty Koera says the reason her meals are so good, is because she puts all her love into them.
She has been living in this area all her life and she says she can’t imagine being anywhere else. “I grew up here. This is what I know. My love for cooking came from my mother. It’s just something I have always enjoyed,” Aunty Koera said.
Identifying medicinal plants in the desert and passing this knowledge on to the younger ones.
She added that she is now trying to teach the younger ones as well.
Aunty Koera is also part of a drama group which is trying to pass on the traditions and culture to the younger generation. “It is important that we keep our heritage going. One day I am not going to be here. That is why I feel they need to know where they come from so that they can build their future on their past.”
The farms which were given back to the community are being run by a Communal Property Association (CPA). This is still very fresh and as a result the members of the community are still getting used to it.
Some indicated that since this process started they were being made to feel like “prisoners on their own land”.
“For instance, if you want to visit me for the weekend, I have to apply for permission and fill in forms to make it happen. It shouldn’t be this way.”
Also on Erins we experienced our first Kalahari sunset with sundowners on the dunes. We were also informed by a tracker named Elvis about the medicinal benefits of the plants growing in the desert. Elvis is also busy mentoring a youngster to take over from him one day.
Elvis pointed out that to this day they still make use of ostrich eggs to store water. “We all know how hot and dry the desert can be. So we dig a hole, place the egg in and cover it with sand to remain cool. We also leave a stick sticking out of the hole to indicate to others there is water for them.”
We were also educated about the stars and how the Khomani Bushmen use it in their daily lives. Our guide told us that although there is a marked difference between the way the Greeks have always interpreted the stars there is also a lot of similarities to the way they look at it.
If you are into extreme sports this is also the place to go. Sand surfing on the red dunes of the Rooi Duin Guest Farm in Askham.
If you miss your daily newspaper while in the desert, don’t worry you can still catch up with the “daily gossip” with your tour guide from the Meerkat Sanctuary. A lot of the desert creatures only make their appearance at night, but they leave their stories behind. After this excursion you will certainly not be looking in front of you at the horizon, but you will keep your eyes glued to the ground.
This region can not only be explored in three days mainly because of the driving distances. Check into this far-flung part of the Northern Cape for at least a week and discover the rich heritage of the Kalahari. Just remember when you get the sand in your shoes, you will go back – so be prepared.