As we drive from Sydney to London, via Africa, we are sharing our expedition with you. Feel free to read on and say ‘Hi’ in the comments below.
In our most recent blog post we wrote about entering the Kalahari, here we write about our experience as we headed deeper into the park.
Fresh from seeing two giraffes fighting each other – in a display called ‘necking’ where the animals battle it out for dominance by slamming their necks together – we took a sharp turn and headed off road into a remote region of the park. We drove across 90 sand dunes, and the view through the windscreen was every inch the Kalahari we held in our imagination. This isolated and private region of the park was open only to guests of !Xaus Lodge.
!Xaus is a lodge owned by the traditional owners of the land the San Bushman; or more specifically the ‡Khomani San (Bushman) and Mier communities. Almost all the staff are from the local community and we found the days we spent there absolutely fascinating.
^ 90 dunes lead in and out of !Xaus
!Xaus made a gobsmacking first impression! After crawling across endless sand dunes for an hour we were plied with a cool towel, welcoming drink and our first glimpse of the incredible salt pan the lodge sits over.
The lodge really gives guests a unique experience – the views, the gourmet food, the views, the staff, the game drives and the bush walks in the Kalahari desert(!). For us our time here wasn’t about the wildlife, it was about experiencing the cultural and indigenous heritage of this park through the eyes of the San Bushman. After all, this is their home.
^ The heart shaped salt pan that awaited
^ Home for a few days…
^ There are just a handful of chalets in this remote corner of the Kalahari desert
^ All food and wine is trucked in… along those 90 dunes!
^ The juiciest Ostrich steak ever. It was SO delicious
^ We love our food, and the eats out here were deeelish
The next morning we walked across the desert as the sun rose. Gareth and I were told we must walk in single file and stay close as there were just too many predators in the area. If we see a lion the plan was to huddle in a group (of just 4!) and to not move an inch. It was then our bushman’s plan to light a fire and scare the beast off. At 530AM while still wiping the sleep from our eyes the day quickly became heart pumping!
Thankfully no lions joined our walk. Instead we traced animal tracks and learned about San Bushman bush medicine. Got a stomach ache? Just rub these leaves together and chew. The San Bushman are men of quite small stature, piercing brown eyes and sun creased skin and we bot felt honoured to be able to join these men in the early morning light. At double (if not treble!) the size of these guys, we also felt HUGE!
After meeting some local Bushman and seeing their ‘re-enactment’ of their traditional culture we felt sad and quite affected that these gentle people are no longer allowed to hunt and experience the land as the generations before them have. These days they require a permit to kill an animal in the park, when asked Guckie our guide said ‘I feel sad about this’. Animal rights are important, but these people are not responsible for running down the numbers of any animals, instead they use to kill for subsistence living. Looking into the sadness of Guckie’s normally cheery face it was clear to see the pain the Bushman culture is living through.
^ San Bushmen
^ Guckie, our San Bushman takes us for an early morning desert walk and plucks a cucumber from the earth for breakfast
^ A spider lurks beneath
On our last night in this section of the park we jumped on board for a game drive and sundowners. Just as the sun was setting thunder and lightning whipped up a storm. The moment the rain came was wild and so much fun. Gareth and I, and the small family from Amsterdam, all smiled and threw our arms in the air as the cool air and rain pummelled down.
^ Kirst’s new best friend
^ The !Xaus (pronounced ‘kaus’) rig
^ Kirst and Robin, BFF’s (* This little chick had things right, joyous and free spirited. We laughed hard together)
^ A moment in time. Absolute bliss.
After !Xaus we continued on to explore the Kalahari and it’s animals. It was a dream come true for us to experience the Kalahari and we got so much more than we bargained for!
^ Gareth and lodge manager Richard have an early morning coffee before we hit the road in search of big cats
^ Big cats with spots
^ Cross legged Cheetah filling up
^ Cheeky jackal
^ Gemsbok accessorising
For more information check out !XausLodge in Kgalagadi Transfronteir National Park at www.xauslodge.co.za and bookmark them by liking them on Facebook and Twitter. The food, the views, the staff, game drives and bush walks offer travellers a unique experience we doubt can be received anywhere else in the park. Our experience wasn’t so much about the animals, but more so about experiencing the cultural and indigenous heritage of the park through the San Bushmans eyes. We definitely recommend the lodge as a fascinating destination to learn about the San Bushman culture and to experience the park in style with delicious cuisine.