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Where The Road Ends

“There are no signs, just follow the road until it ends. You’ll know when you get there.” The Forester glides and slides through the sandy Kgalagadi roads, and home feels very far away in this uninhabitable red dune desert. “Accelerate into your mistake” is the local advice if you start drifting in the deeper sand. […]

Where The Road Ends

“There are no signs, just follow the road until it ends. You’ll know when you get there.”

The Forester glides and slides through the sandy Kgalagadi roads, and home feels very far away in this uninhabitable red dune desert. “Accelerate into your mistake” is the local advice if you start drifting in the deeper sand. They obviously don’t have all-wheel drive. Sand is child’s play  in a Forester.

The road stops at a bamboo gate. This is literally the last farm. On its far side lies the Namibian border. That long straight border drawn up by a boring cartographer with a deadline.  A perfect kalahari sunset is boiling up as we meet Dantes Liebenberg, his son Dennis, and a curious herd of Eland at this last outpost known as Camspannen.

Dressed in his vellies and old army jacket, Dantes starts cracking jokes as we arrive. We rush to unpack because we can tell this is a guy you want to spend some campfire time with.

LTR Dennis, Kim and Danielle at the Camp

He shows us around and urges us to put our beers in the fridge immediately – everything else can wait. The tents are pitched, the campfire is burning, and the woodfire-donkie is boiling so that we can shower before sunset.

As the desert temperatures drop we snuggle up next to the fire and Dantes effortlessly whips up one of the best meals I’ve had in weeks (we’ve been on the road for 7000km and I’m not really used to being catered to). Gemsbok potjie with freshly baked bread, Greek salad and even malva poeding on the braai! You don’t even realize how much he is cooking and baking, because he is also effortlessly entertaining our little troupe.  He just has this way with words, and we can’t help but roll with laughter at his antics and stories.

subaru Forester kgalagadi camping trip

The Kgalagadi at night is spectacular

The next morning the air is crisp and we shake off last night’s freezing-in-a-sleepingbag-stiffness with a steaming cup of coffee. The Kgalagadi is very different to South Africa’s other regions. It is dry and arid. Riverbeds are empty and the red desert dunes stand tall as the rusty old kettle boils water on a Kameeldoring fire.

Kim and Danielle still waking up

 

Dantes has decided that we should take this flashy Subaru Forester for a spin on the dunes. I’m not sure what he has in mind, but next thing he is deflating our tyres and tells me to get ready. Ready for what?!  We head out of the campsite and he gives Kim a little lesson before we head over our first dune… ever.  “Jy sal moet trap sussie. As jy wil duine ry moet jy trap!” Lesson concluded.

Subaru Forester driving the dunes South Africa

Dantes giving us a dune driving lesson

 

We rev the engine to the beat of ‘Another one bites the dust’, and in the name of journalism put the Subie to the test. It is also for scientific reasons that our eyes were closed as we launched across the red kalahari sands. Eye safety.

Subaru Forester South Africa SUV 4x4 Sand Dunes Adventure Kgalagadi

Dantes Liebenberg and our trusty steed the Subaru Forester

 

Dantes braais some homemade boerewors on a dune.

It’s 09:00 AM.

Where in the world do days start like this?!

 

———

 

I think you have to be from the Kgalagadi to be able to live here. You have to understand the land, the plants, the wildlife, the desert and the climate. Mainly just the barrenness. This is not a place for a girl from the Southern Cape. This is a place for people with the type of backbone that can handle extremes and embrace the harshness of the area. People like the !Khomani San Bushmen: an ancient tribe of trackers, tracers, hunters and gatherers – arguably the oldest race of humans still alive.

Vinkie van der Westhuizen is one of them. Well, sort of. She has two bushman grandmothers and a German grandfather on the one side and Indian grandfather on the other. She is the personification of a rainbow nation. A beautiful mix which can only be described as truly South African.

We join Vinkie on Erin Game Farm for ‘Vinkies Kalahari Experience’. Long ago she decided that the best thing she can do to help the !Khomani San is to create a business that can help the people and preserve their culture. Her experience is a bit off-road, so we deflate the tires on our Subaru Forester (again! What is this sorcery?!)  and the sand is no longer an obstacle.

“The government gave me a house a few years ago. I stayed there for a while but I didn’t like it, so I moved back to the bush” says !Xopan, Vinkie’s 2iC and tracker. He’s not kidding. Life in the veldt is simpler, and many of the San say they struggle to adapt to traffic and street lights.

For our sakes, Vinkie calls !Xopan by his ‘English’ name, Elvis. It suits him. He shakes up this place.

Forester Adventure Kgalagadi South Africa

Elvis and Vinkie

Elvis goes for a quick jog through the dunes to check out the scene. “You can see he is a real Boesman – kyk hoe hardloop hy” says Vinkie as our drone struggles to keep up with him.

Elvis says there are Eland close by as he shows us the fresh tracks. Somehow, he knows they are fresh. Armed with a bow and arrow, we walk through the bush and Elvis shows us which plants he uses to stay hydrated and, well… alive.  Every other plant reminds him of a story. It’s as if he is taking a trip through the town he grew up in. Suddenly Elvis crouches down and his hands mimic claws to show us how exactly a lion almost caught him at a bush just like this one!  Ahem. Hoping he’s accurate with that bow and arrow!

Elvis and Danielle

We spend the day with the two of them learning about the San ways. Elvis explains how the men used to run down buck, back in the day. He talks about how fit you would need to be and how the whole story works. Apparently, there aren’t many left who can run them down these days.

Vinkie is worried about the language that is dying. For the longest time they weren’t allowed to speak the ‘gossip language’ so there are few left who can speak it. They lost two of the four ‘oumas’ this year;  the remaining two are teaching the kids. There’s a battle to keep the Bushman culture alive and Vinkie is trying her best to help.

In the 90’s the government gave the !Khomani San six farms in the area, and now the once free-roaming people of the Kalahari can roam free once more. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier park has also reserved a special section for the San tribe inside their borders. There is a little field school where kids are taught the ways of old: the way the Bushman lived, hunted, gathered, healed and spoke, trying to keep it all alive. The park has also granted them permission to hunt inside the borders, as long as the meat is not removed from the park. I thought this was quite cool.

It’s a lot to take in.

Vinkie treats us to drinks and snacks on a Kalahari dune as the sky turns red and the sun sets like it only does in Africa.

Tomorrow we start heading back towards the city. Maybe Elvis has a good thing going in the bush after all.

 

Book your own Experience or find out more about the adventures you can go on with Dantes at www.kalahari-tours.co.za

Book your cultural trip with Vinkies Kalahari Experience on www.kalaharivinkie.co.za