Wednesday, October 11, 1995
"How hot is it?"
I asked the pilot. "I shudder to think."
He replies. I tap the dial thermometer in the window of the Cessna Centurion. It twitches and settles at a little over 50 degrees Celsius. No one knows the conversion to Fahrenheit. "We’re probably better off not knowing."
We are the on the ground now, at what we are calling the Kalahari International Airport, nothing more than a stretch of cleared dirt next to a an island of scrubby trees. The tree island was the campsite of the couple that wrote Cry of the Kalahari
before they were kicked out of Botswana. This was their landing strip, now used primarily by safari operators to ferry campers in and out of the area.
We are standing next to our bags, under the little shade afforded by dry trees. The pilots are conferring next to the two Cessnas sitting improbably on the sand. One walks over to us. "Look, we do this all the time.
" He pulls off his cap and wipes his brow. "I’m sure Eddy will be here in a few minutes, but we’ve got to take off now."
He turns and walks back to the plane. The other pilot has already fired up the engine of the first Cessna. As our pilot climbs back into his plane he shouts back at us. "We’ll buzz his campsite on the way out."
They wave, and they’re gone.
We’re alone now, the six of us under a tree pretending it provides shade in the mid-day sun. With the planes gone, there is nothing to distinguish the landing strip from the rest of the Kalahari. I look at Sigrid. She looks away. We chose October to travel to escape the worst of the summer heat. We have since learned that October is the last month before the rains start, and is generally the hottest month of the year. They call it suicide month. And we are sitting on our bags, in the middle of nowhere, on the hottest day, of the hottest month, in the middle of the Kalahari desert. Wayne is obsessing over the Fahrenheit calculation. He thinks he knows the formula, and soon announces that it is 125 degrees Fahrenheit. No one believes him. He was right.
"What if something happened to Edward?"
Sigrid asks "What if he doesn’t come?"
I don’t answer. I walk out into the sun and kick over a rock. A small, sand colored lizard scurries out and runs from me into an open area. It is looking desperately for another rock. it crosses an area of dark sand and starts to jump straight into the air. It jumps until it lands on its back then twists slowly and stops. I imagine I can hear a small sizzling sound.
Perspiration from my hatband drips into my eyes. I squint into the distance. There. I think I see something on the horizon. I watch a small dot, wavering in the heat. I am afraid to say anything, not sure if it is a trick of the sand.
The dot grows. "It’s Edward."
I say. Everyone stands and looks where I am pointing. He is walking toward us out of the desert. "Where’s the truck?"
Manfred asks. No one answers. As his shape takes form, I can see he is carrying a black bag over his shoulder. His smile is gone.
"I had two blowouts in the heat." He throws the bag on the ground. It is filled with soft drinks and water from the cooler. "We must walk to the camp."
He says. "Leave everything, we will carry only water."
Amy starts to cry.
Okay. None of this actually happened. Well, some of it is true. October really is called suicide month, and it really was 52 degrees Celsius and the pilot really did say "I shudder to think."
and we really were in the Kalahari and I really did kick over a rock. But, Edward and The Beast were there to meet us when we landed, and the lizard immediately scurried safely under another rock. You see, I had this great series of images of Edward walking out of the desert, and I really wanted to use them, so I got carried away.
This is what really happened: Edward had to run down the Cessna before it took off, because it still had Wayne’s bag in it. I videotaped him walking back with the bag.
That morning, before flying out of Okavango Camp, we had time for one last game drive in the boat and Letto took us for a spin. The motor died as we drifted toward a pod of hippos, which provided some real excitement that morning. The motor fired and we escaped without incident.
The chartered Cessnas landed on the island to take us to our last camp in the Kalahari. We dub the two planes The Hemingway Air Force. In the air we watch the green watery vistas of the delta transition to the dry, dusty, browns of the desert.
At the mobile camp, I take a shower to cool off, drape a soaked towel over my head, and endure the wait until the afternoon game drive.
On the afternoon drive we come across a family of Meerkat, and have a great time watching them pop in and out of their burrows.
We finish the day at an artificial waterhole. Edward tells us that it has not been pumped in weeks. He had driven to town for diesel and started it himself yesterday. There are a few animal tracks, some bones, and lizards under rocks.
NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted to an abandoned domain (NetSnake.com), the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. Links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were graphics and screen caps from video which I am leaving in it's low-rez glory for historical integrity. My intent is to also add some of Sigrid's higher quality scanned photos to these blog back-posts. The difference in images should be obvious.