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Thursday, October 12, 1995

Africa Journal - Kalahari

Thursday, October 12, 1995

"They Look So Clean!"

Our last full day on safari. A day in the desert. The Kalahari is Edward’s favorite camp. Fewer safari trucks. Fewer campers. Fewer people. This is where Edward goes on holiday. He drives out to the Kalahari alone in The Beast to camp. He used to sleep in the cab, with his head and feet hanging out the doors. One night he woke to find lion staring at his head. Now he sleeps on the canvas top over the back of the truck.


The wildlife here are not as accustomed to the trucks and do not let us approach as closely. Nevertheless we have a great spotting day, including animals we had not seen before. We see Oryx, honey badger, desert squirrels, and barking geckos. We see ostrich doing a mating dance, and a jackal digging in a burrow for squirrels. We see a cheetah in the far distance, but it does not let us get close.

Barking Gecko
Familiarity with the heat does not make it more tolerable. In the afternoon everyone showers and wears wet towels. As we head out on the afternoon drive we encounter another Afro-Ventures safari truck going the other way. It is what Afro-Ventures calls a participation tour, which is distinguished from the Hemingway Tour by the fact that the campers actually participate in the camp work. They are also larger groups. Edward converses briefly with their guide, and as they pull away we hear one of the campers say wistfully "They look so clean." Apparently they don’t get as much water on that tour.

We watch the sunset at Deception Pan. During the rainy season, the pan is covered with a meter of water over several square kilometers. Thousands of flamingos and other birds flock here on their migrations. Now the pan is dry, desolate and empty. Mineral salts cause the sand/soil to dry into crumbly grey nodules that crunch into dust under your feet. It is the color of wet ground, and as you approach the pan you expect to find water. From a short distance away, you can see the water. But there is no water.

The sun is an orange ball rolling off the edge of the Pan. As the light fades the air is filled with the staccato clap of barking geckos. There are places where the wonder of nature’s quilt is woven from the overwhelming beauty of the fabric, and there are places where the wonder is spun out of the unexplainable strangeness in the thread. That is Deception Pan.

It is our last night in Botswana. At dinner, Manfred delivers a wonderful toast for Edward that eloquently expresses our admiration and appreciation. After dinner the entire staff joins us around the campfire for champagne, and I toast the staff. I offer up the last of my Montecristos. Only Alfred, the chef, accepts and joins me in a smoke. He makes a theatrical show out of sniffing, lighting, and puffing the cigar, to the great amusement of Edward and the staff. We exchange stories on our favorite parts of the trip.

I jokingly ask Edward if we were the best group he ever had on tour. He says he'll tell us in the morning. Alfred says we were the best. Everyone laughs.

I am the last to leave the campfire. It's quiet. I sip brandy, and slowly finish the cigar.


 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 (, 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.

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