Day 12 – Bushmen and a lion!

On day twelve we were up early again… It’s getting repetitive to say we were up early! Let’s just assume unless I say otherwise we were up before the sun!!! You can also safely assume that Jess is grumpy and speaking in monosyllables and that I haven’t had enough sleep because I’ve been up late the previous night blogging or doing laundry or just generally organizing STUFF. So I’m grumpy too because it’s my job to get everyone out of bed and moving. Grant is on autopilot until he’s had three cups of coffee.
We had a quick cup of tea/coffee and headed out for our guided bushman walk. We drove a little ways through the desert until we spotted lion tracks… And then headed the opposite way for our walk!

Once on the ground, our guide had us all walk in single file so he could clear the ground for snakes and so we’d be in between the two guides should we come upon a lion: “never run from a lion, like all cats they love to chase things. Stay behind me and let me deal with the situation.” I’m not entirely sure what he’d have DONE to deal with it should we have come upon a lion as he only had a walking stick with him for a weapon! 

We spent the next 45 minutes or so walking a couple of sand dunes and learning about the local flora and fauna. He showed us tons of medicinal plants; things for insect repellent, upset stomach, etc. he also told us a funny story about porcupines. Porcupines eat almost exclusively medicinal roots. If a child is sick and they can’t figure out what’s wrong they give him some of the contents of a porcupine’s stomach! The child usually recovers swiftly. I’m not surprised- with that approach who would want MORE medicine! 

We saw sociable weaver bird nests that take years to build and eventually form massive colonies. They often “sublet” space to a small falcon that returns the favour by keeping the tree free of malicious insects and lizards. When the colonies become too large, they often break off an entire tree branch and can sometimes take out an entire tree!

We learned a lot about how plants and animals are adapted to life without easy access to water. Some of the acacia trees have roots that go down over 300 feet into the water table! Most animals never need to drink – only giraffe and blue wildebeest – all others get moisture from water storing plants like summer melons. Predators gain moisture from the blood of their prey. The man made water holes are there primarily to keep animals around for the tourists. Otherwise they would roam farther out in search of more water bearing plants.

We headed back to the lodge after our walk for breakfast. Our family all had yummy omelettes, but the waitress misunderstood and brought Cameron a plate of mushrooms instead of a mushroom omelette! He was too polite to correct her so he had mushrooms for breakfast. Poor kid. 

After breakfast we headed into the Khomani San craft village. Prior to our departure, one of the lodge staff was explaining how the Khomani San ended up where they are – they are a very pushed around and marginalized race of people! Obviously, no sane person would choose to live in an area with such scarce resources, however with pressure from both white immigrants and the other black tribes, they ended up in the Kalahari desert and adapted to life there. This persecution is still all very recent history – until 2008 it was still legal in South Africa to hunt Khomani San because they were officially classified as “vermin!” Needless to say, they’re a bit shy. 

The lodge staff also explained that they now wear clothes much like we do and want all the same material goods. The craft village is both a tourist attraction (source of income) and a way to help teach their young people some of the old traditions. They still have some schools in the local village to try to retain the tribal language and traditions. 

We walked the short distance to the craft “village.” It was NOT AT ALL what I expected. I expected the Khomani San to be wearing western clothes and demonstrating traditional crafting techniques. Instead, it was more of a living museum where everyone was wearing traditional garb.

I guess it’s pretty much the same as “Indian village” at the Calgary stampede – which doesn’t bother me at all. But, the traditional clothes of the Khomani San leave very little to the imagination. The women are bare to the waist and wearing brief skirts and the men wear essentially g string loincloths. It just felt – awkward – not sure if it was our western attitude to nudity or the fact that these people no longer choose to dress this way in every day life and essentially strip for the tourists… I dunno. It was truly awkward and you could see around the corner were they had piled all their “real” clothes.

Only one of the elders even wanted to talk to us. A very “elderly” man of 53 chatted with us for a while and our guide translated his Afrikaans to English for us. I had wanted to buy some crafts but there were very few items on display. Very odd place indeed.  

We headed back to the lodge where we had opted out of lunch given the huge breakfast. Jess went for a swim and Grant passed out in the sun by the little pool. I spent the afternoon on the deck watching tiny birds flit in and out of the bushes in front of me and lizards dart up the walls and along the sand and catching up on blogging. One less than brilliant lizard spent the better part of five minutes trying to push his head through a crack in the deck that was clearly too small! 

In the late afternoon we piled back into the 4x4s for a sundown game drive. We actually saw one of the rare black maned lions! We didn’t get much of a view of him but it was our first lion and a rare sight in the Kalahari. We saw a few other animals but not a ton of stuff. We drove around and had a look at some of the other nearby salt pans as well. 

Finally we stopped at the far side of the pan opposite our lodge and cracked open our drinks and snacks and settled in to watch the spectacular sunset over the Kakahari. The sunset was amazing and I amused myself while waiting for the sun to go down by taking about a million pictures of all the perfect little tracks left by lizards and birds and mice. They were so cute!

We headed back to the lodge for the worst dinner we’d had on the tour. They must have been having a really off night because dinner was awful. The mashed potatoes tasted like they had accidentally flavoured them with soap flakes (I seriously had to rinse my mouth out after one bite) and my steak was really thin and hard. Jess’s was better and she didn’t want it so I ate hers. 

Overall, though, the lodge was fantastic. The maid service and the guides were all very good. Kitchen just needs a little work! 

After dinner we stuck around chatting a bit – Jess and I tried to teach Misheck bananagrams but I had to duck out mid game to pay our very reasonable bill. Knowing that we would soon lose electricity, we headed back to the room to shower and pack for the next day.

Everyone else went to sleep and I stepped out on the deck to stargaze in the darkness (new moon + no electricity!) until I started to feel like leopard bait and went inside to sleep!

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