Its winter time and my body clock is telling me the harvest is in so we should be packing our trusty Toyota Prado 4 x 4 with its rooftop tent and all our camping equipment in readiness for an adventure. We have had the most amazing journeys over landing through various African countries over the past years but since we are not travelling anywhere this year I will indulge myself in the treasure chest of photographs and delight in the memories once again! Of all the places I’d love to visit again one of the most frightening and eerie would be…
… the vast emptiness of the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana. The Makgadikgadi Pans are the remains of an ancient super lake, and their surface glistens with salt creating a vast empty moonscape which extends as far as the eye can see. Lying southeast of the Okavango Delta and surrounded by the Kalahari Desert, Makgadikgadi is technically not a single pan but many pans with sandy desert in between, the largest being the Sowa, Ntwetwe and Nxai Pans. The largest individual pan is about 4,921.0 km2.
We set out from the village of Gweta in search of the single track which would lead us across the pan – easier said than done! There is an intricate web of dusty roads threading to and fro around the edge of the pan leading to the many African huts scattered on the
We eventually spotted it – the tenuous lifeline beckoning to us to venture on to the parched salty surface. So many dire warnings rang in our ears – It’s easy to become disorientated: The surface is deceptive as the crust could suddenly give way to mud and suck our vehicle into a quagmire: Traffic is scarce and any breakdown on that barren moonscape would likely leave us stranded in a world of silent emptiness for who knows how long!
I cannot begin to describe the adrenaline rush of speeding across the pans with the thrill of adventure coursing through our veins. The absence of familiar sights and sounds and no landmarks as far as the eye could see.
A cluster of distant black shimmering specks drifted eerily across the horizon –
… and suddenly the track ended in a series of wildly formed doughnuts where joyriders had spun circles on the salt surface turned around and headed back the way we had come – we had taken the wrong track and ahead of us lay a whitescape of nothingness – We decided to keep pushing onwards as we had a general idea of direction, we had our GPS navigators but what helped us most in the end, once the signals were no longer feeding into our techie gadgets, were the good old faithful topographical maps and rulers…
there was a worrying half hour or so when we really weren’t sure which direction to head and what we thought was ‘land ahoy’ turned out to be yet another small grassy island in the expanse of desert white!
We tracked then backtracked until quite fortuitously we spotted the right track and happily sailed onto the magic thread that would take us to our campsite at Kubu Island. This is an isolated granite outcrop, some 10m high and a kilometre long, known as Kubu Island. It forms the shape of a crescent, and its slopes are terraced with fossil beaches of wave-rounded pebbles, providing startling evidence of the prehistoric lake’s former water levels. Crowned with an array of ancient, gnarled baobabs and surrounded on three sides by a vast grey emptiness, Kubu has a unique atmospheric beauty. No words can describe this beauty – it is something felt just as much as it is seen!