Desert environments distill time and allow for undiluted thought processes , its also a place one can test to see how tough one really is. absolutely no city static to interfere with ones thinking.
the Kalahari is a very special place and if you have the opportunity to go to the trans-frontier national park - Kgalagadi, its really well worth a visit for a few days. the intensity of the place for me is absolute food for the soul. to my mind its as Africa wild as one can safely go now days.
Many, many years ago before all the rules started accompanying every trip to the hinterlands of Africa. and things like game parks formally existed to contain the wild. i went on an excursion with a Zambian copper miners son and an ex Rhodesian. i am a Capetonian or what is called a Kaapenaar, so the "bush" isnt an environment i am really comfortable in. put me on the sea and im home - put me in the bush and im suddenly very respectful of every single small noise i hear. what with lions and serious wild animals - the deep bush is not for the feint of heart. and its definitely not a place to venture in with 2 old timers who are scared of absolutely nothing. we did have cliff richards greatest hits keeping us company - need i say more.
we drove 300km deep into the "bush" the area we transgressed was to my mind over predatised and along the single dirt track we traveled was plenty of lion spore , the occasional cheetah spore and plenty of game tracks. cheetah spore is amazing as the claws do not retract - giving the cheetah sprinters spikes whilst chasing down springbok. so its easy enough to differentiate from other cat spore.
the reality with the lions within a desert environment - you see their tracks but you rarely see them - they are super stealthy and brilliant at keeping hidden.
for this excursion i brought along my little 2 man pap tent which was a miserable excuse for a tent really - made in a far off land for children to put up in the back yard. not for the bush at all, which really requires a proper canvas fabric tent - not the pathetic tent i brought into these unforgiving lands.
so that night we found our spot to camp near a waterhole and had a lekker braai , a couple of whiskeys and enjoyed the night time sounds and green eye torch show that only Africa can dish up. the hyenas where fairly well behaved - however im not scared of these creatures of the night. its the lion that leaves me completely cold. it was full moon and i got to sleep around 9pm in the tent designed for keeping the mist from your face. anything other than mist and the tent is completely useless. in fact i was a little scared to even break wind in fear the tent would immediately be whisked away into the night.
it was then the car was started and the one African bush maestro headed out with the only vehicle for miles around, to sleep under the stars far away from the paper thin tent and its 2 occupants. the Zambian wasn't perturbed and started snoring immediately - i was extremely fortunate to get to sleep fairly easily and was out until 3am. i was suddenly woken by the urge to go to the loo. fortunately the minor of the 2 options. i was also awoken by lions making a sound that i couldn't attempt to even explain. a sound like many deep resonating instruments playing over each other. it was a low rumbling type roar - it was an extremely deep growl that came out like a oooOOOOOOWAH sound. deep ominous and completely and utterly frightening. i lay awake for half an hour listening to the noise of the lions around the tent - im not sure how close they where as water tends to bounce sound over it. but it sounded like they where exactly right next to me. i lay their completely frozen - and it was then i realized something i never thought possible. why exactly these cunning predatory creatures emit that exact sound. its a sound that the base of which comes up through the ground and hits you exactly in the stomach. and then because the sound is so completely frightening your stomach and its contents becomes a massive issue. now fear and bravery are strange things. your fear leads you to the point you desperately need the loo - whilst your bravery is linked to how urgently you need to go. so at a point in this cacophony of lion sound i charged off from the safety of the paper thin tent and into the night, to answer natures call. and no it wasnt the lions i was answering. how i did not get eaten is a mystery only Africa can explain. as the next day we saw lion spore all around the paper tent and a big young male lion made his way into the veld close by our camp very early the next morning.
Africa in its raw undiluted form is incredible - however from then on i didnt go further than 1m from the vehicle - the little metal cubicle of safety. now i am braver in the bush now days but i made 1 resolution - i would never ever go into the deep bush again in someone elses vehicle - i would only go into the bush if i was driving and only in my own transport.