When we arrived at Dqae on November 5th, we only intended to stay 2-3 nights. That was before I was motivated by their existing site map... we didn't leave until the 14th! During that time we navigated the entire farm (more than 150 km) and I mapped every pan, campsite, water tap, view point, and amenity I could find, and realized just how special a place we'd found. Our first night in Dqae we were just in time for a traditional Bushman trance dance around the fire. The area hadn't received any rain for a long long time, but the night looked promising. As the dancing and chanting continued, the storm clouds grew overhead. Will this work? About an hour or so into the performance, a miracle happened.... it began to pour. Not just a sprinkle, but a real rain – the first rains of the season and desperately needed. It was incredible, but it didn't last and sadly there was no rain the rest of our stay. It was just Kalahari hot – something new for me. There's humid hot, dry hot, scorching hot, hot hot, Sowa Pan hot.... and then there is Kalahari hot. All you can do is sit under a tree and wait for the sun to start going down. You awake at 5am with the sun, for fear of melting in your tent if you wait a minute longer. Luckily for us, there was a pool at the lodge. Yes, a pool in the desert and it was wonderful. In return for the map, the managers graciously provided a few nights lodging (real bed #4!) and some cold Windhoek lagers.
While we mapped the roads, we looked for cheetah, zebra, eland, kudu, ostrich, and hyena. We found cheetah prints and cheetah cub prints, but after 9 days of scanning the farm still no cheetah. Elusive that one! One night we were joined at our campfire by a San who honored us by telling a few traditional San stories. His imitations of the animals were spot-on, and the jackal became a crew favorite.
The 2 Aussies departed during this time, and we all took a trip to Maun to wish them well. On the way to the airport we ran out of diesel - we had to give them one final thrill! The South African was able to siphon from a passing truck (for a small fortune), however, and they still made it in time.
On the way back to Dqae we stopped at Lake Ngami, one of the coolest and eeriest place we've visited. Lake Ngami is located north of the Kalahari and is part of the Okavango Delta. The lake has remained dry for most of the past century up until 2009 when it began filling with water. Prior to this, the community grazed cattle on this dry land - land that today is completely submerged. The community now lives part of the year here fishing. We were told that they leave the area for a few months during breeding season to let the fish regenerate - I was blown away by this! Overfishing plagues so many places in the world, and these people make a serious effort to avoid depleting the resources of Lake Ngami. Inspiring. A fisherman took us for a ride on his canoe, and I was speechless. There are maribou storks, heron, other water birds - and a beautiful flat lake. Trees that were not destroyed by the flooding still stand, and poke through the surface. In some places you can see the remnants of a livestock fence. The lake felt completely out of place in the Kalahari, yet it was surprisingly peaceful. I would love to come back and see how this ecosystem develops - we saw the beginnings of some water grasses and more will come for sure.
The time spent at Dqae was incredible, and I look forward to a return visit. The lodge and land are very important to the San, and the experience has emblazoned my passion to do more for conservation through mapping and GIS. Let's do this!
Combining a passion for travel, the desire to make a difference and a love of maps, MaggieMaps was born. A place to share stories, resources, and a way to inspire and support others in realizing their individual travel dreams.
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Unless otherwise noted, all prose, poetry, maps and photography posted on this blog are Copyright 2013 Maggie Maps
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