Makgadikgadi Pans, Khumaga Gate

The Tamalakhane River runs south-west out of Maun and when it turns east it’s called the Boteti. After a while it runs southward forming the western boundary of the huge Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park.

At Kumagha village there’s a gate into the park. When the river has water in it a ferryman carries you across, one vehicle at a time.

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– our ferryman is Tiaan, Kalahari character –

We were guests at Tiaan’s Camp as Tiaan is looking for someone to help him start a new admin system and Janet’s just the person to do that. I got lucky as they decided she needed to visit him to check out the camp and discuss how Janet’s consultancy could run the project for him. Tiaan is a character. He was once a diplomat although you would never guess that in a game of Twenty Questions. Nor in game of One Hundred and Twenty Questions.

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Tiaan has run mobile safaris in Zambia, Botswana and Zululand among many other places. He has been involved in lodges on the Delta panhandle and has now settled in Khumaga village in a camp he built himself with comfy chalets, lovely campsites, a crystal-clear swimming pool and a huge central building housing an open dining area, an open raised deck overlooking the Boteti where 22 elephants came to bathe the afternoon we arrived.

AND he operates a cool bar run on the honour system. You know, gooi and skryf.

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– gin n tonic n eles –

He has a delightful accent, a mischievous laugh, speaks three languages well, and has an amazing store of tales from brain surgery to government service to building in Botswana and Jakobsbaai on the Cape West Coast; to safaris, interesting guests, religion, Land Rovers (he’s afflicted with six of them), philosophy and fascinating animal stories. Maybe he does have a diplomatic side, but he keeps it well-camouflaged.

He took us on a game drive in one of his Land Rovers – and we didn’t even break down – so he could show us his knowledge of and love for his patch, the very southern end of the great Okavango Delta, just before the waters from Angola sink into the Kalahari sand for the very last time at Lake Xau.

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate
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The next day Janet and I took her old Toyota – now well over 400 000km on the clock – into the park along the green Boteti river valley. The water was dropping so the ferryman had me move the Toyota forward a couple metres, then back a couple metres on the ferry to rock it across the shallows. We found plenty of interesting little things to photograph, and only got stuck in the deep sand once.

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In between all this there were the gin n tonics, whiskies, beers and Tiaan’s home-made absinthe, generously dispensed – the absinthe gratis on the wonderful Tiaan system of “Have another and listen to this . . . !”

Interesting birds included Double-banded Sandgrouse, Acacia Pied Barbet, Hoopoe, Crimson-breasted Boubou, a young Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydahs, Red-faced Mousebird, Bateleur, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Blue-cheeked, European and Little Bee-eaters, Meyers Parrot, Goliath Heron and a Grey-backed Cameroptera who clacked at me fourteen times! Here in KwaZulu Natal they usually clack five to seven times. Here are some Lee Ouzman pics from his website:

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– Lee Ouzman pics –

Before this leg of the trip we had been to Mogotlhong.

~~~oo0oo~~~

gooi and skryf – honour system in a bar: pour your dop and write it down, you’ll be billed later

dop – grog