Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

WARNING: CONTAINS MASSIVE SOLIFUGAE…..but there is also a squirrel and a viking)

From Xade (pronounced Kar-déh), along a road with more sand than Sandy McSand’s sand-filled pockets after a day in the sandpit, we covered only 45 kilometers in an hour. Penelope did well, and as the sun began to set we decided to pitch camp in the wilderness buffer area, well before reaching civilisation in the nearest town prior to the border with Namibia.

Camp was quiet after dinner as the fire sparked and crackled. Apart from an unidentifiable pair of eyes which watched us while we sat around the flames (not likely a predator as they were green, not red or yellow), we relaxed after a long and very bumpy day’s drive. As usual, we share a few new tidbits of wild information and do a little research on some animals we saw that day.

Today’s much talked about critter, joined us enthusiastically after dark. Running over my boot a couple of times to Bjorn’s amusement while I was trying to identify it in the book by torchlight, Bjorn and I discover we are surrounded by relatively large, desert-dwelling night spiders that actively hunt and chase down their prey. “Quasimodo-ing” themselves during the day under rocks, we think they’re Orange spiders (Technically not spiders, but Solifugae). Tonight, they’re absolutely unafraid of anything – except matabele ants – those things have the social capabilities of John Prescott after a bad breakfast. Even though not poisonous, thankfully I wasn’t on its list of things to bite. As they are not arachnids, these intrepid and pragmatic creatures don’t use a web as an effective lunch-hunting tool. These guys take the “Viking approach”, only with a little less raping and without such fantastic axes.

I’ve never seen an insect hunt with such ferocity and speed. It’s looks like it could keep up with than any chipmunk or squirrel. Gobbling moths faster than I can chow wine gums, this isn’t a light midnight snack; it’s a glutenous display with a one way ticket to gout. It’s fantastically impressive.

(Not for the bug haters amongst you, but you might like the music)

Once again, proving that our tents are the safest place to be in the bush – they’re completely insect proof once zipped up.

In the morning we packed up the tents and headed for fuel. The town of Ghanzi didn’t disappoint and we even found a restaurant in the Kalahari Hotel which managed a chocolate milkshake and a local speciality of slowly cooked, pulled eland meat. We all indulged. Eland are large antelope with rather splendid, twirled horns. They’re huge bovine….and as everyday is a school day, it may interest you to know that ALL antelope are in fact, bovine. It has a mild flavour; porky-beef-esque that holds spice pretty well. On this occasion though, after so long in the desert, it’s all about the drool-worthy chocolate milkshake!

These are not Eland

Super proud of the fact that Barclays had installed a bank there a few decades ago, the town of Ghanzi was left in our dust. The road to the border is long and very flat. It’s an easy and fast drive, but anything would be simpler than what Penelope has been used to. Sadly, the road also appears to be the final resting place for dozens of donkeys. With so many scavengers around southern Africa like hyena, jackal, vultures, even leopard and other cats, there is rarely any roadkill to witness unless it’s extremely fresh. Big trucks use this road constantly; transporting goods across the Botswana/Namibia border. Sadly at night, donkeys and cows get a little restless and jaywalk. The huge jugonauts take out the unsuspecting farm life and unfortunately, today is a pretty ripe day for seeing the victims. Nature’s waste collection service and disposal units will be along soon and I imagine tomorrow, most of the crime scenes will have disappeared. Nothing here, especially if it’s dead, lasts long. Most donkeys have started to be eaten from the inside out and although rigamortis sets in quickly, it doesn’t take long for carcases to turn to just sun-dried sin and miss-placed bones.

This is not a big truck

As well as dead donkeys everywhere, perfectly live versions wonder around like it’s Berlin after the wall came down. No bells, whistles, ankle ropes or shepherds reed-whipping their hides. Apart from speeding trucks, leopard, lion, wild dog and the occasional hyena that may take something whilst is still living, cows seem to wonder free in the unapologetic heat of the Kalahari region. As a result and although adaptable, many are extremely skinny.

These are not shepherds

As are the wild (ferrel) horses. They are just as ferrel as the “wild” burros (donkeys) roaming around outside Las Vegas in the USA. However, the horses here are large. Apart from being a little scrawny (in the dry season) some even look race-ready. Appearing to wonder free; if chased down by a leopard or wandering lion, it’s a fairly safe bet that a herder has them within a thrown stone distance and they’d be relatively safe. Also, cows and donkey are much easier prey.

These are not cows or donkeys

The drive to Namibia continues…

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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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