From amazing wildlife to the ancient people of the Kalahari we move to stay at Molopo lodge, near a Khomani San community. In the middle of our photography tour we are in the Green Kalahari area of the Northern Cape, South Africa. The Khomani San, popularly generalised as the ‘Bushman’ people have lived around this area for centuries and now Dawid, an elder of the local community, would be showing us their ancient tracking methods.
Half our size, Dawid is in traditional dress and his many battle scars are evident. His face too displays all evidence of harsh living, weathered & wise, he could be 60 years old. He speaks two languages, Afrikaans & traditional San and he understands English, a respected elder he is all of 27, we hear from our translator Lienkie.
He leads us silently along a track through the veld (outback). Unlike our walk with the game-ranger a few days ago where we saw obvious prints in the sand, Dawid stops to point out tracks where we didn’t even realise there were any, he tells us what made them and when. When we ask if a curvy line in the sand was a snake he laughs slightly, tells us no – Chongololo – giant millipede, and moves on.
As we continue on my camera strap gets hooked by a bush & my casual attempt to brush it off with a laugh is unsuccessful & catches the attention of Dawid and our translator. “Oh you must be careful that’s dangerous” Lienkie says. I hear David say in Afrikaans “Wag-n-bietjie boom”, excitedly I recognise the translation must be a ‘Wait-a-Bit tree’ which I yell excitedly and Lienkie confirms for me ‘yes a Wait-a-Bit tree’ – The Gods Must Be Crazy! For some reason it’s a part of this great movie that stuck with me – if you cast your minds back, the blonde american woman gets stuck in this tree and Stain comes to help her out “That’s a ‘Wait-a-Bit Tree’” he says, “You mustn’t go near a Wait-a-Bit Tree, they grab you”. I love the name!
Lienkie confirms that indeed people can get stuck in such a bush and die. On close inspection we see that the thorns are not the typical straight thorns but rather hook around at the tip. I feel as pleased at having seen this tree as I was at finding the meerkat a few days earlier.
Further ahead Dawid finally becomes excited at finding something in the long grass, tracks of an Aardvark, recent, he shows us how the animal rested and dug the beginnings of a tunnel but for some reason decided not to make it his home.
We hear about various other plants and tracks, including the traditional ‘healing tree’ which has been decorated with a necklace of healing herbs & has been surrounded by rocks in the shape of a star.
Near the end of our tracking tour Dawid again gets excited, this time about a bush which to us looks just like all the bushes we’ve been passing on this tour, but Lienkie also gets excited and dives into the bush pulling out some greens from its middle. “This” she tells us taking a bite of what looks like thick string beans “is very good, my daughter loves it, it’s like candy for her”.
I also try some, it’s not great, juicy and a bit sour, but Lienkie happily munches away until we say our farewells.
Keturah de Klerk