Friday, November 13, 2009

Khubu Island, Botswana

Next we headed to Khubu (or Lekhubu) Island, located on the southern end of the Sua salt pan, one of the two huge salt pans in the central part of Botswana. The "island" is actually a granite outcrop in the pan, and was actually an island long long ago when the pan was covered by a huge sea. This spot was shown in the BBC's Top Gear Botswana special if you are a fan of that show.

Reaching the island meant driving across part of the pan. All of the guidebooks and maps include dire warnings about driving across then pans when they are wet, as it can be very easy to get stuck and sometimes not so easy to get found. This was definitely on our mind as it had rained recently. It was more on our mind as we approached the pan and the track became more and more puddle-filled. Taking an alternate track around the wettest part, we managed to arrive at the island without incident.

Khubu island is eerily beautiful, with rounded granite rocks stained white with ancient seabird guano. This is sprinkled with some Baobab trees, some very large, and each with an individual personality. We were fortunate and camped beneath one of the largest ones we saw. Frankly the place kind of had the feeling of a Dr. Suess story.

After arriving in the late afternoon we climbed to the top (which is all of 10 meters high) to watch the full moon rise over the pan. We then went back to our campsite where we were surrounded by a herd of cows that kept us awake though the night with their movements, mooing, and toilet activities.

The next day we spent exploring the island, It was really nice to be in a place where we were allowed to walk around - without the fear of being attacked or eaten by wild animals. We enjoyed the scenery and explored the ancient stone walls in the southern part of the island. We also found some stone tools and arrowheads as well as pottery shards from previous residents.

That night, just after we went to bed, some major winds hit, followed by thunder and lightning, then a steady rain that fell through the night. Tossing and turning I wondered how this would affect our ability to drive out across the pan.

When we were getting ready to leave the next morning the camp host asked us if we would be able to take one of the employees to the village, as he was not feeling well. The village was 45k away, on the other side of the pan, and on our way. Happy to have some local expertise with us, we set off with an extra passenger. This turned out to be a very good thing, as the rain had significantly increased the amount of water on the track, completely covering it for several km, which we plowed through. Nectar, our passenger, provided some excellent advice and we completed the journey without incident, other than some frazzled nerves on the part of the driver. He noted that it became really challenging when water covered the entire pan (not just the track) so it became nearly impossible at times to find the track.

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