Deception Pan to Piper Pan, Central Kalahari GR
Distance : 105.6 km
Deception Pan is aptly named.
From a distance the pan looks like it is full of water and this delusion is maintained up to within a hundred or so meters. It’s only when you get really close to the pan that you realise what you are seeing is not water but merely the dark soil that covers the centre of the pan when it is dry – which is for most of the year.
Any poor traveller in the past, tortured by heat and thirst, surrounded by the savannah-like Deception Valley, his horse barely able to move and his own body at the end of its reserves, would catch sight of what would appear to be a miracle in the dry Kalahari. Unfortunately, if he arrived at this point at the end of the dry season, it would have to be just that – a miracle – for it to be true. As I said – aptly named indeed.
The road from the Deception Camps to the Piper Camps follows an old river bed. The flat valley looks much like the savannah of Central Africa, but without the teaming herds of animals. The valley is dotted with clumps of trees that provide shade and refuge to the animals and birds that thrive in the semi-desert of the central Kalahari.
This part of the Kalahari is not a desert in the dry, sandy way of the Sahara and the Namib, but more a semi-arid desert where the seasonal rainfall is just enough to sustain a variety of plant life. In August/September – the time of year that we were there – rain has not been experienced for six or seven months and the sandy soils are drier than your mouth the morning after an extremely heavy night before. Hence the old saying – “Drier than a bushman’s footprint”.
The fascinating thing about this is the number of animals and birds that call this home. How does an eland – the largest of the antelope family (in southern Africa), who can reach 900 kg and jump a 2m game fence with ease – manage to survive the dry months? Not to mention the gemsbok who have adapted so well to survival in the arid regions of south western Africa that they do not depend on drinking water for their physiological needs.
Summer, and the coming of the rains, changes the scenery dramatically with the burst of green running rampant over the landscape and turning the region into a garden of Eden. Problem is, six months later, its the devils playground again!
However, because we were suitably prescient in our planning we ensured that we did not have to pull a gemsbok and drive around with a dry mouth that was full of even drier teeth…
No – because we brought beer!
Thus, after setting off fairly early in the morning after breakfast and breaking camp, we were taking a leisurely drive down Deception Valley and spotting our first game for the day and relaying our spots over the radios.
We had a radio in each car with a range of up to 5km. This helped keep in touch when out of site with the other vehicle. And also meant we could point out – between vehicles – any good sightings worth mentioning.
“Gemsbok, 2 o’clock, 300m”
“Kori bustard, 7 o’clock, 40m, left of the bush”
And, obviously, a lot of chatter that was neither enlightening nor appropriate but very entertaining. And certainly not to be repeated here.
Which lead to the best comment of the day. I spotted something lying in the bush to the left of us. I called Sharpie – the driver – to stop while I tried to identify the pair of ears that I could see barely visible in the grass. Sharpie leaned across to look just as three heads – with big ears – popped up, turned and trotted off away from us.
Sharpie, in his childlike excitement, grabbed the radio and blurted out “Hunting dogs….hunting dogs, 9 o’clock, 80m, hunting dogs!!!”
After a pregnant pause, Marks laconic reply wafted across the airwaves from the other car, “Uuh Owen, I think you are confusing hunting dogs, which do not occur here, with wild dogs – a legitimate sighting. And, furthermore, you will find that those are, in fact, bat eared fox”
The ensuing roars of laughter cleared that part of the valley of all animals for the next 20 minutes…
Thus we made our way down the valley towards Piper Pan. We spotted a bird trying to pick something up in the veld which turned out to be a horn – possibly the remains of a springbok – that it eventually gave up on and flew off to the nearby tree line.
We also spotted a pair of male lion resting under a tree close to the road. Despite our mental pressure they did not leap up and hunt down a springbok so I had to settle for pictures of them just lying there…
And those are not ticks and fleas on the lion – they are thorny burrs that stick to everything. I know – I’m still picking them of my tent and shoes…
We also saw a variety of other animals that all seemed to be in remarkably good condition despite the lack of water or anything remotely resembling green grass…
We were also treated to a herd of about 60 eland…
The drive slowly degenerated from the wide savannah of the valley into a closed in bush made mainly of scrubby bushes and the odd lonely tree. And the road got worse. And we travelled sloooooowly until we finally made it to the Piper Pan camp site where we settled in for the night.
Stats for the day:
Distance 105.6 km
Min Alt 952.010 meters
Max Alt 1002.810 meters
Max Speed 51.7 km/hour
Avg Speed 11.4 km/hour