Winter mornings in the Kalahari are cold and dark, and with no electricity or hot water in our room, we are snug in our beds when the rooster crows at 4:30 a.m. We have a morning bush walk scheduled, and down a quick cup of tea while the sun rises behind the watering hole. Taking an open game drive vehicle to our starting point, we walk through tall grasses on sandy paths left by elephants passing through. It is always obvious when elephants have visited an area, as they leave behind war zone of destruction. Aside from the large piles of elephant dung, trees have been knocked over, branches broken, sometimes even pulled up from their roots to provide food for these large animals, who must eat twenty hours a day to satisfy their appetites.
Eventually, we come upon a watering hole that formed from elephants digging up the ground to trap rain and other water. The holes created by elephants grow larger as other animals drink or bathe in the mud, and eventually the large watering hole becomes a permanent part of the landscape. This hole is completely dried up, the ground cracked from the lack of rain during this winter dry season. Back at the lodge, they must fill the watering hole in the winter to prevent the elephants from becoming aggressive and vandalizing the lodge’s pool and fountains.
The afternoon quickly heats up, and before dinner we take a sunset game drive. Our luck is a little better this evening, and we spot some elephants, giraffes, and an ostrich from the van. When it becomes too dark to search for wildlife, we head deep into the bush to set up a braai (an African barbeque). We start a large campfire, and enjoy traditional beef sausages and boiled potatoes cooked over the fire with pap – sorghum formed into a mash similar to polenta. The Milky Way is clearly visible in the sky as we make our way back to the lodge, wrapped in blankets to keep warm in the cold winter air.