Day 35: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

Many readers of the blog ask me where exactly the search area is. Before I continue relating the trails and trials of the expedition let me explain where exactly we are searching for this elusive battlefield, the subject of Chapter 37 in The Scourge of the Kaiserbird.

The battle took place inside Botswana territory, in what is today part of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park. Previously Botswana was known as Bechuanaland and the Botswana side of Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park was known as the Gemsbok Park. The South African side of Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park was previously known as the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.

Map-2 copy
The area of the battlefield is indicated with the arrow.

Many tourists are well acquainted with the wonderful Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park. It is South Africa’s most booked national park, more so than Kruger. I have on many occasions “camped” outside Sanparks’ Reservation House, in the cold and dark, here in Pretoria in order to be first in the queue for a certain booking of a certain camp. Reservations are very hard to come by.

All that is applicable to the South Africa side of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park which offers “luxury” camping and accommodation. On the Botswana side of the Park there is very little facilities which makes it even more attractive to me. One mostly camps rough in this area. In the southern part of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park, Botswana side, the Mabuasehube part of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park is well known amongst 4×4 enthusiasts. There are a number of trails with camping spots which are frequented by the adventurous in spirit.

However, further north from Mabuasehube is a part of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park which very few people have ever seen and experienced. This also where the Lost Battlefield is located. It is a most inhospitable area with no surface water and no boreholes, except for one at the Kaa Gate and one, occasionally in use at a place called Swartpan. For the rest it is bone dry, giving true meaning to the word arid. There are relatively few animals, especially predators. That of course is not to the liking of “normal tourists” but to me it adds to the mystical and mythical air of the place.

Map-1 copy
The estimated location of the battlefield near Sesatswe. The map is from Herman van den Berg’s excellent book, Self Drive Kgalagadi.

We did see lions on this trip. Never ever, think that that is safe to wander about without a care in the world. This is wild, wild, Africa.

leeu
We saw two splendid male lions right next to Kaa Gate.

The Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park can be accessed from three countries, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.

Carsten Möhle and Heiko Schmidt with Chief Hanse and Benno Hanse came from Windhoek, via Gobabis and then down south along the Trans Kalahari highway. Our group travelled from Pretoria along the N4 highway towards Rustenburg, Zeerust, Skilpadnek Border Gate, where we entered Botswana. That is approximately 4 hours driving. We then travelled northwards along the same Trans Kalahari highway, past Jwaneng and on towards Kang. At Kang one turns west and then follow a beautiful and very quiet tar road for 100 kilometers where Hukuntsi is situated. Hukuntsi is a small town but it offers some shops and fuel.

From Hukuntsi one travels further west, along a very sandy dirt track, for 65 kilometers to the little village called Zutswa where the only activity is a salt pan. It is at Zutswa where one enters what used to be called a “Controlled Hunting Area.” One has to pay a small community fee at an honesty box to enter and traverse this area. One then drives on another bad dirt track through arguably the most beautiful part of the Kalahari for another 65 kilometers until one reaches Kaa Gate, the Botswana entrance to the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park where on average fewer than one tourist party per day arrives.  There is one toilet at the gate as well as a tap with water, not for drinking. Less than a kilometer away is an emergency campsite with a long drop toilet and water.

From the gate we travelled on the Polentswa Trail, against the normal traffic (in terms of our research permit), towards Polentswa, on the very bad and sandy little track, for another 35 kilometers southwest to the campsite known as Sesatswe, not to be confused with the campsite Sizatswe north of Kaa Gate. Sesatswe is the base camp for these expeditions because it is believed to be close to the Lost Battlefield.

Sesatswe can also be reached from the South Africa side of the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park and that is actually the only way that tourists can get there. If one wants to visit the area as a tourist one has to book the Polentswa Trail, a wilderness trail, strictly for 4×4 vehicles. Reservations are made at the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks. A reservation allows one to spend two days on the trail, camping the first night at Sesatswe and the second night at Lang Rambuka. The trail starts at Polentswa, another rough, i.e. no facilities, camping spot 60 kilometers north of Nossob. So, normally tourists wanting to do the Polentswa Trail would enter the Kgalagadi Trans Frontier Park from the South Africa side, at Twee Riviere, and then travel the four hours north along the Nossob river bed, fill up with fuel at Nossob, the last opportunity to do so. They would then travel north to Polentswa where the trail starts and then travel the 90 kilometers along the trail, camp at Sesatswe, travel 80 kilometers the next day and spend the night at Lang Rambuka before returning to Nossob.

Our research permit allowed us to spend the week at Sesatswe. During this week we returned to Kaa Gate once to get water and we sent one of our vehicles to Nossob to get fuel. a trip which took Benno Hanse the entire day.

We were a convoy of four Toyota vehicles and one Mistubishi Triton. The Triton stayed with the Toyotas every step of the way, but with a lot more style, luxury and fuel economy. My next vehicle will be one of these.

KAL_7242
Nicodimas Cooper with a metal detector in front of the Mistubishi Triton, sponsored by Mitsubishi SA. The Triton stayed with the four Toyotas on all these bad roads but with far better style and fuel consumption.

The Scourge of the Kaiserbird,” originally published in Afrikaans as “Die Keiservoël Oor Namaland,” is available from all leading bookstores in Namibia, through Namibian Book Market, and in South Africa from Upper Case, formerly Graffiti, in Menlyn Maine. Copies can also be ordered from kosiemarais@gmail.com  It is available on Kindle and worldwide in paperback from Amazon. Visit my Amazon author’s site by clicking on https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07HFTTQ2B where you can also place orders. 

One thought on “Day 35: The Scourge of the Kaiserbird

  1. Ek bewonder jou vir wat jy doen. Die Namas het ‘n buitengewone swak selfbeeld. Ek is in Namibië gebore en het gedeeltelik daar groot geword: in my kinderjare was Bethanien ons dorp. Ons het geweet van die Frederickse maar het nie die tragiese geskiedenis geken nie. David Radford van Lüderitz (jy noem sy naam in een sin) was my tannie se skoonpa. Twee jaar gelede het ek Dawid Fredericks op De Beers Puts, halfpad tussen Goageb en Aus raakgeloop. Laat weet vir my as jy meer van David Radford wil weet.
    NS. Mitsubishi, nie Mistubishi. Ek het nou my derde 3-deur, diesel, outomaties. Nie eens ‘n Kudu kon hom afskryf nie!

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