Letiahau Pan - Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Photo: Stephan Edwards

“If someone told me I could live in Botswana forever, but on the one condition that the only place I could ever camp was CKGR, I would say, ‘Where do I sign?’”

I mentioned this to Julie out of the blue the other day as I was planning next week’s trip. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve - the size of Switzerland - is not necessarily the most interesting place in Botswana, or chock full of wildlife, or even particularly difficult as an off-road challenge.

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There are endless miles of monotonous sandy tracks, hemmed in by impenetrable thorn bushes, with little to see. Many of the campsites are indifferently maintained, hounded relentlessly by bees (on our last visit the bees literally tried to colonize our Land Cruiser), or saddled with overflowing pit toilets. It’s hot.

Death. Somewhere in the Kalahari.

Why go back? Why go back less than two months after we were just there? Why go back when we’ve been there twice already? Why go back when there is so much more to discover in this amazing country that is new to us?

To be honest, we do struggle with those questions sometimes, but surprisingly little. The answer is easy, really.

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In a world crammed with everything, the sheer nothingness of CKGR reorients us, resets the compass, reveals new realities. It’s the same reason we are drawn to the Utah deserts year after year. There is no one and nothing, and yet weirdly that nothingness is more than enough.

Oh. And the occasional elephant. No elephants in Utah.

Elephant near Xade campsites.
Image: Julie Biando Edwards
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We have approached the CKGR from all directions but one - the south. The road between Khutse Game Reserve and the Game Scout Camp at Xade is one of the most notoriously lonely, barren, and difficult tracks in all of southern Africa. The locals don’t bother because they know there’s nothing out there, so why wouldn’t we try it?

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In fact, that map above doesn’t even include our second night’s campsite, Bape, because it doesn’t appear on Google Maps. That’s my kind of campsite.

Seven nights, eight days. When we reach Deception Valley, we’ll be meeting some friends of mine from Montana who are visiting Botswana. They started their safari up north at Victoria Falls just two days ago. That will be a surreal experience.

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We are looking at nearly 650km between fuel stops from the last gas station before the Khutse Game Reserve (100km south of Point B on the map) and Rakops (Point G on the map). This will require more than a few jerry cans.

Imagine this, only with a Pajero.
Image: Stephan Edwards
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I’m working on finishing the sleeping platform this evening. I’ll let you guys know how that project turns out before we leave. I think I found a pretty simple, dare I say, elegant (?) solution.

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