Earlier this year, Getaway Magazine journalists Welcome Lishiva and Melanie van Zyl joined us for an adventure in the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape, gathering stories and capturing images as they went.
We're excited to announce that the August edition of the magazine with the full 12-page article will be hitting shelves soon!
We caught up with Welcome and Melanie for a little behind-the-scenes peek at their adventure.
1. What was your impression of the Northern Cape - the Kalahari region, in particular - before you went and how did that change during/after the trip?
Melanie: I’ve always loved deserts and arid places so the Kalahari is beautiful to me. I didn’t consider that there’s more to do there though, than just the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. I loved meeting the people who live there and experiencing the smaller, mostly overlooked tourism offerings in the area – such as the delectable milk tart. You’ll have to read the August issue to find out where to find it though…
Welcome: I went into the province with very little expectations considering that it is the biggest and one of the poorest provinces in the country. I was expecting dust everywhere with nothing to do and was a bit worried that I'd only have sad stories to tell about the lack of development in the province. Instead, I met people whose characters bring out an aliveness about the barren landscape that's refreshing. I left with my heart doing cartwheels, admiring the passion and generosity of the locals to share unique beauty of their province. It might seem barren and plain, but there's a lot of texture in terms of plants and the wide landscape that left me appreciating the sky a whole lot more than ever before.
2. You squeezed a lot of amazing experiences into your 5 days on the road - was there a favourite moment that really stood out? Why?
Melanie: I loved meeting Aunt Koera. Dinner with her really stood out for me because she is an amazingly intrepid lady. An entrepreneur that’s working hard to make the most of her circumstances and found a gap in the market to cook for visitors coming to the Kalahari. She joined us for dinner and shared some of her cooking tips too. It was a very special evening to sit sit around the fire with her and eat the meal with solar lanterns and great company.
Welcome: It would be very hard to choose. Having supper with Auntie Koera was certainly a highlight. I was moved by her generosity, earnestness and passion for cooking and preserving nama cuisine. I also really enjoyed rafting down the Orange River. I fell in love with that river the moment I laid my eyes on it as we were driving towards Keimos, we had to stop to take in the beauty of the river. Being in the stunning river on a calm evening as the was setting was one of the most blissful moments and certainly a way to end what had been an amazing trip.
3. Which experience on the Kalahari Red Dune Route would you most highly recommend to visitors?
Melanie: The Dune Walk at Kalahari Trails. There are so many small details to see in the Kalahari, you just need to get out of the car.
Welcome: Supper at Aunt at Koera. There's nothing like having a roosterkoek made on a veld fire, chatting with Aunt Koera as she rolls and pats the bread, and enjoying wine under the stars. Rafting down the river is amazing and everyone should do it, but nothing beats the experience of having a genuine encounter with a local who's passionate about sharing their heritage. It really had me thinking a lot about the importance of travel as a way of bringing people together in the most genuine of ways.
4. What are your top 3 road trip essentials?
Melanie: I always travel with a bird book, or at the very least the app on my phone, zambuk and sunglasses.
Welcome: My phone, along with a power bank. I forgot my power bank and charging cable on this trip and had to spend the trip being that guy who was constantly borrowing cables and power banks. Let's just say that I'm never leaving behind a power bank on my next trip. I also can't seem to ever allow myself to get on the road without shades, other than UV protection, I feel a lot more invincible with my sunnies on!
5. Finally, why do you think the Open Africa way of travel is so important/relevant in this day and age?
Melanie: It’s really important to engage with the people living in these tourism spaces. Open Africa created a way for us to have some really authentic, honest experiences and it’s vital for South African travellers to meet these people on the road too.
Welcome: I think it's important for people to have authentic encounters with locals wherever they go. Mainly because it broadens our perspectives and fosters a healthy celebration of difference. Instead of shying away from our differences, I think the rising political instability in the world is calling all of us to come together, learn about each other in respectable and fun ways to begin the process of understanding and accepting one another. I especially think the experiences offered by Open Africa in remote and hidden places of our country offer this opportunity and empowers locals in the process.
Be sure to get your hands on the August edition of Getaway magazine (set to hit shelves on 24 July) for an in-depth look and travel guide to the Kalahari Red Dune Route and surrounds. Also, book your own Kalahari adventure on our site or with our partners, Tour2.0