acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kubu Island

Its cold and I have a mountain of nasty paperwork on my desk demanding to be dealt with - but I'd rather be chatting to you. Have you ever been to Kubu
 Island? It is an island of bleached rocks and giant red boabab trees set in the oceanic vastness of the Makgadikgadi Pans in central Botswana.  We were there last weekend. Some friends chose 'the Pans' as a venue for their wedding.  People travelled from far and wide to congregate at Gweta - the jumping off point - then raced in convoys of fine white dust into the dazzling whiteness of it all to an appointed place ordained by GPS co-ordinates.

The Makgadikgadi Pans are basically the salty soda ash deposits at the site of what was once an ancient lake bed.  Today they cover an area roughly 16000km2 fringed with salt marsh and grasslands. Seasonally filled with water from the Nata River, they become an important breeding site for pelicans and flamingoes. This time of year though they are bone dry - at least on the surface - and you could get arc-eye just by looking there without sunglasses.

Its evocative and eerie, ancient and deceptively calm.  A person can get really really lost and disorientated in the extreme emptiness and flatness of the scene; and if your vehicle happens to break through the crusty surface you can get seriously and deeply stuck with no trees to attach a winch to.

Its fun to go to though. In this landlocked country its like going to the sea without getting wet. Miles from anywhere, it has the best night skies - starscapes that drip tantalisingly out of reach untempered by modern light pollution.  You can astral travel just by keeping your eyes open at night!

Kubu Island is possibly the jewel in the Makgadikgadi crown - or at least one of the major ones.  In this wide angle horizon any kind of feature can attract attention. A tiny rock can look like a big rock far away - and vice versa.  Kubu island however has piles of igneous rock boulders that afford an even better vantage point; and a gathering of truly extraordinary giant boabab trees that show a strangely liverish red colour.

Each of these Kubu Island baobabs appear to have a unique personality.  They start to look like characters .  The biggest has to be a great great grandfather ancestor tree; another looks like a mother figure with branches drooping like hair or fabric;  another smaller one looks like a teenager with braces on its teeth. Bear with me - this place can only incite your imagination to mutiny from every concept of fact and fiction.

If I give you the cold facts I cannot possibly do justice to this secret and spiritual place.  We arrive at midday. The scene is all about air and dust and light. There is not water here save what we have brought with us.  The wide horizon makes me feel like running and spinning, but the heat glues my feet to their dark shadows. I let my imagination take off instead.  I walk amongst the rocks and spikey trees feeling transient, my life is like a rain drop compared to everyone here. The trees, the rocks and the Pans -they are longevity personified. Its humbling.