Saturday, December 29, 2012

Plan to the pans of the Sans

I did a proper cross country flight the other day, 130 nautical miles. I saw the sunrise from the cockpit and watched the Delta sink into the sand and the land turn brown and stark as I entered the Central Kalahari Desert. Some folks at Jack's Camp wanted to go to Kubu Island and this time of year, that requires a helicopter.

Kubu Island juts out of the Makghadikadi(sounds like it's spelled) Pan, the only granite I've seen. How I've wished for a rock to throw at a baboon. The pans are ancient remnants of ocean floor flat and sunken like living rooms built in the late '70s. When the rains come, the pans fill with 30 or so centimeters of water.

I remember when my uncle Terry wanted to turn a bit of swamp into a pond on some land he owned. We watched the excavator cruise across the soft ground, its tracks spreading the load and allowing it to float. The excavator swung with its first bucketful and when the weight shifted off the tracks, sunk immediately to one side. By the time we returned with more equipment to rescue the digger, it was easy to imagine that it would be out of sight by morning.

The pans have eaten many a vehicle in the same way. That's where the helicopter comes in.

Tens of thousands of zebras and wildebeest come to eat the fresh grass at the water's edge or stand in the knee-deep water safe from predators. But holy shit is it hot, I mean the Kalahari doubled cuz you get the reflection radiating back. Those zebras must really be afraid of lions to choose that option.

I came home one night in Girdwood and when I turned the corner into my driveway, I was extra glad that I had made the decision not to drive. Thirty flamingos stood in front of and around my house. Turns out a group of kids trying to fund a trip to Washington had come up with charging for the prank. But the plastic ones can't hold a candle to the real deal.

Flamingos scrape the bottom for brine shrimp. The only thing more brilliant than seeing thousands of them wading along a pan is when they take flight, the pinks so vibrant that they threaten to explode into reds.

Kubu Island comes into view as a mirage, but slowly it gains definition and one knows that it really exists. No wonder that's where the San people took their boys for their rites of manhood. The highest point, the only granite, and 67 mature baobob trees, no wonder they thought it held magic.

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