Written by Paula Richter – Lodge Manager.
Qhaikhao is over 60 years old. He has been part of the Grassland Bushman Lodge family for the past 20 years, but a part of the De Graaff family his entire life. Both his father and his grandfather worked for Willem de Graaff in years gone by.
Qhaikhao has spent all of his life in the Kalahari Desert, once or twice venturing as far as Kanye (which lies close to Gaborone). He had never left Botswana until December 2019 – when it was decided that it was time for him to see the sea!
I usually take leave for the month of December so it was an ideal opportunity for Qhaikhao to join me on my trip home. We drove together all the way from Ghanzi to Bathurst in the Eastern Cape.
It was wonderful to see him experience these new surroundings for the first time.
It took us three days to travel the 1 800km.
We arrived at my parent’s home in the late afternoon, and the next morning we made the short 20-minute drive to the ocean.
Words cannot describe what it was like for him to experience the sea. For someone who has come from one of the driest and most arid landscapes on Earth, it is absolutely mind-blowing to look upon a body of water which stretches as far as the eye can see to the left, to the right and straight ahead.
Qhaikhoa really enjoyed the experience and, although he was a little unsure of the sea at first, he soon became comfortable. On the last day he even swam!
Lodge owners Willie and Annatjie also made the long journey from the Kalahari to the coast of South Africa – not only to visit the ocean, but also to see my little home town and visit my parents.
After a few days, they took Qhaikhao back home with them and I stayed behind to celebrate Christmas with my family.
Without their kindness and generosity, Qhaikhao would not have been able to see the Indian Ocean. They played an instrumental role in his first visit to the sea!
When Qhaikhao thanked us for our hospitality, I told him I am only doing for him what he has always done for me here in the Kalahari: making me completely at home in the desert; teaching me about every animal and every plant; taking me on walks through the veld; and showing me all the ways the Bushmen have survived in this harsh environment for centuries.
The Bushmen are some of the most hospitable people I have ever met, and I believe it has a lot to do with the fact that in this unforgiving environment, to turn someone away from your door or your table is most certainly saying to them that you do not care whether they live or die.
Whenever I arrive at their homes, I am always offered the coldest water to drink from the best cup that they own, and something to eat of whatever they have prepared – no matter how many mouths need to be fed with what they have made.
Qhaikhao has taught me a lot in my time here – lessons that run deeper than the animals, the trees and how to survive in the desert. He has taught me to be a kinder and more humble person; to respect every living thing; and to open my heart to all the experiences life has to offer.