You’re in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, hugging the dry Auob riverbed north of Twee Rivieren looking for cheetah when you notice the ruins of stone buildings along the calcrete ridge. Further you turn off to Auchterlonie picnic spot to enjoy your coffee. Before you leave, wander around Kgalagadi’s Auchterlonie museum and discover what it was like to live here 100 years ago.
As you look around the interior of the little museum, which documents the pastoral lifestyle of the people who used to live here in the old days, you’ll realise what hardy, independent people they had to be.
To get the thongs to tie the whole caboodle together, they’d first have to shoot a gemsbok or red hartebeest, then prepare the hide by soaking it in lime and water to get the hair off, then wash the lime off with salt and work it by hand to soften it before cutting it into strips. For a touch of luxury, they’d shovel dung onto the floor and burnish it until it was hard.
It all had to do with the assassination of an Austrian archduke in faraway Europe, an act that sparked the First World War. Germany had colonised what was then South West Africa (now Namibia) long before, in 1884. But when war broke out 1914, the British-aligned government of the Union of South Africa got their knickers in a bit of a twist. What a catastrophe it would be if the Germans invaded the Union from their base in South West Africa!
Of course, history tells us that the South African invasion of South West Africa eventually took another route. But the borehole guards stayed on, largely forgotten by the authorities.
Next time you make pit-stop or picnic stop at Auchterlonie, thrilled with your experience of game viewing in the park, try to imagine what it must have been like to live there 100 years ago.
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