The black patch became famous last year as the site at which New Zealanders Allison and Steve MacKenzie and their ten-year-old son Lachlan had been forced to abandon their burning vehicle.
On their first visit to the Kalahari in January 2009, they’d hired a 4x4 in Upington and were going about the usual business of looking for game when they realised that what they’d been thinking was an awful lot of ‘dust’ was in fact smoke billowing out of the back of their vehicle.
Fire confirmed, they had time to grab just a few things and spring from the vehicle. In searing January heat at around one o’clock in the afternoon, they stood on the hot red sand and watched while fire consumed the 4x4.
That conflagration over, they had to wait for any passing car that might come to their assistance, all the while squatting, dazed, in the rather inadequate shade of a measly twig-like bush – with the knowledge that though they might not be able to see any lions or leopards, those big cats might well be watching them with keen interest.
Not surprisingly, everyone visiting the park at the time, or in the months that followed, had soon heard the New Zealanders’ story.
It’s the stuff of nightmare, probably caused by a bad fridge connection that started an electrical fire.
Allison put the whole story on the SANParks Forum as part of a trip report called ‘We left our hearts (and a burnt out 4x4) in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park’. It later won the award for the best trip report of 2009 and you can read it at
An ex-South African, she said later that no one back in New Zealand really understood the significance or scariness of what had happened. After all, the most dangerous animal-related incident that’s likely to happen to anyone in Kiwiland is to step in some dog poop!
When we were last at Kgalagadi in September 2009, nine months after the incident, the black patch was still faintly visible. Now, in May 2010, all traces have disappeared.
I like to think it’s encouraging evidence that in time nature will always reclaim its own, that this long-suffering semi-desert environment will always recover from the damage inflicted by man – eventually.
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