In misty plains all around me, the burning sun and sand.
Jim Reeves

The great thirst

The name Kalahari comes from the Tswana word, ‘Kgala’ or “kgalagadi’, ‘the great thirst’ or ‘a waterless place’. Dry valleys, large salt pans in the Makgadikgadi and Etosha Pans in Namibia and ancient dry river beds the cross the central northern reaches of the desert provide drainage and standing pools of water in the rainy season. Other than that, the vast areas of red sand have no permanent surface water.

The threat of the Kalahari

The biggest threat in the Kalahari is man. Fences and herds of grazing cattle, poison and hunting are a major problem for wildlife, especially the endangered African wild dog and jackals.

The flora and fauna

Despite the lack of water, the Kalahari enjoys a variety of vegetation; Acacia trees and Rhodesian teak forests, dense ground cover, kiwano fruit or jelly melons, savannah grasses and camelthorn are just some of the species that can be found. Leopard, lion and cheetah, hyena, Cape wild dog, wildebeest, porcupines, meerkats and ostriches share space with stately secretary birds, martial eagles, owls, falcons and kites.

The Site of Creation

One of the world’s most significant rock art sites is the Tsodilo Hills – four rocks which jut out from the dry, flat expanse around them. The art of five hundred sites with 3500 paintings, cover twenty thousand years of human life. The oldest dating back to 800 AD. It’s quite easy to believe the local legends that this mysteriously intriguing place is the site of the first creation.

Kalahari Support Vehicles

Running for Cheetahs

One of the big cats I like the most is the cheetah. Perhaps because we’re both runners. Friends I made in the Antarctic – Kirsi Montonen and Jukka Viljanen – and I decided cheetahs needed help and running seemed the best way to do it. Cheetahs live in and love vast, wide open spaces. One of the widest is the Kalahari, the Great Thirst. We decided to run across the Kalahari in Botswana. Because there isn’t really a border to the desert we added a bit of extra mileage to make sure we covered as much of it as possible. In the end it was 1000km. Four times the length of the Marathon des Sables, which I ran a couple of years later.

I love running in Africa; the people, the scenery and the wildlife. Although, I could do without the puff-adders that like to lie across the road. Not only are they pretty much the same colour as the road, but they’re also venomous and don’t tend to move out of the way as other snakes usually do. They cause more snake related deaths in Africa than any other snake. Keeping an eye out for them was an endless task.

We began the run in the town of Ghanzi. Enduring 30°C+ days and cold nights, we ran for twenty days, with no rest days in between. That’s over a marathon a day.
I began the race in a bad way. I had plantar fasciitis in my one foot – a condition where the recommended methods of treatment is – that’s right; rest. I wasn’t going to be getting a lot of that! Bizarrely enough, the longer the run, the better I felt.

When we arrived in Kanye, we actually got to get up close and personal with one of the cheetahs at the CCB sanctuary. A wonderful experience.

Kalahari 1000 runners

Blessed are the curious, for they shall have adventures. 

Lavelle Drachman