On our last night at Deception Valley Lodge (Deception comes from the mirage affect seen when looking at the dry surface of a pan from a distance giving the appearance of water until one approaches more closely) we went on a walk with two San Bushman. We watched them demonstrate survival methods used by their ancestors and talk in their native language dressed in their traditional clothing of animal skins and plant fiber. Archaeologists believe that the San people lived in the Kalahari over 50,000 years ago making them the oldest race on earth. We were taken back in time as we watched them dig deep in the Kalahari sand to reach the root of the Bie plant. They chipped away small pieces from the root then squeezed water out of it. They demonstrated how an Ostrich egg was used for food and water storage. After the egg is scrambled in the shell by using a stick through a half inch hole the contents are poured onto hot sand where it cooks. The egg is filled with water and plugged with a plant (Kalahari Currant) which acts as a preservative. The egg is buried a foot deep in damp sand and marked so that they can find it at a later date. The bushman used poison on their arrows which is obtained from the pupae of a “Flea” beetle. It requires 8 pupae per arrow head and “can remain active for 50 years”. The Aardvark hole is often used by African Porcupines and Warthogs which the Bushman hunt for food. The Bushman stand outside the hole with sticks probing inside and making noise to irritate its occupant. When the Porcupine is irritated enough it comes out of the hole while the Bushman wait to spear it. We watched mesmerized in the evening stillness while the sun slowly disappeared below the horizon as the Bushman demonstrated how they started a fire by friction of stick to sand and stick using straight pieces of Corkwood and dry grass. After the fire was going they danced to an ancient rhythm and hand made musical instruments.
Today only about 3000 out of a population of 95,000 San continue to follow a totally traditional lifestyle of gathering and hunting.
Land that the San used to hunt is being increasingly lost to cattle grazing by farmers. Wildlife that the San depend on are changing their migration patterns due to the fences constructed to protect cattle.
The issue of fences is very contentious between the cattle farmers and environmentalists and San people.