BERRY BUSH

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Gravel road most of way to Berrybush.  Road was in quite good condition.

Berrybush is an ideal stopover for visitors wanting to enter Botswana via Mabuashube.  Berrybush is run by Jill Thomas, who is extremely friendly and an excellent host.  Meals are provided on request.

Berrybush is ideal for campers, this is a barren and vast area giving one insight into entering the Mabuashube \ Kgalagadi areas.  There is a convenient lapa for groups of campers, there is also a lounge \ dining area for guests.

There are also basic rooms, 4 single and 1 double, with en-suite bathroom.

Piet Snyman Aug 2010

The second day that we had a somewhat late departure, but this was still well within the planned framework – as our first stop was at the Dros in Upington for an early lunch and more specifically to watch the SA vs Wales game. (after we secured some medical supplies).  Our team were a bit disappointing, but we won 17-16 and that’s what counts. My fillet steak was also a bit disappointing – rare instead of medium. That means:  Hair and horns off. Definitely anything but tender. Nevertheless it was a nice outing.

We started out for the border at Mc Arthur’s Rest at about 1pm. Again we were impressed by the beautiful vegetation. Pluming white grass covers the whole of the Kalahari and the trees are in full bloom. The farmers and their animals must surely be very happy.

On our way, we passed the iron, nickel and manganese mines near Kathu and drove alongside a 2km long Sishen-Saldanha ore train for a while. Part of the road was dirt/gravel with loose, sandy patches, but Andries had no problems with this. We crossed the border at Mc Arthurs’s Rest way before closing time and then it was just another 25km tarred road to Tsabong.

Arriving at about 6pm at Berry Bush lodge, our next destination, the welcome was truly warm and hospitable.

How can one describe Berry Bush lodge? If one just looks at the converted chicken breeding houses and the few run-down buildings and lack of fully functional amenities, it would probably not really describe this small hide-away in the Kalahari bush. The five acre dry sandy yard, the few acacias that surround the few buildings and the heaps of kitch decorating the interior also do not give a true reflection of the place.

To me, somehow, there is something special about Berry Bush. And the best way to describe it is synonymous with its owner. Jill Thomas. Jill is a South African born English speaking lady whose late 2nd husband, Mr Thomas (an engineer by profession) was legendary in this quite deserted western Botswana. After meeting him in the small cowboy town of Ghanzi, they retired and moved south to start farming in the district of Tsabong. If one asks around long enough, one can hunt out many a hunter’s legend from the past. Jill explained that the Trans-Kalahari Highway killed their fresh produce business and forced them to start a new business. His untimely death and a number of other adversities forced her to sell her farm and venture into retail business to survive. Berry Bush, managed by Jill and her brother, just hangs in there. Perhaps things will turn around for them sometime.

But, like its owner Berry Bush is rugged with a warm heart - tiny, no external make-up, simply dressed and carrying the traces of many hardships. To survive in this African bush and desert takes a certain inner strength and sometimes an apparent outward carelessness, but like an uncut diamond the inner strength goes with the reflection of the purest of beauty and colour. Like its colourful owner, one does find true treasures amongst the kitch. There is a small photo collage of a number of Bushmen – all of them real, with real stories and Jill’s real encounters with them. She lived and worked closely with the Bushmen and has an in-depth knowledge of their medicinal knowledge. The craft of Vetkat, the bushman artist, is real Bushmen art – with a unique meaning.

Jill’s warm hospitality, excellent food and pure values of kindness, genuine honesty, unpretentiousness shines from every corner of her place. This small, 63 year old lady looks, ironically, simultaneously young for her age and yet clearly bears the singes of life’s hardships.
Like its owner, Berry Bush lodge leaves one with a feeling of mystery and a certain kind of spirituality – the bare basics, but with an unexpected peacefulness. An unforgettable experience.

Early morning being my best time of day, I rose to have a brisk walk before getting ready for the next section of our trip. Just as it was back in Australia, I realized all too well that I needed to do something to keep my body fit. In Australia I travelled mainly on trains and walking around was easy. I also had to manage my luggage by myself and thus experienced a clear improvement of my physical power. Now the temptation is strong to just go with the flow. I help a bit with loading and unloading, but that’s it. I quickly started to experience the results: my intestines refuse to work – like a flat motor battery. Only problem is that instead of flat, I am bloated. THIS is not the way to start a 10/14 day road trip! Thus regular exercise, heaps of water, less snacking, more yogurt and bran and in my case, a few days of vegetable laxatives as well. The sooner the better, as the doxicycline for the malaria also wipes out all natural flora. Therefore the early morning walk...

I quickly realized that patches of grass are not only dry, but turning gray-black. This means they are dead. A clear sign that the Kalahari is now in its dry and definitely, fire season.

On my return to our room I bravely faced the small stream of water – hardly more than dripping, from the shower to try and get rid of the sweat. But, as Andries said – one need not fear that you won’t be able to wash off the soap as there is no way to get soap onto your body with the water being as salty as seawater. Anyway I tried and at least smelled a bit soapy rather than sweaty.

The breakfast was outstanding and I made sure that I got enough fresh fruit and Allbran. We then headed off for Ghanzi. We chose the tarred road again with only a 80 km cutline – this also being a hard surface dirt road these days. Our aim is to reach the Trans-Kalahari Highway as soon as possible as we are here on business and need to cover 700km for the day. Most people, however, would choose the sand road through the Mabuasehube National Park. That is, if you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle...

Judith Ludwick Sept 2011