Every year we take our annual pilgrimage to the extraordinary Pipers Pans. Three enormous and truly beautiful pans that are completely isolated from anywhere else, some seventy kilometres from Xade in the south and much the same from the patchwork of pans up north. Here you can find real solitude. Some days perhaps one or two vehicles come by, on other days none. Getting there is a real mission from either direction. From our base outside Ghanzi we can take the easier route through the north, but its long, eleven hours long. Or come in from south though here we must navigate the brutal sands of the Xade access. As you can imagine, once you get there it’s like summiting a mountain, the peace and solitude every bit as pervasive.
Pipers is renowned for its lions and magnificent they are. The Pipers males just seem so much bigger than the others and in such fine condition. This is prime territory for lions. Permanent water and isolated pans teaming with oryx and wildebeest. On our visit the pride was elsewhere. The two territorial males had commandeered the site for procreation, each having brought along a willing partner. And they did what lions do of course, like 300 times a day! By night they displayed the extreme levels of testosterone that such revelry will precipitate, booming their awesome call all night, metres from the tent as they patrolled this cherished territory. In the morning it was a real treat to see them slumped out on the pan in magic light, a photographer’s dream.
There are only two campsites at Pipers, one set about half a kilometre off the pan on a sand ridge which is large and open with excellent shade trees, and a lot warmer in winter! But it is Pipers 1 that is the home of CKGRs true believers and what a campsite it is. CKPIP01 is situated on the main central pan, right on the edge. This is really unusual, the Park authorities prefer to set the campsites off the pans. The view is astonishing, enormous wide plains of yellow grass with slow moving great herds of oryx, wildebeest and springbok. And, of course, the road runs directly past the site, the same road patrolled by the Casanovas every night.
On our visit there was not much of a moon, which is great for star gazing, especially as we are being spoiled with all five naked eye planets at the moment! The rising Mars, blazing in the east on its closest approach to Earth in 15 years, signalled bed time after 9pm. To be honest, we cherish the full moon most at these sites, especially Pipers 1 where it rises majestically and enormous directly in front of the site. Sunsets in CKGR are unforgettable. Surprisingly though we face away from the sunset for sundowners. In this vast and flat landscape, it’s the Earth shadow in the east that is an extraordinary spectacle, the colours seamlessly shifting from deep indigo through salmon, turquoise and midnight blue.
Our next pilgrimage is booked and paid for of course, May 2019, we shall return to our spiritual home, CKPIP01.