Early in April 1992, another student engineer, known as a blouie, arrived in Maun to help with the material quantity evaluation. Bradley du Plooy was about twenty; the antithesis of the usual technical engineering student in that his beer intake was near to nil and he behaved himself. He was a happy innocent soul who played the guitar in his free time.
He arrived at the hottest time of the year and although we had gotten fairly used to the heat, we could sometimes escape to our air-conditioned offices. Outside, I was convinced that I would hear the sound of frying eggs if I removed my hat. Certainly, it was all but impossible to think or make intelligent decisions as a surveyor out on site.
For more than a week, the temperature registered at over 50°C, maxing out at 55°C.
The topography around Maun, and for most of the country around it for many kilometres, was level sand, gently undulating sand and flooded sand. But here and there very rare little groups of rocky outcrops poked out of the sand.
One such is the Kgwebe Hills. After I found them on a map of the area, I was determined to get there for a look. They lie south-east of Lake Ngami. The road south to the town of Gantsi splits at the village of Toteng. The eastern alternative, route skirting the, then totally, dry lake, seemed to be the nearest approach to the hills. However, they lay some twenty kilometres east with no discernable track in that direction.
But hey, what are Land Rovers for?
Bradley opted to come with me, as did Rogers, one of my survey assistants. Mack, my staffy, had no choice, but he would have refused had he known what lay ahead. With a cooler box inhabited by a bottle of water, beers and cokes, we set out.
Beyond Toteng, approximately opposite the hills, I found a track leading in the right direction. It turned out to be a cut-line, part of a grid cut by Anglo-American Corporation searching for the mining feasibility of known copper deposits. They were partially overgrown, and being a grid in desert scrub with no sizeable trees as landmarks, it was easy to get lost, but eventually the hills could be seen and we headed towards them, bush-bashing.
The further we went, the rougher the terrain, until I thought it stupid to go any further as the way was ridged with sharp-edged blades of rock and I feared for the tyres. We walked into little valleys with large baobab trees and quite a lot of flora that I didn’t recognise. There were signs of kudu and other antelope, although we didn’t see any.
I climbed into a baobab with a large hole in the trunk that harboured an owl’s nest while Bradley, Rogers and Mack found shade to hide from the hideous heat. When we started back to my Landy, Mack was dashing from shade to shade, screaming in pain in between shadows as his poor paws touched the hot sand. We seriously damaged the contents of the cooler.
Back in Maun that night, Bradley phoned his folks back in South Africa. They told him that it had been on the news: The hottest place in the world that day had been Maun, Botswana.