Well, okay, not just a digging stick. The San (also impolitely known as the Bushmen) are additionally equipped with the most incredible mental agility. Alright, alright. They also habitually carry a bow and arrow but really very little else. Diminutive in stature and with distinctive narrow eyes and open friendly faces, the San have perfected the art of being at home in the bush. Seriously, Bear Grylls need not apply. Although their ancient way of life is perpetually under siege by encroaching “civilisation”, there is much to be learned from their approach to the environment. For one, the San do not traditionally have possessions. They use natural resources if they need them for food, clothing and housing but not for profit. Don’t get me wrong, they are not bunny-hugging vegetarians and like their rare steak, but they are profoundly grateful to any animal that gives up its life so that they can eat and are careful to give thanks to the ancestors if they are lucky enough to score. They are nomadic; they never stay very long in one place thus reducing the impact on their locale and always moving where there is food aplenty. In the course of moving they will often get a tad thirsty (remember that they live in a pretty hostile desert where there is not so much as a cold coke in sight). So they habitually bury ostrich eggs filled with water so they can be sure of a quick sip on the fly. Fortunately, not only do they know the indistinguishable landscape like the back of their hands, but they possess memories like elephants and will always recognise that tell-tale stick marker poking out of the ground. Those who have had the privilege to track an animal with the San hunters tell how they can lope at a steady pace for hours and hours, beating a rhythm with their sticks. Their understanding of the animal enables them to anticipate its movements and follow footprints over rocky ground even when none are visible. Impressive endurance athletes, they have the capacity to run their prey to exhaustion, whereupon they employ a well-aimed poison-tipped arrow to swiftly finish the job. The San are still seeking to pursue their peaceful existence in the eastern part of Namibia and the Kalahari in Botswana.
Have digging stick, will travel.Date: 26 Nov 2009
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