Southern Africa is a most diverse and diabolical sub-continent. Its landscapes, wildlife, cultures, geology and rainfall are varied and so utterly different one could be excused for thinking they were different planets.
An interesting comparison exists at three notable crossings of the twenty third parallel within this phenomenal portion of Africa. They call it The Tropic of Capricorn…a line of latitude passing through Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia from Indian to Atlantic Ocean and defining the southern edge of Africa’s tropics.
One of the most famous crossings of this line lies north of Mopani rest-camp in the world-famous Kruger National Park. The line is marked with bricks sunken into the paved north road between Mopani and Shingwedzi. There is a tourist information panel set into rock at this site and one is allowed at own risk to alight from the vehicle and photograph the line straddling the road and the panel. The region is dominated by Mopane woodland and the splintered branches and stripped saplings of this common tree adorn the road and adjacent bush country and speak of the colossal ever drifting elephant herds that occur there.
Further west and still in South Africa’s Limpopo province lies another well-known crossing of Capricorn. Several kilometres south of the charming mountain and forestry town of Louis Trichardt on the great north road linking South Africa and Zimbabwe is another monument to the 23rd parallel. This one lies to the side of a typical bushveld koppie…a granitic dome all set about with candelabra shaped euphorbia succulents and jaundiced rock figs and standing sentinel like on a vast thorn scrub and grassland expanse. Rock Hyrax and Speckled Pigeon inhabit the koppie and can be heard and seen when visiting the site.
Much further west in the arid heartland of Namibia on the stark and endless dirt road between Solitaire and Walvis Bay is another regularly visited point on the Capricorn line. Two simple signs…one on either side of the track advertise the significance of the spot. The road signs are covered in stickers and graffiti…a varied and colourful testament to the legions of desert adventurers who have passed by. The surrounding desert plains harbour scattered herds of Springbok and Oryx and the distant hills boast cave walls adorned with the ancient ochre paintings of first nation hunter gatherers…Bushmen…who plied that remote wilderness long before measured time.
There is such incredible diversity at the different points on a single, prominent line of latitude as it cleaves a wild and mighty continent.