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The Gods Must Be Crazy

Hard to believe its been almost 30 years since this lil South African film that could delighted audiences worldwide with its offbeat humor, endearing characters, and an unwanted bottle of Coke.

While the movie’s unquestionable star is the scene stealing bushman, Xi, its best supporting actors are undoubtedly the stunning southern African settings where it was shot.

Mostly filmed on location in the Kalahari Desert, The Gods Must Be Crazy treats viewers to brilliant panoramic views of a barren land inhabited by the occasional tree, solitary scrub, and nomadic wildlife. The name of the red sand desert—not truly a desert by scientific standards—is derived from a local language and means either “the great thirst” or “a waterless place”. Nearly 900,000 square km (562,500 square miles), or about the size of Venezuela, the Kalahari extends into Botswana, South Africa and Namibia. The Kalahari Basin is even larger, reaching Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Big. Africa big.

The region is also home to the legendary Bushmen, or San, or Basarwa, if you prefer, and if you click when you speak. But you know that already if you’ve seen the movie. Maybe you don’t know, however, that the Bushmen are in your family tree. Really. Geneticists believe that all ethnic groups on Earth can trace their origins back to the Bushmen, making them the oldest of all the world’s peoples.

One of the story arcs of the The Gods Must Be Crazy follows Xi’s comical quest to throw the evil bottle of Coca-Cola off the end of the Earth. The film ends with his triumphant toss into the cloudy abyss below.

This scene was filmed not in the Kalahari, but a great distance away in a place known as God’s Window Escarpment in Northeastern South Africa’s Blyde River Canyon. Considered to be one of Africa’s great natural wonders, the canyon is the third largest on Earth, 800 meters deep, and separates the Highveld from the Lowveld. (Don’t worry I didn’t know what that was either). Veld is the Afrikaaner word for, well, bush. God’s Window is part of the famous Panorama Route, a popular South African travel destination.

By most accounts, it’s a magical place. And along with Durban and Cape Town, Botswana and South Africa, while quite different, offer travelers a number of options. And, if you’re considering a trip to the region, 2010 may or may not be a good year to visit, depending on whether you like sports where you can’t use your hands.

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