Hotazel, Kalahari

The temptation to wordplay with the self-evident 'hot as hell' angle of this town's name is great. Restrain ourselves we would if it were not for the fact that Hotazel really did acquire its name from its association with heat (despite the fact that it actually does not get quite as hot as other places in the Kalahari, but who actually keeps track once it's over 37 degrees Celsius?).

The story, for there is one, involves a group of land surveyors who, after something of a drinking session out on the red sands close by (there is little else to do out here) labelled it 'hot as hell' and, clearly, the name stuck for when it officially became a town, somewhere in the 1950s, only a couple of alphabetical letters shifted as it made its way on to the register. Even the farm established here took on the name, Hotazel.

Hotazel lies north west of Kuruman, virtually on the border with Botswana. The bush-covered landscape, reminiscent of the desert – featureless, flat and dry - is not without its own beauty. The Kgalagadi, or waterless place, is where the San (Saan) lived for thousands of years, without finding it particularly hot or cumbersome. But then they have lived in harmony with nature for at least 20 000 years.

Hotazel is home to an open-quarry manganese ore mine and sinter plant. Interestingly, the mine is South Africa's first black woman owned manganese mine, said to be the world's largest sinter plant, producing three million tons of ore every year. The ore is used to produce 2.4 million tons of sinter (sintering involves the mixing, agglomeration and semismelting of manganese ore, fine coke, fluxes and recycled dust into sintered product).

Other than the mine, and the town that services it, there is little to endear the town of Hotazel to visitors. You might be happy to hear that there is a swimming pool, 3G access, and a luxury lodge, owned by the Oppenheimers.

Hotazel is not completely obscure. Its name features in the title of Obie Oberholzer's book: The Hotazel Years - 30 Years of Photographing Southern Africa.

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