Determined men and women from various corporate organizations traded their formal wear for camping gear and walking shoes as they took to the Makgadikgadi pans to embark on a more than 120km charity walk.
The optimism to make it across the taxing Makgadikgadi pans terrain, spurred by the desire to make a difference in the lives of the underprivileged, saw more than 70 walkers head north to the remote village of Mosu for an exhilarating four-day walking and out-door camping experience over the President’s holidays.
By 7:30am on Friday all participants are gathered at the Barclays office near the Western Bypass and board the AT&T Monnakgotla bus headed for Mosu village. As the only journalist in the bus most faces are new to me except for motivational speaker and veteran walker in the Y-Care cause, Lets Sithole, who offers me a seat next to him. We make only one stopover in Palapye for a brunch before proceeding to Mosu. After a brief welcome session by village chief, Kgosi Kopano, I make a few friends from the Mascom team over a cigarette smoke before we proceed to the first campsite 2km from the village on the edge of the pans. We set up camp and after dinner we retire to bed and look forward to the day ahead.
5:30am everyone is up and after tearing down camp we set off on a 42km walk to Lekhubu Island in what has become our extraordinary long weekend experience. As if to give the holidays some presidential appeal, some of the walkers are lucky enough to meet President Khama and pose for photos. I later learn that Mosu, Khama’s favourite holiday destination, is actually his father’s birth place. Besides the joy and excitement of meeting the first citizen in the remote peripheral village, the experience gives the walkers a team building opportunity in their respective organizations and to network with others.
With only mirages and the skyline in the distance to lead us, we trudge on the dry and partly muddy flat land, taking breaks after every 6.5km. As we have our lunch at the 24km spot, I realize that Dr Nomsa Mbere the Y-Care founder has also joined us on break from South Africa where she is furthering her studies. With the backing of the resourceful Y-Care support team who ensure that everyone is fed and that the not-so strong are ferried on quad-bikes, everyone arrives safely at Lekhubu Island and thanks to my blistered feet I too manage to make the last 6km on the comfort seat of quad!
As we sit around the camp fire enjoying our dinner after refreshing and sharing our individual experiences of the trip, Stellan Bengtsson the Y-Care Coordinator commends us for a successful day. “It is the record group of walkers we’ve had since the beginning of the Y-Care cause,” he says as he makes the house-keeping announcement and the schedule for the day ahead.
It is a more relaxed day with three optional activities, a tour of the island- which is preferred by most as it doesn’t require much walking, a 7km walk to Little Lekhubu Island and back. The third and more difficult 15km walk to the Flamingos’ nests is cancelled due to unfavourable surface conditions and most of the walkers join us in the 7km walk while others take an extra 6km further to the east.
Back at the camp meals are served and the rest of the day is more interactive and I make more acquaintances.
The gender ratio amongst the participants is almost even and as I cast a joke about this observation Taswika Tibone of , Curry Pot, cracks with laughter and comments: “Forget about your imaginations son. I’ve been on these walks for a very long time now and no promiscuity ever takes place. The pans have got their own disciplinary magic.”
As I drag my feet to bed later I understand Taswika’s point. With sore legs and stiff groin muscles no man or woman in their right mind would think of anything more physical when they get to bed. All are likely to have nothing but a hot bath and an appointment with a physiotherapist on their minds by bed time.!
A reality check point as a lot of us have to make tough decisions on whether to walk or catch a ride back. With the route extended by 3km to avoid a difficult muddy patch, some of the walkers drive back while most of us decide to beat the 45km stretch in the name of charity. At the base in Mosu everyone is a victor and as we rejoice in our conquest of the Makgadikgadi pans the only challenge lying ahead is the pain of saying our goodbyes when we part ways at the Barclays office in Gaborone!
Next week we feature the logistics and contributions by various sponsors and participants’ feedback on this charitable cause. Watch the space!