On his first attempt at the 30 kilometres Desert Bush Walk, Minister of Youth Empowerment, Sports and Culture Development, Thapelo Olopeng was worried that such a great initiative by the youth was still struggling to get support from the private sector.
Speaking to BG Sports after completing the race, Olopeng said, “I support this walk and I will continue doing so because its proceeds are used to help the poor; it is also for educational purposes. My ministry is also responsible for sports tourism hence we have the likes of Khawa challenge and this walk attracted regional countries and has now turned to be a regional walk as we have seen walkers from Lesotho and South Africa.
I edge the private sector to support this initiative so that we could grow it from being a regional to a continental and world event.”
Olopeng walked together with his cabinet colleague and Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Alfred Madigele who settled for 15 kilometres and left early as he had other business activities to attend in his Mmathethe-Molapowabojang constituency. Both are looking forward to participate in next year’s walk which is expected to be much bigger as it will be celebrating its fifth anniversary.
When hearing about the Desert Bush Walk last year, this young lady had second thoughts because sport activities have never got her attention. She registered her name promising to participate but she did not fulfill her promises as she failed to catch the bus which was leaving at 4:30 am in Gaborone.
It was a kind of a relief for me, because in the first place I did not want to go. This year I just decided to create time out of my busy Saturday schedule to participate in this crowd pulling event, my intention was to just go and watch people do the excersise. Friday 28 July was the longest day of the year for me because since morning I was unsettled in my thoughts, I was wandering about in the Diamond Town trying to visualise the track, the starting point, the whole terrain, the mood of the walkers and the whole Jwaneng residents. Well, the sun never changes pace, my long waiting period ceased, by 3 am I was already awake, anxiety could not allow my mind to rest. Within 30 minutes I was already geared up for the walk, the bus left at 4:39. The road to Jwaneng seemed to be too long because it was very dark and so cold. Everyone inside was very quiet, This lady and her colleague had a little chat but within some few minutes they slept off. They woke up in Polokwe when the bus stopped. The other bus in front was struggling to climb the steep, curvey slope, so we had to wait for it to restart and move.
The bus arrived in Jwaneng at 7 oclock, the crowd was far beyond her imagination, she thought there were going to be about 500 people but there were more than 2000 participants. The whole place was decorated with banners and gazebos of various organisations and companies which were sponsoring the event. The event attracted participants from neighbouring countries such as Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. Everyone was welcomed by the sweet melody of the music, as she took a look around she saw people lined up warming up with the aerobics exercise, she decided that she would not just watch, but wanted to have a story to tell.
The last aerobics session she did was in 2014, so this was a good opportunity for her. At exactly 7:30 the instructor gave the green light and everyone took off, people were so crowded on one lane road, it was so sandy. After the first 100 steps those with low stamina were announcing themselves, they felt like they have walked for 2 hours climbing a hill, the sand was an embargo which did not want people to go anywhere. The tracks formed tiny dunes, they could be likened to the vast number of small anthills. When looking far ahead, over the shrubs appeared the heads of people, moving in a small track like the ants crawling to the hole. It was a long chain because track was very narrow to contain more than 2000 people walking together.
This walk was categorised according to distance, the 10 kilometer and 30 kilometer but the first 5 kilometer was the same track. She and her colleagues were very surprised to hear that their stickers are for 30 kilometers.They could not take it as they were already exhausted at 5 kilometers so they could not take it five times. Well, they ignored the stickers and turned left, taking the shortest route back to the starting point. There were only two roads, one going east and another west, we faced eastwards and continued walking. After the water and snack stop, people looked more energised,the journey became more interesting, even the road was now growing wider. Reaching the 7.5kilometer mark one could hardly see someone at close range, people were scattered, the road was now growing wider and most people were quiet. I passed two ladies, I greeted them and showed them the distance we have travelled so far.
Another one screamed, “No they want to kill us”. I burst into laughter, she said, “no they want to finish us we have travelled a long way are we not reaching the finishing point?” she said. In my heart I agreed with her that they want to finish us, it was only hope that kept me going now, all I wanted was just to see myself at the finishing point. I increased speed because the more I slowed down, the more I got exhausted and felt the heat of the sun.
This lady’s questions were now answered, she had the experience and she saw the mood of everyone, she now had mixed feelings, excited because she was walking in the bush, something that she really loves, hurt because she was very tired and the road seemed to be stretching longer and longer.It was not only getting longer but the sand kept on increasing. It was now very thick and very soft. She stopped and took a look at it, it was not sand but silt, it was very fine. When you step on it, it covers almost your whole feet.
After joining the road that we started on she could see the finishing point, she thought of running but the sand would not allow. She tried to divert from the main road, the shrubs were so thick, She couldn’t get through, She looked at the back, so many people were exhausted and some of them looked so hurt, they were really exhausted, others looked more energised and relieved. She could tell they have surrendered complaining and had now gained confidence to face the giant, if they could only reach the finishing point. At 11:05, young lady and her colleague reached the finishing point. They found two of their colleagues already resting, they were the first Botswana Guardian team members to arrive.Everyone was awarded the finishers medal. She could not wait for another two and half hours to get to Gaborone, all she wanted was to take a bath and sleep, but this was only wishes as they had to wait for everyone to arrive. At 3 pm the bus arrived and we headed back to Gaborone at 4pm.
Last Saturday’s third edition of the Desert Bush Walk: Winter 2017 in the town of Jwaneng was a resounding success.
Drawing multitudes from all corners of the country and outside, many took to social media to share their trials and tribulations about the walk. The fourth edition of the walk is slated for July 28th, 2018.
And from what they are all saying, the walk is not to be taken lightly. Although there are some who might dismiss 10KM and 30KM as easy pickings, the walk tested all the mental faculties of all those who attempted to cross the finish line. For those who managed to make it all the way through, it was all smiles as it meant that they had done all in their power to finish their selected kilometres in one piece. And for those who huffed and puffed all the way to the last, this was something that had to be done. The walk was not in vain. They were doing it for charity after all. And for the unfortunate dozen who failed to make it through, they still get points for trying to push their bodies through a gruelling walk that took them through a rough terrain. Even the talkative lot were left speechless, and some almost regretted the option of leaving their cozy homes only for them to put themselves through such torment. The Botswana Guardian & The Midweek Sun teams were amongst some of these honourable walkers. Sharing their experiences and exchanging notes over lunch on Monday afternoon, most of them admitted that this was no child’s play.
“I tried to go out on Saturday evening, but failed to finish my drink,” says one walker who admitted defeat and went home to nurse his sore muscles. Speaking in an interview with one of the organisers on Tuesday morning, Archibald Ngakayagae excitedly reveals that they were impressed with the turnout. The walk had registered close to 2000 walkers (1500 for 30KM and 500 for 10KM). He explains that they were yet to tally their statistics and see how many people turned up on Saturday morning. “It went very well. Walkers came from all over,” he says still excited from their weekend success. He explains that the walk drew support from walkers from as far as Lesotho and South Africa. One of the good things from the walk, he says is the fact that they have forged relationships with organisers of other walks from both Lesotho and South Africa. These walks include the Moshoeshoe walk, Ditsamayanaga (North West) as well as the Moruleng Heritage walk.
And through these partnerships, the Desert Bush Walk will use these platforms to advertise the local walk. He also notes that they had to dip into the money raised from tickets sales in order to cover some of the logistical costs after failing to raise the target amount from sponsors.
They had budgeted for an estimated P350 000 which was to cover costs such as refreshments and t-shirts. “We are still reconciling our books,” he says. He also called on local authorities to come on board and lend a helping hand through resources.
This week, he says, they will have a meeting with the local organising committee, which will be followed by a Board meeting. They are also planning to sit down with the relevant authority at the Ministry of Education where they will get an idea of priority projects that need support and will also assess proposals from other organisations within the region. His last words were directed to individuals who passionately support this noble cause and volunteers.
“We are where we are today because of these individuals,” he says. The Bush Walk was established in 2014 by two activists - Ngakayagae and Amy Benson - who partnered with a team of volunteers. The funds raised during the inaugural event went towards the construction of a Creative Learning Centre to house a Carpentry Workshop and a Library for Sese Primary School. Proceeds from the second event went towards donating P150 000 worth of equipment to the Mabutsane-Jwaneng sub-district to benefit 19 schools in the area as well as P10 000 to New Xanagas Primary School.
Sponsors for the event include companies such as Liberty Life, Botho University, Stanbic Bank, BTC, Botswana Savings Bank, Web tickets, Davebuoy Wors, Cresta Jwaneng, Pick n Pay (Jwaneng), Patmo Transport, MRI, Majwe Mining, AFDA, Sunday Standard, Botswana Guardian, Duma FM, Choppies, Botswana Post, Shell (Jwaneng), Engen (Lobatse), Mokala Lodge and BAMB.