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Khawa village: My Utopia

MOMPATI TLHANKANE
Team Khawa rider going down the most difficult and highest dune at 30metres steep slope
Mmegi Staffer MOMPATI TLHANKANE recently spent a week in Khawa Village and found that the remote Kgalagadi District village is as close to perfection as one can get

I do not normally travel to the south of Botswana, but after a week in Khawa, I found that I had never been to a place that possesses as many desirable or nearly perfect qualities. If I had my own perfect world it would be Khawa village. Allow me to tell you why the remote place, far off village in the Kgalagadi desert is different from all the places I have visited in Botswana.

From when I was a child making castles in the sand, I always envisioned a perfect world known by Westerners as a Utopian society. By definition, a Utopia is an ideal and perfect society in which everyone lives in harmony. The Utopian society lives in tranquility and has respect for one another.

The word was coined by Sir Thomas More from his famous and controversial ancient book wherein he described a fictional island society in the Atlantic Ocean. Since then, the term has been used to describe desired communities and societies.

My Utopian village of Khawa is in no way fictional although the landscape took me back to a surreal experience from the imagination of my childhood days. The huts in Khawa surrounded by sand dunes reminded me of the little sandcastles I built when I was a child.

Unfortunately livestock trampled the sandcastles in my childhood, but in Khawa I had the entire week to gaze upon an indestructible view.

We arrived in Khawa on a Tuesday and were supposed to return to Tsabong after a short event in which President Ian Khama and various companies including Old Mutual were donating to the people of Khawa Village. The event ended late and my travelling companion and I decided not to travel back to Tsabong even though we didn’t know where we would stay.

Just a few hours in Khawa, not knowing anyone in the middle of nowhere, we still took our chances.  It was my colleague’s birthday and our newfound friends at Old Mutual helped us celebrate before they headed back to Tsabong.

Later, we took our refreshments and headed to a place where a campsite was apparently being set up. We drove our Honda CRV up the sand dunes and arrived at a place on the outskirts of the village where there was no movement, no sound and no light. It was as though we had invaded a ghost town.

We drove curiously forward and all of a sudden clutches of tents began appearing from nowhere. As we wandered about like lost souls, we saw a fire in the distance and heard the sound of giggles in the cold air.  We arrived to the sight of men and a woman seated by the fire. After greetings and introductions we shot straight to the point. The accommodating manner in which they welcomed a pair of strangers carrying bottles of beer was quite surprising. After offering us seats, one of them called their boss to come and hear our story.  I have to give my companion some credit here because he always knows just what to say while I usually just sit there quietly. The boss decided to accommodate us just like that and led us to our tents. We were supposed to check in the following morning, but out of the goodness of their hearts, they allowed us to spend the night.

We did not have any food

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and so we drove back to the village where we found all the stores closed. We then went back to the bottle store and there found a young woman who ran a nearby tuckshop. Although she had already closed for the night, the benevolence in the Khawa air again wafted through and just like the men from the campsite, she warmed up to us and reopened her shop.

Returning to the campsite, we found a fire set before our tents and two chairs neatly set aside for us. The hospitality was amazing and we could not help but love the way Khawa was treating us. Drinks in hand, we sat by the fire and enjoyed the Khawa breeze for the first time.

As my companion gazed at the stars, I opened a tin of beef and placed it beside the fire to warm it up.  After five minutes, I was happily eating from the tin, having officially survived my first night in Khawa.

The following morning I went to the store to get more tins of beef, but this time a young man volunteered to prepare it to perfection at the back where he was preparing fatcakes.  He did not ask anything in return but simply said: “Next time you will help me when I visit Francistown”.  The young man had assumed I was from the north looking at my dark completion and I never bothered to correct him.

That Utopian spirit is what made the Khawa experience magical.  Even as visitors were setting up for Botswana Tourism’s Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural Festival, the youth in the village were at the ready, willing to help in whatever way required.

Later that day, the Khawa Dune Challenge began and I had an opportunity to see sights unseen elsewhere in the country.  Firstly Khawa is the only place where you get to see President Ian Khama the most number of times in the shortest time, than anywhere else. You see him on the Polka night, quadbike race, sand dunes climbing challenge and many other places.  For some of us who only see him on TV, in Khawa you get to see him at close range.

Khawa during the festival also has the highest amount of security in a single place than even the most crowded police station.  Army, police and security agents could be seen crawling all over the place like ants on an anthill. Mind you, the intense security is not there to harass as sometimes happens in certain areas and around certain events. Here, the men and women of law enforcement were there to protect us while we had our fun.

Khawa is also a Nirvana for those who love their ‘beverages’.  While countrywide it is illegal to consume these in undesignated areas, in Khawa people walk around with their drinks in hand, and as long as they behave themselves, law enforcement does not bother them. For those few beautiful days, tipplers walk happily in the sunshine enjoying the freedom their kin elsewhere in the country can only dream of.  In this Utopia, the alcohol did not cause accidents or incidents and people shared and were considerate with each other.

Riding camels with my media colleagues while Nunu Ramogotsi sang an improvised ditty about camels, was memorable and I feel I need to return to my Utopia soon.



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