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Toughest and exciting Pans’ walk ever

THALEFANG CHARLES
Walkers walking on water at Makgadikgadi PIC: THALEFANG CHARLES
Every year during the President’s Day Holidays daring walkers venture on the flat plains of Makgadikgadi Pans with Y Care Charitable Trust to walk 114 km for charity. This year, due to the unusually wet pans, the walk was gruelling than ever before. Mmegi’s intrepid Staff Writer, THALEFANG CHARLES joined the walkers

I discovered the Y-Care Makgadikgadi Pans walk exactly 10 years ago, but I was only able to experience the walk for the first time a year later in 2009. The 2009 edition where we walked from Thabatshukudu near Nata to Lekhubu Island was my debut walk experience.

Back then, the Pans were regarded as ‘sacred’ thanks to the people from Jack’s Camp located in the western side of Makgadikgadi Pans.

We were made to mind our footprints because it was said that they would not be erased anytime soon. Walk support quad-bike riders were instructed to strictly follow one lane and ride in a single file.

But those were days just after the BBC Top Gear aired their Botswana Special showing the presenters playing with their modified vehicles on the ‘sacred’ pans, and later being met by Ian Khama with his own small troop of quad-bike riders. So Top Gear and former president, Khama completely changed the sacredness of the Makgadikgadi Pans.

Everyone then wanted to do all sorts of adventure on the pans. Some wanted to roar and ride into nothingness while others wanted to fly kites, airplanes and jump from them. Y Care Trust remained consistent with their environment-friendly initiative of offering people a chance to test their mental and physical strength by walking over 100 kilometres for charity.

Last year, the organisers cancelled the 2017 walk due to an unusually wet terrain along the usual route from Mosu village to Lekhubu Island. The team that went a week ahead of the 2018 walk to assess the route was satisfied with the terrain. But as fate would have it, there were rare light winter showers that completely changed the terrain of the demarcated route.

The pans must be avoided when they are even slightly wet. The walkers got this lesson after walking just 12kms from Mosu camp on Day One. The slippery wet surface, at times sticking onto the shoes, making them extra heavy, got from bad to worse.

The support quad-bikes got stuck and needed the help of the walkers. The tired walkers were at that moment supporting the quad-bikes instead of the other way around.

Things got even desperate to a point where the quad-bikes had to search for a better route. After lunchtime, where the walkers snacked on light sandwich at slightly over the 30km point, the walkers faced pools of salt water in a

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dead lake.

For the first time since Nomsa Mbere pioneered these adventure walks - with her friends that agreed to pay her to do such a crazy thing - the walkers this year had to trek through the salt water.  Water on the route was a big surprise for the support team, who had just a week earlier travelled along the route on a recce without any water. “Expect the unexpected” is the Y-Care mantra that they have used to face the various challenges over the years.

Walking through water was surprisingly easier than the heavy sticking mud trek. The reflection of walkers on water was picturesque. The landscape got even beautiful at sunset when the setting sun created incredible hues on the western horizon.

The walkers arrived at the Lekhubu Island after twilight and they were exhausted, cold, and mud dirty. As they trickled in at the GPS Campsite – basecamp for Y –Care while at Lekhubu – the exhausted walkers sat around the campfire where hot water with salt was waiting for their blistered feet. But sooner than later, there was lively conversations around the campfire as the walkers shared their own battles to complete the gruelling walk.

Announcement was made that due to the severity of the Day One terrain, the following day’s schedule of a short stroll to Little Kubu Island was cancelled. This was meant to allow the beat-up walkers to relax and let the support team travel out to search for the new better route for Day Three return trek to Mosu.

On Day Three, most of all the limping walkers that barely arrived at Mosu like a brigade of wounded soldiers once again braved the 50km return leg. The support team had a day earlier identified a dry route that would make the walk less heavier than on Day One.

These daring walkers finally arrived at Mosu camp singing camaraderie chants saying “We’re Y-Care Walkers, the mighty, mighty walkers!” as they completed the walk.

The following morning, before he presented the walkers with their much deserved medals, Y Care Trust chairperson, Modise Koofhetlhile described the 2018 walk as “the toughest and exciting terrain in the history of Pans’ walks”.

The walk included groups from Jwaneng Mine, Diamond Trading Company Botswana (DTCB) and other individual walkers. The funds raised through the Y Care walks are presented to various charities in Botswana.



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