For some of us city slickers, the idea of a festive season entails patronizing the very same drinking joints we have been frequenting every weekend for the previous eleven months and drinking ourselves to a stupor day in day out. Every day is Ground Hog day.
We tend do something so often that it gets so entrenched in our mind we don’t even think of anything outside that frame of mind-set.
Had it not been for the generous invitation by 63 Entertainment and D.O.C Enterprises to attend the annual My Maun Experience (MME), it would have been business as usual.
The main aim of the initiative, by Bissau Gaobakwe and Dose Mosimanyane, is to promote Maun as a tourist destination of choice especially for the locals. “We need to make our tourism more attractive to Batswana,” Gaobakwe says.
Although the journey to Maun officially began on the 24th December for most of the My Maun Experience team, the four of us (including fellow journalists David Baaitse, Thalefang Charles, and Sharon Mathala) would join three days later (December 27th) after spending Christmas with our respective families.
They say getting there should be half the fun and our ride to Maun was nothing less. Taking a long drive through scenic locations can be quite an experience on its own especially if you have two professional photographers on board.
Driving from Serowe where we had rendezvoused, we made a few stops along the way to appreciate the beauty of nature and (of course) take a few shots while we were at it. The pans at Mopipi make for a pleasant viewing especially at dawn when the sun dips down to kiss the horizon, creating a red swathe of light.
And then there are the two amazingly ghostly trees flanking the road as you pass through Mmadikola which you can simply not ignore. They look so old you wonder what incredible moments in history they have been witness to.
After what had been an eventful six hour drive from Serowe that included a couple of close encounters with the almighty thanks to the scores of cattle and donkeys along the road, we finally arrive at Maun Lodge just before 2200 hours. We are met at the front desk by Mosimanyane.
Our MME has just begun as we all make our way to our respective rooms to freshen up before exploring the Maun nightlife.
There are two popular night clubs in the village. Fresh Exclusive and Trekkers. With substandard ventilation and usually overcrowded, they are not really the trendiest of nightclubs but this is festive. It’s the mood and the company that matters.
We dance our way into the wee hours of the morning as boy band, Team Distant, rocks at Fresh Exclusive. Coming from the south, the one thing one can immediately pick from the people of Maun is the deep accent.
Although very welcoming, one may at first mistake their straight talking for arrogance. To be on the safe side, just avoid trying to be funny; they won’t get the joke.
Morning of the December 28 is the first official event of the MME. It’s just before seven in the morning as I get to the main entrance of the lodge and there are more than two dozen men, women and children stretching their legs in preparation for the 12 km Breakfast Run. Notable among the participants is Maun West MP Kgosi Tawana Moremi with his three children. Olympic medallist Nigel Amos, Dipsy Selolwane and Amantle Montsho were also present.
In just under an hour into the marathon the winner, Jerry Motsau (SA), arrives to claim the senior men’s category. The women’s category goes to Ikanyeng Semagamaga and the two walk away P2000 richer. After the race my media friends and I take a drive around the village. Looking rather dusty thanks to the white sand that spreads across the tarred roads and pavements, Maun’s residentials do not necessarily reflect the tourist destination it is. The village owes a significant amount of its reputation as a tourist destination to the great Thamalakane River. Maun Lodge is just one of the many lodges and camps stretching along the river.
There are no MME activities planned for the morning of 29 December and the day also turns out to be one our companion, Charles’ birthday.
To celebrate his day he insists the four of us (including Mathala,and Baaitse) take a mokoro (canoe) ride to which we reluctantly agree. After recent reports of mokoro accidents and people losing lives, it doesn’t sound like a good idea. But hey, it’s the guy’s birthday and he calls the shots. Mokoro ride it is.
We take to the Crocodile Camp where we meet our polers, Segolame Motshetelo and City Tsetsele.
Motshetelo (27) tells us he has been canoeing on the Thamalakane River for almost 20 years as he hands to us our lifejackets. Charles has been on a mokoro before and his experience tells him a lifejacket is not necessary. But the rest of us are not taking chances.
A few minutes later we are gliding nicely in the middle of the river. No more fear. I’m almost in a meditative state. There is no past and there is no future. I’m living in the here and now. There is something incredibly therapeutic about being in the middle of a river surrounded by nature. There’s so much peace and tranquility.
The vegetation, landscape and silence of the wilderness work their way into your consciousness. It is a truly humbling experience for a city dweller. Occasionally there’s only the sound of waves as the polers propel our way through the waters and a combination of sweet melodies from the countless species of birds going about their daily business. The birds and the green tswii leaves and flowers floating across the river also make for an incredibly picturesque setting.
Later in the day we are back in the river and this time around we are joined by the rest of the MME team on a boat cruise. Unlike the mokoro ride the boat experience is more adrenaline-charged as the boat slices its way through the waters at high speeds spreading waves across the river. December 30 would also see another event for the MME and this time around it’s the 30 km bicycle ride.
December 31st we take it a little easy as we join the other tourists at the beach (river bank) next to the Okavango Camp. We enjoy our drinks and chat our way through the day as we prepare ourselves for the New Year’s Eve festival at some farm. And the festival does not disappoint as the Deejays, among them Mr O, ensure we all usher in the year 2015 in high spirits. All in all it turns out to be an incredible outing for a city dweller. Our drive back to Gaborone is just as adventurers. Perhaps most notably about our journey back is our pit stop at Lone Tree where we got to interact with some Basarwa men selling what they call a remedy for boosting performance in bed. The mixture is sold in two litter Coke bottles for P20 each. They stand by the rode and waive the bottles in the air for passing motorists.
Truck drivers, they say, are their biggest customers. After paying, you have to hold one end of the bottle while the dealer holds another and act like you are pulling the bottle away from him. “Otherwise the remedy won’t work,” one says. If you want to experience nature at its best there is no better place than here in Botswana. No words or pictures can adequately represent the beautiful flora and fauna our country still has to offer. Botswana’s wilderness remains a diamond in the rough.