Jwaneng was the place to be this past Saturday as an estimated 3000 walkers from all over the world descended upon the diamond-mining town, eager to start the 4th installment of the Desert Bush Walk. This was a significant growth from the 2,100 walkers that participated in 2018. The walk took participants 15 and 30 kilometers into the unforgiving difficult sandy desert terrain. The chief walkers were Minister of Youth Sports and Culture Thapelo Olopeng, Minister of Basic Education Alfred Madigele, and Member of Parliament for Jwaneng-Mabutsane, Sean Nthaile.
Founder of Jwaneng Desert Bush Walk Archibald Ngakayagae told Arts and Society that this year they also enjoyed more international patronage than the previous years.
“The international support this year has been outstanding! It was clear by the many different country flags that were consistently hoisted along the way that our initiative has become so popular even beyond our borders,” Ngakayagae. The most visible flags were South Africa, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Germany and Australia.
The first 15-kilometer walkers arrived at the finish line in two hours while the fastest 30-kilometer walkers clocked an impressive five hours. Interestingly many of the walkers in the 15-kilometer category did not complain of much pain. “The 15 kilometers was very challenging because of sand but the weather was very bearable,” said Itumeleng Baareng from Stanbic Bank. Meanwhile the 30-kiometer walkers had a very different story to tell.
“The walk was excruciating. 30 kilometers is not for the faint hearted. At some point I felt like giving up but just kept on pressing forward to the finish line. As much as I have a lot of muscle pain, blisters and fatigue to deal with, I am mighty proud of myself,” said Sunday Standard’s Boago Obuseng who was in the group that finished first.
Ngakayagae said he had observed that 30-kilometer walkers suffered a great deal as a result of lack of training. “I would advice walkers to make an effort to train hard next time before they dare to walk 30 kilometers in the desert. Apart from having to deal with weather elements, the terrain itself should not be taken for granted. A lot of muscles were sprained and many people could not make the full distance simply because they were unfit as they possibly underestimated the terrain,” he cautioned.
Despite the fact that people registered for the walk in impressive numbers, Ngakayagae was skeptical of the fundraising compared to previous years.
“I doubt we will make as much money as we did last year because we got different kind of support this time around. A lot of our sponsorship came in kind rather than as money. We have to pay service providers with money from ticket sales which will reduce the amount we could have otherwise given to charity,” he said. Last year Ngakayagae’s team raised P235, 600.00 through The Desert Bush Walk, which was disbursed towards educational needs of communities around Jwaneng-Mabutsane. “Whatever money we raise this year will also assist the Ministry of Basic Education in urgent projects around Jwaneng-Mabutsane. We put emphasis on assisting in projects such as building libraries, design workshops, computer labs and so on.”