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Gaborone ... is a place of tranquillity

By Simon Nare | May 11, 2010 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

YOU immediately feel the tranquillity when you cross into Botswana at the Kopfontein border gate.

That's about the only difference as you drive from South Africa to the somewhat sleepy city of Gaborone. Otherwise it feels like just another part of South Africa.

When you drive into the city centre the billboards and rapid development tell another story. But here even the cars travel at a snail's pace - and that is when you know you are in another country.

I now know that there is Botswana time, then African time and then Western time. People in this place are just not in a hurry. At first I thought motorists were cautious because of the wet weather, but I was wrong.

I wondered what the traffic would be like during peak hours. A Gaborone Sun employee put me in the picture when he told me that most motorists flock to their establishment to kill time until the traffic jams subside.

Perhaps this is also why there is such a low crime rate. Thugs might just be caught red-handed.

Tour guide Tim Race says that the most common crime in Gaborone is housebreaking. He says the thugs are kind enough to return important items such as bank cards and driver's licences.

Residents and the authorities say there isn't much in Botswana to attract tourists. This despite the fact that the country is the continent's safari leader.

If you are a die-hard fan of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency television series, this would be heaven for you.

The series depicted the trial and tribulations of Mma Ramotswe, an astute woman who took it on herself to almost single-handedly rid society around Gaborone of its ills.

The series is based on the best-selling novels by Alexandra McCall Smith and was shot in the city.

In a specifically packaged tour you will be taken to a house where she lived as well as the set where the series was filmed. For fans of the book and TV series this could be pretty exciting. But for those who have not read the book or seen the series it could be a bore.

I am sure that the Batswana are proud of their culture, like most nations, but they have a funny way of displaying it. For instance, during month of local cultural celebration there was very little traditional activity, at least as far as I could see.

Most of the top 12 performers in dance, song and praise were either South African or American wannabes - except for one blind man who obviously didn't make the cut to the next round.

And even the cooking exhibition didn't feature any traditional food. And to top it all, there is no cultural village in the city or the surrounding areas where one can go and learn about the culture of the local people.

For adventurers there is a lot to give one an adrenalin rush. After all, this country offers adventure lovers the mother of all safaris. They are all just outside Gaborone, except for the Madikwe Game Reserve, which is on the South African side, a stone's throw from the border, where you can explore the beauty of nature.

Well nature got in my way while I was there because I learnt there was a bush experience by horse ride less than an hour from Gaborone. Thanks to the rain during the few days while we were there, I was deprived of this experience.

I had looked forward to the bush horse ride and to discover why tourism people call this country the gateway to the African bush.

Instead, we were taken to the Kgosi Museum, where we saw the ancestors of the Batswana kings and chiefs.

There were imposing statues in this museum of former leaders Seretse Khama II, Sebele I and Bathoen I.

The three leaders apparently hired a ship to take them to England to plead for protection from the British against Cecil John Rhodes when he unleashed terror on the southern hemisphere, assuming administration of neighbouring countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia.

The British came to the party but at a price. They agreed to protect the country if every household in Botswana payed tax. This practice only stopped in the late 80s.

I couldn't fathom why these men were regarded as heroes when Batswana money was taken to England instead of benefiting the locals .

But politics aside, my heart bled when I was told about the safari getaways and weekend breaks in Gaborone.

There is the Kalahari Desert where packages include camping in Khutse Game Reserve.

There is also the zebra migration tour in which you can witness the seasonal excursion to the Boteti River System and if you are into water, Moremi Gorge, the country's only waterfall, is where you should go.

Furthermore, if you are into rhinos, there is the Khama Rhino Sanctuary near Serowe.

Now I understand why they say it's the leader in safaris. I just wish I could have gone on one of them.


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