SAFE LANDING: Skydiver
SAFE LANDING: Skydiver

A traveller’s journal

The annual Makgadikgadi Epic in Sowa Town is one of the biggest occasions in the Botswana Tourism (BTO) calendar of events. Held at the impressive salt-crusted pans of Makgadikgadi, then event has grown in stature over the years and has attracted thousands of tourists. Together with a group of journalists we were scheduled to leave on Friday 12th for the four day event.

12 Friday July – 6am
After a quick shower I hurriedly stuffed a few clothes into my travel bag. I of course made sure I forgot my toothbrush, toothpaste and my face towel. It has now become an annoying tradition I practice without fail.
A mini bus carrying journalists left the Capital City Gaborone at around 9am (I have my doubts). I’m sitting impatiently in the office, barely able to concentrate on an online story I was working on.
Its a five hour drive from Gaborone to Francistown, where the minibus was supposed to pick me up en-route to Sua Town. That meant I had to be in the office until a little after 1500hrs. Not exciting at all, particularly on an epic Friday. I thought about driving myself until I remembered that an old friend of mine headed the same direction was in town. It had been a while since I went out with Comfort “Big Fish” Ramatebele, a bubbly fellow with the energy enough to lighten up any tormented soul. 

12noon
Big Fish arrives at The Voice office and together we go out to a local supermarket to stock-up on refreshments and snacks. An hour later we are still in town in search of a Public Announcement system he needed for his excursion in the pans. P350 and another hour later, we finally hit the road hoping to arrive in time for the Friday action.

16:45
The land Cruiser turns left into Mosetse village where we loaded mophane wood for our envisaged bonfires at the ‘Tent villa”. We were back on the road in 30 minutes and arrived in Dukwi by sun set.

At this time the mini bus was about two hours behind us. After a few minutes of snapping at the beautiful Dukwi sunset, the Cruiser coughed and with every passing minute we eliminated kilometres edging ever closer to Sua Town.
We eventually arrived around 6pm. We had missed all the Friday action. We headed straight to the BTO Reception area and we were shown to our tents by the organisation’s courteous staff.

I lit a fire, and with basically nothing to do in the evening we sat down in the moonlight around the fire and rummaged through the cooler box. The minibus team arrived an hour and a half later and together we sat around the fire imbibing our assorted drinks. At around 11:30 I excused myself and headed to the tent. I was exhausted. My body doesn’t respond well to being a passenger, I prefer to be on the driver’s seat.

13 Saturday – 05:30
I woke up to dancehall tunes blaring from Moses “Rudeboy” Maruping’s tent and immediately headed for the shower. The water was lukewarm, and it was freezing!

I’d later learn there was something I needed to have done to trigger the mobile shower’s heating system. I went back undercover and immersed myself in the rub-a-dub beats coming from Rudeboy’s tent.
At the first break of dawn I was out of my tent capturing the scenic view of the Makgadikgadi. I was ready for day two activities.

SAFE LANDING: Skydiver
SAFE LANDING: Skydiver

09:30
The first group of skydivers landed and the venue was gradually filling up with revellers. By noon, hundreds of Epic fans were sitting in small groups watching the radiant spectacle as skydivers splattered a rainbow of colours across the dull Sowa planes.
Just behind the landing space, kids and adults alike were raising the dust on quad bikes and horses. Makgadikgadi had come alive.

Skydiving, tandem jumps and scenic helicopter flips continued throughout the day as the venue filled up. The day was further spiced up by the periodic low level fly past of the the two Hercules C130.
President Masisi and his entourage later arrived causing a frenzy as everyone fought to shake his hand.

1645hrs
Shanti Lo stepped on stage to serenade Epic revellers with his soothing jazz tunes. Clad in their outdoor attires and balaclavas, ninja-like fun lovers danced the evening away before shut down at 1800hrs. They then headed to the stadium for a festival featuring One Blood of “Kangaroo” fame.
I chose an evening around the fire at the ‘Tent Villa’. A few of my colleagues also remained behind and we were joined by other strangers at the fire. The more the merrier. I did the bonfire until midnight and headed to my tent for a goodnight’s sleep.

ABOVE THE SALT PLANES: C130
ABOVE THE SALT PLANES: C130

14 Sunday – 0800hrs
I was awoken by the long burning fingers of the Sowa sun. Damn! I over slept. After a record shower time I dragged my weary body to the large marquee for a sumptuous breakfast. I already had a slice of toast in my plate, when I remembered that I was on a banting diet. No carbs Dip Flo.

I went for a generous scoop of boiled mushrooms, pork sausages and fried eggs, a perfect combination for a gaseous tummy. Lucky I was sleeping alone.
Day three was an exact replica of day two. More skydiving and low fly pasts by the magnificent C130s.

I went for a bit of action on the quad bikes, a thrilling experience in the open space of Makgadikgadi. The next day tandem jumps were organised for the media team. Sadly I couldn’t do it for health reasons, and now I had to bear Big Fish’s bellowing voice.

In his eyes I chickened out. Maybe I should have jumped, just maybe my heart rate would have normalised. But as far as I know there’re no chickens in the pans, and there’s always a next time. I’ll jump, even if its only over a frying pan.

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