Ngami polers battle it out for the fastest in the delta

Winner clocks 13 min 40 sec.

Thamalakane River surges and swells at different points throughout the year as it snakes its way to a myriad of swampy channels known as the Okavango Delta.

A home to hippos and crocodiles, Thamalakane River is not the safest way to travel.

That however has not stopped innovative locals in the tourist town of Maun from ferrying passengers across the river using canoes (Mokoro)

This mode of transport has apparently become so popular that it is now the preferred mode of transport along the Thamalakane River and this is largely because of its effectiveness, giving one the ultimate feel of the magical Okavango delta.

To an adventurous person like me I would say go for it, but if you don’t have the stomach for it don’t, because a hippo can easily flip the canoe over and chances of survival would be rare. Well that’s a topic for another day.

Last weekend in a bid to promote sports and culture tourism, the Botswana Wild Bird trust in partnership with the Botswana Tourism Organization (BTO) teamed up for the first ever Mokoro race dubbed Nkashi Classic Event.

The event, which sought to find the fastest poler in the delta, took place along the Thamalakane river points with the winner ultimately clocking 13.40 minutes.

About 80 riders registered for the competition on the day.

The set-up was such that the competitors travelled for about 1. 5 KM to the finishing point with one passenger on the Mokoro- a traditional canoe is made from strong wood crafted in such a way that after the ‘burning process’ a chunk of it is dug out and space is created in the middle to accommodate three people, two passengers and the poler.

To propel the Mokoro through the murky waters the poler uses a long pole called Nkashi.

My poler, KB promised he would win. He did not!

On the way however he explained that he had amassed 15 years of experience as a poler but last weekend was his first competition.

“Balancing is the main thing when on the Mokoro , weight matters but mostly it’s the force I use to push the mokoro that makes it go faster. It is really tiring because it involves a lot of energy and force,” said KB.

Ralph Moshupa claimed the crown of the fastest poler in Ngamiland walking away with a brand new Mokoro (canoe) as well as goodies including hampers and merchandize and vouchers.

Ngami polers battle it out for the fastest in the delta

The race was done on the backdrop of the legendary Stiga Sola belting out his timeless tunes to the sizeable crowd that turned up to the races.

Giving a few renditions of traditional songs backed by Stiga Sola was a troupe from the Conservation Music group.

Stiga Sola and the Conservation music group are currently on a tour dubbed from Cape to Cairo, and soon after the event they continued with their tour.

The event is tipped to return to the same place at the same time next year.

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