TWISTED: Oliver combines sun, salt and smoke in a Makgadikgadi Marlboro Meditation

Wow man, it was like déjà vu all over again. There I was at sunrise on the first morning of the Presidents’ holiday weekend freezing my butt off and gazing with mixed emotions over Sua Pan as Moabe the moviemaker filmed my fellow walkers setting off on the first of three 40 kilometre days to raise money for Botswana’s charities.  Sure, I’d had a great time when I walked with Y-Care three years ago, but it was all new then and I’d come with a couple of companions. The 120 kilometre walk was also bloody hard work – literally, for me, after the foot blisters began blooming 30 kilometres into the walk – and as I recall, some of the younger corporate walkers who had been sent by their bosses to bond with their workmates – or possibly as punishment – were hard work as well.
Yeah, I’d definitely been there before and for a little while that first day I was wondering why I’d agreed to come back. I’d already walked the full route, taken some decent pictures and filed a mildly humorous piece in Botswana’s most widely read newspaper, so there wasn’t much to prove to myself or to anyone else.
I also suspect I’ve been spending a bit too much time on my own this year so I wasn’t feeling any great need for getting away from the rat race of modern living and communing with nature in the peace and quiet of the Makgadikgadi.
Hmmm, probably not the best frame of mind for an endurance test, but the good news is none of my fears bore fruit.  Amazingly, the blisters gave my feet a big miss this time around, I only walked alone when I wanted to and, best of all, the other walkers and the people working on the support crew turned out to be great company.  They were funny but also willing to share more intimate information about their lives and who they really are.  I suspect that may be due to the fact that Y-Care has been doing these things for several years now so the new corporate walkers would have heard about what is involved from colleagues who have walked in the past so people looking for a three day party on the pans don’t bother to sign up.
As it turned out, the trip was just what I needed and one of the most sociable things I’ve done in a very long time; and the reason for that, I believe, is because a great many of my conversations were with just one or two people at a time.  Yeah, there were group discussions at meal times and around the fire at the end of the day, but we were walking for eight or nine hours each day and most of the time I was either alone or just talking to one other walker.
That seems to be when people are most likely to open up. One lady told me about losing her father to a brain tumour when she was 8-years-old, and about how her mother struggled to deal with the loss; another told me about losing her husband in a car crash two years ago and about how she is coping with raising her four children.  Others told me about the strains of growing up in families where the parents divorced when they were young teenagers.
Intense stuff, but all very real; and while the idea of joining this walk was to give some publicity to the good work of Y-Care, I’d have to say I probably got more out of the experience than I’m giving back.