There’s no country that can quite compete with Botswana for the ultimate long distance road trip. A huge network of highways and backroads zig-zag this vast and massive country, covering astounding natural wonders such as the Okavango Delta and incredible diverse landscapes, from Kalahari Desert to forests and dramatic mountain ranges to rugged dusty terrains, linking Botswana’s most exciting events such as the just ended Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival which invaded the remote and sleepy Khawa village in the Kgalagadi District this past weekend.
Surprise, relaxation, serene beauty and pure indulgence. Botswana is just made to explore by car, and its most iconic course – an epic settlement-to-settlement expedition from Gaborone to Khawa via the Trans-Kalahari Highway – is the road trip bucket list dreams are made of.
This 758km route via Jwaneng, Sekoma, Khakhea, Werda, and Tsabong will take you to one of Botswana’s greatest and unspoilt sand dunes, perched in the remote village of Khawa, amidst abundant flora and fauna, breath-taking sunsets and tranquil sceneries, all on one mind-blowing journey.
This past Friday until Sunday, we joined Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO), who together with the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) and Botswana Motor Sport (BMS) hosted the annual Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural Festival in Khawa, a village approximately 167 km southwest of Tsabong in the Kgalagadi District.
Now in its 7th year, the event featured quad and motor bike challenges, fun camel rides, cultural performances and exhibitions as well as the sale of arts and crafts from the Kgalagadi area. Other activities to be found at the event include; soccer, volleyball, 4×4 sand dune challenge, polka music competition and sandboarding.
“As a cultural tourism event, the Khawa cultural festival is part of an effort to diversify the tourism product offered during the Dune challenge in terms of providing entertainment and running exhibitions alongside the other activities. The cultural festival objectives among others is to provide full community participation through their music and dance, enhance cultural exchange and provide commercial space for the Khawa community to sell their cultural goods, products and services. Travellers seeking to immense themselves in the culture and tradition of the Kgalagadi area should request an inclusion of this event in their itinerary to Botswana,” said BTO.
We saw 4X4s of all makes pulling trailers or caravans laden with all the camping lifestyle extravagances or perks, as citizens and tourists from across neighbouring countries such as Namibia and South Africa headed out to the Western part of the country in a precious but costly pilgrimage; which has the consents and blessings of the former President, His Excellency Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
The experience is simply called Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival, which took place from Friday, 11 May – Sunday 13 May 2018 right in the heart of the sleepy village of Khawa in the Kgalagadi District; 758km away from the capital city Gaborone. The annual Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival is one of its kind in Botswana combining both motorsport and culture thus adding a new dimension to tourism development product.
Never mind the mere fact that Khawa rhymes with Khama; this is one of the many festivities held annually, hosted and sponsored by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) where the disparity between the rich and the poor actually gets amplified. This whiskey – hic! Real boys come out with their big toys, ready to conquer any blob that stands on their jovial pursuit to attaining supreme merriment.
‘Blessers’ gloriously flaunt their bank cards (MasterCard, Diners Club International, American Express or VISA) courtesy of their brim-full bank accounts as the ‘blessees’ open up vivaciously, unperturbed by the many consequences that may arise next due to the liberal expenditure.
Like lost baby birds in springtime, their pitiful chirps awakening a mothering instinct in even the most hard-hearted of souls; the usually naïve blessee will never know what hit them next.
Despite BTO encouraging citizens from all walks of life to participate and experience Khawa, the playing field here is not levelled. This is where the macho men usually separate themselves from the meek boys; while others simply play spectator roles.
Don’t get me wrong here; anybody is allowed and welcome to go to Khawa but due to the distance and the costs associated with this trip, the experience thus usually becomes a pie in the sky to most of the typical hoi polloi. However, for motorsport and outdoor camping fanatics, this is truly an unmissable bucket list affair.
The Khawa experience simply echoes Friedrich Nietzsche’s sentiments, “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.” The boys bring out all their immaculately polished toys – from two-wheelers (motorbikes) to the four-wheelers (quadbikes), and throughout the weekend indulge in some thrilling and adrenaline pumping demeanours – as their engines revved to life disrupting the Kgalagadi serenity.
Let me add that it’s all fun and vibes out here; as the dunes to the west are nevertheless worth visiting with unique scenery and challenging roads adding to the wilderness experience. We are sure going to be back next year and many other years to follow in future when this event not only grows into leaps and bounds but also helps the community of Khawa to tap into our tourism coffers through meaningful diversification.
10 Things to bring to Khawa
1. Tent – the only accommodation out here in the bundus is tented accommodation in various camps. You can also pitch your very own tent, if you’re an outdoor adventurer.
2. Water – it gets blazingly hot here in the Kgalagadi Desert, so packing generous drinkable water is extremely advisable.
3. Food and Snacks – Some people like to keep it simple and bring canned food that they can just heat up. Others prefer to go all out and bring fresh delicacies. Admittedly, I am no master chef, but I do like to eat well when heading out in the It is always a good idea to bring one extra meal just in case you want stay another day or get stuck. Believe me, it happens.
4. Power – My advice is simple: limit the number of appliances that require power. A generator is great but it tends to be extremely noisy for anyone’s comfort. A portable solar panel can come in quite handy. For your camera and mobile phone, make sure you have a few fully-charged power banks at your disposal. Also advisable to bring extra batteries, headlamp, lighter and waterproof matches.
5. Wet wipes – it gets extremely dusty during the Khawa Dune Challenge and Cultural festival, especially if one has not invested in a multi-functional buff to ward off the nasty dust.
6. First Aid kit – the bundus can be quite challenging away from the homely comforts, and occasionally one might catch a cold, get stung by a scorpion, snake or just simply get scratched by a nasty thorn or tree branch. The first aid kit will come in handy when all this happens. Make sure you have large black trash bag and shovel to bury waste.
7. Insect Repellent and Toilet paper – pack a few of these items and you’ll thank me later.
8. Torch – it will help you navigate the cold and dark wilderness, especially when you want to step out your tent to relieve your bladder. You don’t want any nasty surprises like stepping on some slimy and slithering serpent minding its own business. It is even better if you can bring along a UV scorpion detection flashlight.
9. Pack Warm Clothes/Extra Blanket – The weather out here can be extremely unforgiving. It gets hot during the day and extremely cold during the night. Pack a warm jacket, fleece blanket, beanie, scarf, gloves, and extra heavy socks to wear with your boots. You may also want to invest in a sleeping bag.
10. Miscellaneous – Don’t forget to bring along a multi-purpose knife, especially a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife, toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste), body lotion, sunscreen, sunglasses and an outdoor hat.