Botswana is full of beautiful wilderness areas and places of historical and cultural interest. It’s the wildlife areas of Chobe, Moremi, and Savuti and the incomparable Okavango Delta which draw the tourists, but there’s an incredible diversity of interesting places. The Kalahari sprawls across most of the country coating it in deep, pink sand. If deserts appeal to you – as they do to me – you will find many beautiful stark scenes in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. There are also cultural sites as interesting as any in the world. We have written before about the treasure trove of Bushman (San) art at the Tsodilo Hills. Believed by the Bushmen to be the birthplace of mankind, human habitation there goes back tens of thousands of years.
|Michael, Mompati and Sheldon|
I’ve just returned from a trip to Botswana and this time I was lucky enough to have a friend with me who is a serious photographer. The trip had two main focuses: a launch of DEADLY HARVEST at Exclusive Books in Gaborone, and a visit to Shoshong, a village of great historical interest going back to David Livingstone’s era. This was our first proper launch of a Detective Kubu novel in Botswana, so I was really looking forward to it. I persuaded Professor Sheldon Weeks - book reviewer for the weekly Botswana national paper Mmegi - to lead the discussion of our books. It wasn’t a big crowd, but it was an enthusiastic one and a good time was had by all thanks to the store’s manager, Mompati Seditse, and our South African publisher, Jonathan Ball.
The next day we set off along the old road north. This was an important trade route in the nineteenth century and only lost prominence when Cecil Rhodes built his “Cape to Cairo” railroad much further to the east. From the old road, one comes into Shoshong from the west side and on the way you pass a sign announcing: Pitsane Hill 2Km. Here was a place I’d never visited. So we pulled onto a donkey cart track and muddled our way till we found a cow path heading into the hills. There we stopped and walked up Pitsane Hill.
The hills forms a saddle and you can walk through it down to a river – dry, of course – which we realized was the same one that was once responsible for Shoshong’s prominence. In this area of the hill, there was an iron age settlement over 1000 years ago. The Botswana National Museum tells us that these people worked metal for tools, kept cattle, and grew crops in the area. The relics are at the museum and not much remains to be seen of the Pitsane Hill settlements today, but the walk is wonderful. You climb the hills – sharing the route only with cows, who seem to know where they're going although there is really nowhere to go. There are wonderful views of the surrounding plains. You descend through a gorge into the riverbed, surrounded by the fascinating Dolerite boulders and screes of the hills that protected Shoshong from hostile tribes to the north. But the most fascinating part is to be surrounded by the amazing Paperbark Corkwood trees (Commiphora Marlothii). Our timing was perfect. The trees were developing new green spring bark, sloughing off the old in rice-paper like fragments. As you walked, the wind made them whisper and rustle like animate things.
Oh. I was supposed to tell you about Shoshong. Well, another time.
Michael – Thursday.
Photographs by Jonathan Everitt.