A couple of months ago, I started a new series on the blog, Exploring Gaborone On The Run, to share my favourite running places with a small dose of history. The more I explore, the more I realise not enough of Gaborone’s history is easily accessible online and there are a number of contradicting versions. Resources I’ve found useful have been The Guide to Greater Gaborone by Alec Campbell and Mike Main as well as my dad who has lived in Gaborone since the 1960s and with his sharp memory and keen interest in history, he always has a great story to share about the city. Today I’m sharing a 6K loop I’m calling the Gaborone Heritage Route because it is steeped in so much history. This Heritage Route is in an area called The Village which is in the east of the city, on the west bank of the Notwane River. It was established in 1890 as the Administrative Centre for the southern part of the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
Starting your run at Riverwalk, head towards Tlokweng and turn left at the Senn Foods Traffic Lights. If you follow this road and then turn left at the end it will bring you to the Old Tlokweng Bridge. After this bridge, go right and the National Botanical Garden will be on your right.
The National Botanical Garden: Opened in November 2007, this is Botswana’s first botanical garden and is managed under the Natural History Division of the Botswana National Museum for purposes of protecting and showcasing Botswana’s plant heritage and biodiversity.
It features native plants from the six different ecological regions in Botswana as well as a herbarium for research purposes. When I ran through the garden, it didn’t seem very well structured or maintained. This has the potential to be a great garden but requires more dedicated management. A few things stood out though, for one, the number of monkeys running across the paths and swinging from the trees as well as very chubby but agile rock dassies.
There is also a time capsule buried in June 1995 by the former Minister of Education, Dr Gaositwe Chiepe, which contains an apology letter to the next generation for not having done enough to care for natural resources. The capsule is to be opened in 2044.
There is also an old building under the care of the National Museum known as The Gaberones Hotel, believed to have been built in the 1880s as a Government rest-house. No accommodation was provided but travellers could park their wagons around the building and have meals. The Greater Gaborone guide also notes that for a short period it was occupied by a District Commissioner who apparently committed suicide on the rocks behind the building.
You don’t have to run inside the Garden but if you do it adds about 1km to your run. Going through the Garden is free of charge but you do have to register at the gate.
The Gaborone Club: Opposite the Botanical Garden is the Gaborone Club established in 1965. It was considered the sports and social venue for the so-called “middle class” of the growing town. You could (and still can) play squash, tennis, football and bowls here and there is also a swimming pool as well as a small restaurant. This is actually where my kids have their tennis lessons. If you run along the fence of the Gaborone Club you will pass the Magistrate’s Office.
Magistrate’s Offices and Court: The original magistrate’s offices were located here but torn down in the 1970s and this new building was erected. This is where most couples in Gaborone have gotten married traditionally on a Thursday, including my parents in 1980.
From here go past Camp Primary School and then take a left at the Police Mess. If you take the first left, you will pass two very old buildings – The Old Prison will be on your left and Thapong Visual Arts Centre will be directly opposite on your right.
The Old Prison: This prison was built soon after the Protectorate was declared in 1885 and used until the 1970s. The buildings are extremely dilapidated and as far as I can tell there is no sign to explain its significance. Prisoners went out to work daily on Government Buildings with duties including cleaning, sweeping and cooking. Although some were guarded, many were not and at around 5pm, they made their way back to the prison! The gallows still stands and apparently the executioner would fly in from Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia). Apart from the prison, none of the original 19th Century Village buildings are around.
Thapong Visual Arts Centre: There are still some buildings from the early to middle 20th century which are easily recognisable by their colonial architecture. This centre is believed to have been the residence of the Assistant Resident Magistrate. It now houses the Thapong Visual Arts Centre which was established in 1998 as a way of promoting art from various communities. It has a gallery and exhibitions programme and also maintains studios and hosts workshops. Since 2002, it offers residencies for international artists to work in Botswana for a short period and offer outreach workshops and co-host exhibitions with local artists. There is a lovely restaurant on-site called the No. 1 Ladies Tea House which has a small playground and also hosts a number of creative night markets, musical events and cultural experiences.
The Fort: Once you are on the Thapong grounds there is also a museum sign that indicates the site of The Gaberones Fort constructed in 1890 – 91 which was a square earthwork with a trench to protect the patrol horses. The sign states there are floor remains of an armoury storage facility built with earth/clay bricks.
Your run is almost done! Leaving Thapong, go left at the T-Junction and then right at the Traffic Lights past a Eucalyptus Forest. This road takes you back to Riverwalk. This Gaborone Heritage Route can be done as is but you can also include it as part of a longer run. I hope you enjoyed this tour of the older parts of Gaborone. If you’re from Gaborone, try this route and let me know how it goes! If you’re not, I hope you learnt something new about Gaborone!
Do you love learning about places you run in? Is there a Heritage Route you could design in your town or city? What’s the oldest building in your area? Is there a Botanical Garden close to where you run? If I were visiting your town, where would you take me?
I’m joining two amazing runners, Kim from Running on the Fly and Deborah from Confessions from a Mother Runner for their link up, the “Weekly Run Down”. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!