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After our lovely running exploration of Oodi, we were keen to venture further afield. Thamaga seemed a good choice, given its proximity to Gaborone and its interesting landscape. It is the third largest village (in both size and population) in Kweneng District and is located about 40km west of Gaborone. As I was reading about the place, I learned that a significant amount of archaeological research has taken place in and around Thamaga by various institutions including the University of Botswana and the University of California, Berkeley.
Not knowing the village very well, we chose quite a straightforward (triangular) route using the main roads surrounding the village. We parked our car at the famous Thamaga Pottery.
Thamaga Pottery was opened around 1970 when a young Catholic Priest Father Julian was transferred from Francistown to Thamaga. Finding that many women did not have a means of income and that there was a source of clay in the area, he established Thamaga Pottery where over the last 50 years, women have created beautiful pottery (cups, plates, mugs, bowls) with a very distinct pattern and style. Several pieces of pottery have found homes, not just in Botswana, but in all corners of the world. For a small fee, it is also possible to tour the factory and try your own hand at the potter’s wheel which we did on a separate visit with the family.
From Thamaga Pottery, we got onto the B111 Loop Road and then made our way to the A10 Road (Gaborone – Kanye Road) and back onto the B111 Loop. Towards the end of our run the B111 Loop (and eventually the Mosielele Road) took us alongside the majestic rocky outcrops.
We asked a passer-by about the graveside next to the rocks, and he said that was where the Dikgosi (Chiefs) were buried. Mosielele Road took us to a T-Junction where we turned left and back to Thamaga Pottery. We were a bit short of the 16km we had wanted to run so we turned onto Botlhoko Road, to the T-Junction where there was a small school and back again.
Six Things To Consider Running Through A Village
Hello Goes A Long Way. Greeting is an important part of Botswana’s culture – whether you are getting into a bus, entering a waiting room, or passing someone in a corridor, you greet. When I was studying overseas, I greeted everyone until I realised this wasn’t the custom. Only the elderly seemed to appreciate my greetings! When I got back, my mum almost took a swipe at me when she realised I wasn’t greeting people. There is a lot you can get away with in the bigger towns, but in most villages, this is still important. So if you’re running past someone, greet.
Don’t Seek Help In Haste. Running in a village can get tricky and often needs you to stop and ask for directions. Don’t be hasty when doing so. Your dilemma is not anyone else’s problem! So stop thinking about your pace and time and where you need to get to. Slow down, come to a stop, greet politely, ask how the person is and then respectfully request permission to ask your question. Once that is done, fire away! That way, you will (quickly) be on your way.
Be Mindful Of The Livestock. You’ll encounter lots of goats, sheep, chickens and even cattle. These are normally used to people walking past but not to someone in bright gear speeding towards them. This can easily startle them onto oncoming traffic. So as you run, give them space and be mindful of creating a hazardous situation. This is their home, you are just visiting!
Don’t Mind The Stares. We ran past a household where an old lady was sitting outside, sipping her tea and catching the morning sun. She had obviously caught a glimpse of us from a distance and as we approached she kept her gaze on us, and then turned her head and her whole body towards us! My experience running through various villages is that this is the norm. Initially, it would get to me, until the reality dawned on me – it’s early morning, I’m dressed head to toe in bright running gear with a hydration pack. It’s therefore not hard to imagine that some people are thinking: Where does this person come from? Where is she going? And most importantly, does she need our help?! One man on my run in Otse was actually brave enough to ask this!
Ask For Permission When Taking Photos: This is important. Most of the photos I take are of buildings and don’t require permission. But when there are people in the photo, you must always ask for permission. It’s just rude not to. Towards the end of our run in Thamaga, I caught sight of a donkey cart. It’s always been a fantasy of mine to run alongside a donkey cart! So we ran up to the two drivers and asked for permission for me to run past as my husband took a photo. They were very happy to oblige and even stopped the donkey cart for me. But I think they definitely (and rightfully) would have taken great offense had we not asked.
Buy Local. Instead of driving back home immediately, take a look at what the village has to offer. In the case of Thamaga, Thamaga Pottery is a must. But you can also visit a local restaurant or simply buy a drink or snacks from a semausu (street kiosk). I enjoyed some hand-cut ma-fresh (chips) with perfectly sprinkled salt and Ditiro some magwinya (fat cakes).
Hope you enjoyed this running tour of Thamaga as well as what to be mindful of when running in a village in Botswana. If you’re from Botswana, have I missed any rules? If you’re from somewhere else, would any of the rules apply to your villages or small towns? Do you own Thamaga Pottery? Which village should I do next?
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