Located on the southern outskirts of Gaborone on the A1 to Lobatse, Kgale Hill, loosely translated as “The Place That Dried Up” is a national treasure. A visit to Gaborone isn’t complete without a hike up Kgale Hill which has a summit elevation of 1,287 metres (4,222 ft) above sea level. For those who are familiar with the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, much of the filming for it took place at the foot of Kgale Hill, giving rise to the apt nickname “Kgalewood” for the set! It is also the site of the famous PPC Kgale Hill Challenge, a 15km race I did in 2018. As I’m back training for the Addo Ultra-Trail, I’m trying to hike up Kgale on a fortnightly basis.
Even at 6am in the morning, there is always a line of cars parked at the base of the Hill, just showing how popular Kgale is.
Currently, there is a lot of development going on at the base of the Hill so the climb now starts on a concrete staircase which eventually gives way to quite rocky terrain – very good training for balancing and strengthening ankles but difficult to get used to if you’re new to the Hill!
Once you’ve navigated the rocky section, you eventually make your way to a flat narrow trail and eroded gulley. The flatter terrain offers a welcome respite after the intense climb. You get to enjoy nature at it’s best, the occasional rustle in the bush, the moretologa fruits in the trees and the gorgeous blossoms of the Kalahari Christmas Tree at this time of year. There’s also a natural “pull-up apparatus” if you’re keen to do some pull ups on your way up the hill!
On this path, there’s an option to scramble up a trail of rocks to get directly to the summit. This scramble is enjoyable for those who are more agile and adventurous and as this path is less traversed, you’re more likely to encounter baboons. However, most people use the alternative which is a concrete path that winds up to a flat area which eventually takes you to the summit.
Using the concrete path, you catch great views of the surrounding land – the other hills to the south as well as the Kgale Quarry down below.
Most people turn back when they arrive at the wide flattened area. This provides a good vantage point for seeing the Gaborone Dam as well as the A1 Road to Lobatse. This area is also very popular for outdoor aerobics classes and there are three blocks perfectly positioned for some push-ups for those who are feeling extra energetic at this point of the climb!
But for even better views, you need to climb to the summit which entails navigating some difficult and sometimes slippery graffitied boulders.
I don’t particularly enjoy this section but the gorgeous view of the sprawling city is a great reward and always makes it worth the effort. On a good day, you get to see the tall buildings of the Central Business District, various suburbs and the Gaborone Dam. The recent rains have already turned the surroundings from drab brown to glorious green.
Let’s Talk About Litter!
Over the last few weeks, I’ve become concerned about some of the litter around. Kgale Hill is such a beautiful place so to see rubbish strewn around by some individuals is disconcerting. So, on today’s blog, I also want to share some of the harmful effects of littering but, more importantly, what we as a community can do to keep our Hill clean.
Some Harmful Effects Of Littering
Risks To Health and Safety. Litter forms a breeding ground for bacteria which in the worst case scenario can lead to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid if the litter finds its way into water sources or is carried by pets and birds into our homes. Also, rusty tins or contaminated blades or glass can cut into the skin causing infections such as tetanus.
Threat To Wildlife. Baboons are rampant on Kgale Hill and I’ve spotted a few rock dassies. I’ve also read that the black eagle uses the hills as a breeding site. When there is litter, animals can easily get entangled in nets or plastics or be hurt by items like broken glass and other sharp objects. Non-biodegradable trash is also dangerous for animals as they can’t digest the materials, resulting in clogged up digestive tracts causing painful and slow deaths.
High Costs Of Cleaning Up. Unlike other parts of the city where it’s easier for the City Council to ensure regular pick up of litter and waste, Kgale Hill is more difficult to access on a regular basis. This means that cleaning up the area requires extra funds and personnel to do it regularly.
Impact On Local Tourism. Litter is such an eyesore! Its very presence makes a place unclean and unpleasant and really ruins its natural beauty.
Some Simple Ways To Keep Kgale Clean
Carry Waste Back. This is the simplest one. As hikers, whatever we take up Kgale, be it water bottles or snacks, needs to come back down. If you want to enjoy a hands-free hiking experience, carry a backpack or loop a bag around your belt so you don’t leave anything behind on the Hill. Although I’m talking about Kgale, this principle of course applies to all other places you may be hiking or running. If everyone did this, we would see an immediate difference.
Plogging. As we can’t bank on everyone to carry waste back , we may have to adopt this strategy from Stockholm. In 2016, Stockholm became the first city to host an organized “Plogga” which combines jogging, “jogga” in Swedish, with picking up litter, “plocka up”. This became such a popular movement and according to their site, every day, approximately 20,000 people plog in over 100 countries. A derivative of this is “Pliking” which combines picking litter with hiking or biking, and is something that all of us could do on Kgale. In fact, Mr David Slater, a former teacher at Maru-A-Pula School and Director of the Maitisong Theatre for 20 years, has long been pliking. Every time I see him on Kgale, he has his dog lead in one hand a rubbish bag in the other. Imagine the possibilities if we all encouraged our friends and families to do the same?
Educate Others. For those who may not know better, littering can be seen as the easy option and sadly this behaviour quickly influences others including children. So although many people’s immediate response to littering is anger and frustration, perhaps we should take a different approach, and rather educate and influence as many people as we can. We can do this by sharing information in various media and formats but even more importantly, we should call it out when we see it. Maybe if more of us called it out with the aim to educate and spread awareness, we would see change in behaviour especially from those who don’t know better.
Push For More Bins. While doing all of this, let’s also use whatever position of influence we have to advocate for more bins at the base of the Hill so it is easier for people to do the right thing. These bins would need to be dog- and baboon-proof and pick-up tied to the Kgale Quarries Office, so we don’t end up with unsightly and overflowing bins. So if you are actively involved in a charity group or you are in a position to advocate for this as part of your corporate social responsibilities, please help to get bins installed at the base of Kgale Hill. While we are on the topic of bins, let’s push for even more of them along the big roads in town and at bus stops.
Kgale Hill is a national treasure and it needs to be protected so that it remains a pristine and peaceful place where we can all enjoy the health and social benefits it offers, and proudly share it with tourists visiting Gaborone. Let’s all commit to making it our social responsibility to keep it clean so it does not pose any harm to wildlife, our environment and ourselves.
What other ideas do you have to keep Kgale clean? What other ways should hikers and runners be environmentally friendly? What do you commit to doing to keep your environment clean?
I’m joining the Runner’s Roundup with Mile By Mile, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, Runs with Pugs, and Laura Norris Running! Be sure to read their blogs and catch up with other runners from around the world.