Tlokweng is a fast-growing town adjacent to the capital city of Gaborone. It is often described as being “on the other side” of the Notwane River and is just 15 kilometres from our border with South Africa. It’s a bustling town with a mix of identities from modern suburbs to more traditional homesteads, cattle-posts and masimo (crop land). An avid mountain-biker, my husband introduced me to the trails of Tlokweng when I was first training for an ultra-trail marathon about a year ago. The trails are mostly used by workers commuting between Tlokweng and Ruretse, badisa (herdsmen) servicing farms in the area and mountain bikers – some of whom have dedicated time and energy to marking them with bright green or red labels.
Not many runners have heard of this trail so I thought I’d share my experience, especially for those who prefer trail running. The route I describe is the one I use most frequently. It is a 20 km circular loop that takes me about 3 hours to complete at my current fitness level.
The easiest way to access this trail (coming from Gaborone) is to park at the shopping mall next to Jamali Stadium, home of Botswana Premier League football club Township Rollers, the team my father supports! I’m a proudly Gaborone United fan but that’s a story for another day!
Construction of the Jamali Stadium started in 2018 as a joint project between club president Jagdish Shah and property mogul Sayed Jamali. The big vision is to establish a Rollers City which would include a resort, gym, shopping complex and training fields. As you leave the mall parking, you pass a wall lined with beautiful bougainvillea.
You then head into the bush, first passing some fenced residential areas with dogs barking. As you run further into the bush, the barking grows more muffled and you will find yourself quite alone on the trail. Around 2km in, you get to a dry riverbed crossing.
Once you’ve crossed this riverbed, the trail goes very gently uphill. You barely notice it with the naked eye but you do feel a higher level of effort is needed when running.
There are a few sandy patches before you get to a small earthen pond where you run over the ridge. This is where you often find cows drinking in the company of white cattle egrets.
From here, the route weaves through the green shrubland and indigenous trees. There are also some places you will run along farm fences, many made the traditional way.
Although you’re almost always surrounded by trees and bush, there is an open grassy field you traverse about 5km from the end.
The second half is a lot easier – you can feel you’re heading downwards towards the river and it is a great way to end the run. About 1.5km from the end, you join the path you started on.
FIVE Things You’ll Appreciate About This Trail
1/ It’s Not Technical. If you prefer road running or are new to trail, this is perfect for you as you don’t have to jump, hop or skip over obstacles. If you start in the direction I’ve suggested, the first half trends upwards – but not very noticeably. There are a few sandy patches but the path is mostly smooth and free of rocks. During spring and summer months, there are quite a few sticky seeds so wearing gaiters will save you having to pull them out of your socks.
2/ You’re Surrounded By Nature. Coming from the city, it feels amazing to suddenly be amongst so many indigenous trees, aloes and shrubland. There’s an abundance of birdlife and you will encounter many farm animals such as cows, goats and horses quietly grazing in the bush or by the water hole. The feeling of being out in nature never grows old and it’s a great way to step out of that gym or get away from city running, and take a deep breath of fresh air.
3/ There Are A Variety Of Routes. We have always use the standard 20km circular route but my husband says there are longer and shorter options. You can also simply do an out-and-back if you prefer especially at the start when you are familiarising yourself with this route.
4/ Cheerful Mountain Bikers. I don’t think I’ve done a trail run here without coming across mountain bikers who always have a ready smile, hearty cheer and words of encouragement! Their friendliness always helps to spur me on and give me that extra energy to continue.
5/ It’s Family Friendly. This trail is also perfect for a hike or walk with the family. Depending on the age of your kids, you could adjust the distance accordingly. But in terms of difficulty level, family members of varying fitness levels would manage. My husband has also taken my 9-year old daughter here for a 24 km ride, entering from the Ruretse side of the trail.
There are no designated picnic spots but you can most certainly find places to relax over some trail mix or sandwiches! So whether you prefer hiking, cycling or running, you can easily tailor your experience to the whole family! Although I prefer road running, I’ve really appreciated running on this trail as I build up to Addo. Let me know if you try this trail out!
Have you run or cycled on this trail before? Do you like easy trails or more technical ones?