In Gaborone for a week, working, I had an afternoon free. For months before, I must confess, I devoured the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book series, set mostly in Gaborone and following the wise and “traditionally built” Mma Precious Ramotswe. The novels, escapist, sunny, and depicting a good-old-world-that-never-was, made me feel vaguely homesick and soothed. The HBO series followed suite. I was (secretly!) predisposed.
My hotel offered a variety of Mma Ramotswe literary tours through Africa Insight, and one stood out in particular: tracing the footsteps of Mma Ramotswe, from her “home village” of Mochudi, to some of her “regular haunts” in Gaborone. This seemed like a good way to see the city, learn a little about its actual history, and see areas nearby–I signed up.
What an enjoyable afternoon! The guide read from the book at various stops. Not being quite that rabid of a fan, I was a bit of a waste of a fine performance, but the words were warm, and kind, and added a comforting layer to the scenery; best of all, the guide was knowledgeable about the things that actually DID happen where we were–so I got a sense, however fleeting, of the actual place, and the people who lived there.
We began the tour at the Three Dikgosi Monument, commemorating the three chiefs who made sure that Botswana did not become a colony. This was a good stop to learn about the history of the country and its numerous brushes with powers outside.
We then headed for a ride to the outskirts of Gaborone, to the town of Mochudi, Mma Ramotswe’s “birthplace.” This was not quite the traditional, idyllic village Western tourists expect to see, but a town of 80,000.
Past the Dutch Reformed Church, we found a winding path up a hill. It led to the former site of the Mochudi National School, now a local museum.
Further up from the school were the most peculiar cliffs–they all had faces and offered a gorgeous view of the town.
We then headed back to Gaborone, to the base of the Kgale Hill, the HBO set for the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective series. The series’ filming seized by then, and there were active talks about moving the set to South Africa. The site looked depressed and unkempt.
I hope things are looking up now: HBO ordered two standalone films to continue the story. I also hope that the commitment to filming the series in Botswana remained–this was the first major production in the country, and a potential move is felt keenly in the community.
In Gaborone, we went to the President Hotel, to see its Mma Ramotswe Tea Corner.
My guide pointed out that Mma Ramotswe only had coffee at this hotel in the books (gasp! The roibus tea lobby at work!). Still, I wish I had stayed at President Hotel: so centrally located, and not at all like my own hotel (well-reviewed, comfortable, and lovely, but, really, an expats-only enclosure, inconveniently tucked away from the pulse-of-it-all). The tea corner, and the hotel dining room behind it, oversaw a market place, not quite at its peak on a Thursday afternoon. Still, the area felt friendly, central, and safe.
We finished the tour by the Parliament house, and its two token baobab trees, struggling against an inappropriate climate.
The centerpiece of the Parliament square is the World War II memorial. Botswana sent more people to that war than any other African nation. The names of those lost are commemorated.
Before dusk set in, I was back to my hotel, reflecting on this wonderful overview of Gaborone. The guide was superb, and I got to learn about other opportunities to see the city.
Coming up one day–frolicking with cheetahs (watch this space!):
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