BR scores a hit with groovy ride to Makgadikgadi
After rave reviews following Botswana Railways ‘disco’ train to Selebi-Phikwe for the Toyota Desert Race recently, BR repeated the feat by ferrying jolly passengers alongside two deejays to the Makgadikgadi Epic over the long weekend and is thinking about tourism trains as a fun feature of the future
After introducing the party train at the annual Toyota Desert Race that was hosted by Selibe-Phikwe recently, Botswana Railways (BR) extended the feat to this year’s Makgadikgadi Epic in Sowa Town when deejays Bennybenzo and Blackmore Phambuka had riders agog all the way last weekend.
According to BR spokesman Sakaeyo Baitshepi, the train idea was to ensure that people travelled and arrived safely at their destinations. “This was also meant to reduce congestion and road accidents during the President’s Day holidays,” Baitshepi explained in an interview.
“For this particular event, our party train had four coaches with a capacity of 138 and people occupied 108 seats. We are happy with the number that travelled with us to Makgadikgadi. This was a disco train that allowed patrons to have fun while travelling safely to their destination.”
BR is now enthused and is considering laying down tourism trains as a fun feature that scores heavily on the safety of passengers by reducing congestion on the roads, especially during holidays when passenger volumes peak. “For our long-term goals, we are going to be building a railway line from Mosetse to Kazungula, where there is much tourism,” Baitshepi said. “We plan to turn some of our coaches into discos and diners soon.”
By the multi-faceted and innovative plan, BR also aims to support young artists, hence it featured deejays Bennybenzo Makole and Emmanuel Blackmore Phambuka on the ‘party train’ to Makgadikgadi at the weekend on which passengers were enjoyed music across various genres for the 12-hour ride from Lobatse to Sowa Town.
DJ Bennybenzo said: “When this opportunity was presented to us, we were excited and curious because we had never done anything like that before. But it was great and people enjoyed themselves for 12 hours straight.”
Organised by The Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) in association with Parachute Association of Botswana (PAB), Makgadikgadi Epic is also supported by BOTASH and Sowa Township Council as a social and sporting event for the domestic and regional tourism market and adventure lovers alike. The event features sky-dive demonstrations as the main activity but there are also tandem skydives, helicopter flips, horse riding and fun quad bike rides that are open to enthusiasts and the public.
According to BTO’s acting communications manager, Samuel Lephalo, this year’s event was a resounding success considering the massive turnout of spectators, as well participation of different stakeholders in information sharing and sevice provision. “We have added one activity called para motor glide to what we already have but the event was centred around skydiving as the main attraction,” Lephalo said. “We registered international and local 59 skydivers in this year’s edition.”
But there were no water activities because of poor rains in the area. For his part, Caiphus Gabana of Sowa Town Council said the municipality came on board to help the informal sector with stalls hosting people from Nata and surrounding villages. “Since its inception six editions ago, Makgadikgadi Epic has brought a lot of opportunies to the people of Sowa,” Gabana said.
“As you enter Sowa Town, there were food stalls erected closer to the main road and we are hoping people will benefit from this activity. We have seen growth in the participation of to catering for the growing need for meals during this event over the years. In the long run, we want to see Batswana in Sowa owning boats for hire to participants in water activities of Makgadikgadi Epic, as well as owning and providing parachute services.”