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A voyage to Old Palapye

Publishing Date : 08 January, 2018

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From a vacation in the Inhaca and Portuguese Islands of Mozambique, nothing would be more refreshing than a spiritual connection with Bapedi ancestral spirits. Despite the fact that I come from Lecheng village, only nine kilometers from Old Palapye monument, it was my first experience with this richly defined historic and sacred cultural landscape. This is the place where the spirit of Khama The Great lives, a hidden treasure that has the potential to attract even more tourists with its vivid definition of beauty, DAVE BAAITSE writes.


A soothing morning breeze complimented by the melody of chirping birds refreshes the mind like nothing on this area. From a distance, the pictographic view of the area is a true reflection of the best of creation, if fully utilised the place has the potential to bring even more tourists to the mighty Tswapong Hills.


The place is rich with interpretations and stories attached to certain aspects of the hills by the local Batswapong people who believe in and communicate with the Bapedi ancestral spirits known to reside in the hills. While the mornings were bliss, me and the three friends I was with, had to endure the scorching December heat during the tour- to add salt to injury, gnats flies, which it appeared were attracted by our sweat hovered over our heads, constantly coming in for the occasional sting. Only a run to the car for a break would save us from the bites- that was until embarking on the next adventure, of course.


A long walk down the thorny bushes and rock climbing provided a full view of the area-and what would adventure be without countless selfies atop hills and in thick bushes? However, the team was constantly exposed for the cowards we were whenever sudden noises would be heard in the bushes. I am yet to fully know what exactly went through the minds of those forming part of my team when they ran for dear life when a tiny squirrel played in the bushes, or when that cute monkey was just doing what it knew best-hanging from the tree!


As for me, I imagined the huge snakes from the legends we were told as young boys growing up. Growing up in the Tswapong area, I got to hear of the snakes that protected the area, and symbolized ‘Badimo’. Though they were said to be harmless, I could not help liken it to one of those human eating anacondas from the movies!


Today what is visible in Old Palapye are the structures of trading stores, an elementary school, prison and churches; all of European architectural design. The picturesque Phothophotho valley and its waterfalls is one of the initial attractions as it provides water to the inhabitants. Our tour targeted the popular feature of the site being the burnt- brick relic of the London Missionary Society church built between 1891 and 1894.


The rest of the landscape is replete with piles of stones which are relics from the traditional Bangwato wattle and dung huts, together with granary bases and compound walls. The site has remains of a prison, a market centre, European grave site and African burials including that of Khama III’s wife Mma- Bessie, thousands of scattered potsherds, porcelain as well as chips of bottles of alcohol.


Some wild animals, such as baboons, vervet monkeys, porcupines, rock dassies and leopard, still inhabit the area. According to research there are two Cape Vulture breeding colonies, the largest situated at Gootau, with more than 200 breeding pairs. The village headman must be approached to visit this site, and care should be taken not to disturb the birds.


Photophoto Gorge is less impressive than Moremi Gorge, but more accessible. It is used to water livestock and for religious rituals. Clearly this place is Botswana's hidden treasure because of the beauty of its natural landscape. Thus, in 2006 the place was declared a national monument. A team of archaeologists, architects and historians together with the local community of Malaka has chosen to revitalize the area. The place is said to have powers of ancestral spirits, and even more-so there are areas where human presence is forbidden.


Visitors to Old Palapye have found it to be a buzzing place for adventure with its stand out monument features. In the past the place was less accessible because there was no proper road, now the authorities have built a road that can be used by even small cars to access the place and provided campsites for those who wants to spend time there.

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