When the invite to journey through the Makgadikgadi Pans was extended to me a few weeks ago, I was reluctant, simply because I could not fathom walking a monstrous 90 km. but I was eventually won over by the charm of one of the biggest pans in the world.

With no prior exercise and no form of physical training, I journeyed from Gaborone to Mosu via a bus with other participants early Friday morning and we arrived around 2pm in the quite village that sits at the mouth of the Makgadikgadi.

Our first test was a walk from the main kgotla to the mouth of the pan, it is said that the distance is around 1.5 km yet I found myself panting for my dear life as I was exhausted before the real walk even began.

The welcome banner right before the pan is a dead python which has been split in half and its head cut off. Looking at one of the strongest snakes lying lifelessly on a shrub at the tip of the pans made me wonder what life has this sea of salt taken away over the years.

We began our walk at 6pm. I excitedly brisk walked to the front, surprisingly I had it in to match the pace of professional walkers, and on hindsight, this was a big mistake as I should have reserved my energies for the long walk ahead.

The endless sea of white plains that glister under the moonlight surface, the cool breeze that caressed my skin in the dead of night, the shooting stars that raced through the sky as we trekked through the Makgadikgadi salt pan comforted my spirit.

The further we went into the pan, the more silent I became. Even though the sun had gone down, the moon-lit pan offered me some sort of calm effect. For the first time in a long time, I felt an innate calmness.

There were moments I would look up and temporarily forget about the pain I was feeling in my body as I was hypnotized by the stillness of it all. It was therapeutic.

My body gave in at the 30km mark. From that point, I struggled to move forward, my body ached, the wind was no longer a soothing breeze but felt torturous, the terrain became more difficult, slippery and muddy.

To top it all, I began to hallucinate, I was adamant that I saw a herd of elephants crossing the pan, but somehow I still found the courage to get to Kubu Island on foot, arriving just before dawn, limping yet proud.

85 individuals came from all over the country to take part in this walk, some of these walkers were adventure enthusiasts like Allim Milazi who came with his wife all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa to be a part of the walk.

The Saturday after the first 45km was meant for resting and recuperating. I used this time to sneak out and tour the island. Armed only with my camera I limped across the island and was amazed by what I saw.

The views of the Makgadikgadi from the Island reminded me of how small I am, as far as my eyes could see there was a sea of white sand, a sight which one does not come across every day.

The medical team advised me not to walk back in fears that I would injure myself more. So I remained behind with the YCare volunteers and helped out with packing tents and cleaning the camping site. Even by a car the tough terrain of the pan gave us a solid four hour ride from the island to the mouth of the pan by Mosu.

At 4 am we set camp and patiently waited for those who managed to walk the remaining 45 kms. Beyond seeing the pan, I learnt a new skill of pitching tents. I am somewhat of an expert now as I became an unofficial member of the YCare team due to my inability to walk the remaining 45km. I therefore had no other option but to help out where I could.

That night we all gathered around the bond fire, with walkers narrating their different experiences of the pan. Turns out I was not the only person who saw things in the pan that weren’t there as some people claimed they saw brick walls, lions and birds just to name a few things.

It is said the pan often takes the shape of what you want to see, that it tangos with one’s mind and offers you your deepest desires. However, some attested to the healing effect of the pan that I experienced, they too claim they felt at peace out there in the open space.

That night the winds came out in full force. As I lay in my tent I wondered if I would survive the night, the winds were bitter and cold and I could not simply get warm in the sleeping bag I was cocooned in.

I was quite sad when we bid the pan goodbye, I strolled slowly back to Mosu not because I was injured but because I felt at home in this place, and now my brief reunion was coming to an end.

We went to the pan as strangers but that sea created new bonds with other people, with glassy eyes, we promised to be back, to reunite not only for charitable reasons but to give our souls to remedy it needs, in the Makgadikgadi.

Assistant Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Boteti East, Honourable Sethomo Lelatisitswe, who participated in the walk, testified that the walk is no stroll in the park. He was elated that so many people came out to explore Botswana tourism. Lelatisitswe urges Batswana to explore their beautiful country as Botswana has a lot to offer.

The annual Makgadikgadi Pan Midnight walk is a 90km walk which starts at the tip of the Makgadikgadi Pan to the Kubu Island and back in two nights, all done to raise funds for charity organizations in Botswana. The walk is an initiative of a local NGO called YCare which infuses exploring Botswana’s aesthetic nature and giving to charity into one big bowl of fun.