Botswana History Pages, by Neil Parsons

14:    Tourism

Supplementary Document 1: The Missionaries' Road

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Provisional notes for an independent car tour from Kimberley to Serowe and returning to Johannesburg. Remember that this is off the beaten tourist track, and the tour will test your diplomatic as well as driving skills - though all roads recommended here (with exceptions noted) are well metalled.

The Missionaries' Road of the 1850s-70s ran through the LMS (London Missionary Society) mission stations of Griquatown and Campbell north through Kuruman to Kanye and around Molepolole to Shoshong. From thence further wagon roads ran to Ngamiland (around Maun), the Zambezi (Victoria Falls), and via Tati (around Francistown) to around Bulawayo. (The usual road from the sea to Griquatown was from Port Elizabeth through Graaff Reinet, and across the Orange River at Prieska.)

The Missionaries' Road became strategically important in the 1880s-90s as (in the words of Cecil Rhodes) the "Suez Canal" from the British Cape Colony to Central Africa -- a British wedge between German South West Africa and the Transvaal Republic. Its final alignment as a trade route was marked by the completion of a railroad from the diamond mines of Kimberley via Vryburg and Mafikeng and Gaborone to Francistown and Bulawayo in the later 1890s.

Thus evangelical mission work pioneered the commercial and military penetration of imperialism.

Before coming to Botswana, a virtual visit to David Livingstone's birthplace in Blantyre, Scotland would be in order. To dip further into 847 web-pages go to Yahoo! David Livingstone. You could also watch the six hours of the Masterpiece Theatre's Rhodes, the Video. The story of Livingstone's main convert, Kgosi Sechele at Kolobeng, has been covered by a stage play and a web-site in Italian.

Day 1: arrive and hire car in Kimberley South Africa (ensure drop- off in Johannesburg and permission to cross border into Botswana). Tour McGregor Memorial Museum (former house of Cecil Rhodes) and Kimberley Big Hole Museum. Stay either at noisy but authentic late Victorian Half-Way Hotel opposite McGregor Museum, or at quiet but antiseptic tower-block Sun/ Holiday Inn.

Day 2: drive through and visit historic Campbell and Griquatown/ Grikwastad (possibly Barkly West too) to Kuruman. Stay overnight at new guesthouse next to historic Kimberley Eye (spring and pool damaged by mid-20th century improvements) or in rudimentary cheap accommodation at Kuruman Mission.

Day 3: visit Kuruman Mission Museum, including church, irrigation channel, cottages, and tree under which David Livingstone courted Mary Moffat Jnr. Drive to Vryburg (be careful of cattle on the way) and turn 10km south on Kimberley road to visit former LMS Tiger Kloof Institution (clearly visible from the road on the other side of Tierkloof railway halt).

Day 4: drive to Mafikeng, site of the siege made famous by Robert Baden (otherwise "Barnum") Powell, and visit the Mafikeng Museum in the old town hall, and possibly also the site of 1899-1900 "Boer War" fort at Cannon Kopje on south-east side ot town (and 1885 "Warren fort" in the police camp if permission granted). Stay in antiseptic Mmabatho Sun Hotel or try for guesthouse in more historic building. For the Siege of Mafeking see also an item in the South African Scouts' site

Day 5: drive through nearby Ramatlhabama border (if there is a line of people on the Botswana side, first go to the front of the queue to get an immigration form). Drive to Kanye, best if possible by new minor metalled direct road, otherwise go north on the main north road and take the trans-Kalahari road just before Lobatse. At Kanye visit two old churches (one with Boer War cemetry) and the Kgotla (open-air judicial forum) on the hill. Ask permission at the Kgotla if you wish to take photographs. Drive on towards Gaborone past (or better, divert through) Moshupa and Thamaga, stopping at remains of Livingstone's Bakwena Mission at Kolobeng. Stay in Gaborone at one of a number of hotels, none of them cheap. The lodge at Mokolodi game park 20 km south on the Lobatse road must be the nicest. There is also a camp and caravan site next to the Bull and Bush's good restaurant in an undeveloped central enclave of the city.

Day 6: visit the National Museum, and locate the remains of the old 1890 earth-walled fort and the Boer War graveyard in the Village (old colonial suburb). A statue commemorating Khama, Sebele, and Bathoen's 1895 delegation to England should in place at the top of the Main Mall by 2001. Drive to Molepolole in the afternoon for a peek at the small Sechele Memorial Museum and to say you have seen the Livingstone Memorial Hospital. If energetic, walk to Old Molepolole (Ntshweng) and Livingstone's cave in the side of the hill above the Molepolole-Thamaga road.
(Text of Livingstone's Missionary Travels available on this site.)

Day 7: Leave Gaborone for the north. Visit the impressive Phutadikobo Museum above the Kgotla in Mochudi, an old school packed with historical artefacts, with shop and textile workshop attached. Back on the main road, stop if you can at Matsieng....

Detailed notes end here April 1999. Is it worth carrying on? Comments to Neil Parsons, nparsons@mopipi... [Click here for full email address]

Continue via Shoshong LMS mission site (Mahalapye vicinity of first action on first night of Boer War, sabotage of telegraph line), Old Palapye (Malaka) church ruins (new guest house in former district officer's house on main road opposite Palapye railway station), Serowe LMS mission and Khama Memorial Museum (new thatched lodge hotel on Orapa road before Paje), Khama Rhino Reserve, possibly Pilikwe and Moeng College (ref. Tshekedi Khama), then return via Gaborone (Jameson Raid plotting & 1899-1900 Crocodile Pools battle), along Jameson Raid route (from twin low hills at Pitsane) via Mosega and Lead Mines and Koster around Krugersdorp (skirmish in valley) to Doornkop marshy surrender site outside Soweto, Johannesburg.

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Copyright © 1999 Neil Parsons

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Last updated 19 August 1999