The trip started with Brendan’s car getting stuck in a huge puddle on a 100km stretch of dirt road not far from the border. After bouncing the car out of the water by moonlight with the aid of a few helpful travelers, we were given advice to ‘Back up, get into 2nd gear and accelerate as you hit the water…’.
WORDS: JOUBERT VAN STADEN
PHOTOGRAPHY: MOSAKO LOWSSO CHALASHIKA
It’s a strange feeling not knowing what to expect from a city that’s only a few hundred kilometres from your hometown, literally just across a border that’s even closer than Durban. It was the perfect destination for a trip for the newly-formed Jozi Vans connection of Trae Rice, Brendan Dyamonds and Tkay Modise. Wynand Herholdt and I, with our photographer and guide for the trip, Mosako, made our way up from Cape Town to start our bitter-sweet journey to Gaborone.
Mosako hails from Gaborone and has been crafting his photography skills in Cape Town for the past few years. He has been working to put Botswana on the map and was a big influence in making this trip a reality. By constantly pushing the local scene and getting kids involved he had now succeeded in bringing over a proper skate trip from SA to his valley. While it’s always a good idea to have a tour guide in a new city, this time we were even more fortunate enough to have an insider’s guide who not only knew the city but had a trained eye for capturing moments along the way.
Before Mosako, I hadn’t seen or heard of any skate content coming out of Gabs, which is hard to believe as the city is pretty skate-friendly; smooth roads, nice pavements and good architecture.
The trip started with Brendan’s car getting stuck in a huge puddle on a 100km stretch of dirt road not far from the border. After bouncing the car out of the water by moonlight with the aid of a few helpful travelers, we were given advice to ‘Back up, get into 2nd gear and accelerate as you hit the water…’. It didn’t sound kosher to me as we weren’t in bakkies, but convoying in a tiny rental trailing behind Brendan. However the silver lining was that after knocking off about 34 more baby rivers, we had now acquired the life-skill of driving micro-machines through swimming pools.
There’s something about Gaborone that’s strangely familiar, similar to Jozi and also much like any other city we’ve travelled to, yet there’s a sense of compassion in the air that the people show towards each other every day. We realised the full extent of this halfway through the trip when Trae, unable to sleep, walked out to buy cigarettes in the middle of the night. Trae has a knack for making friends wherever he goes. He’s a charming dude – charming at lunchtime, not breakfast. But walking along the road that night, he was approached by some dude in a car, claiming to be an off-duty cop. “It’s dangerous out at this time, get in…” he said. Once in the car he was shown the stranger’s firearm, and taken with to go get beers and pick up another dude, before being dropped back at our Air BnB. My first instinct would have been obvious – don’t get into anyone’s car after midnight, especially if the dude shows you his gun.
But things are different in Gabs. People look out for one another and are always friendly. Plus skateboarding is fun when you’re in a place where it hasn’t become a general annoyance and where people are intrigued by the skill and good energy it carries. On our first day Wynand jumped a small fence to get into a Government building, trying to check out what we could do with all the smooth marble. Within one minute the security guard was charging towards him, but by the next the two were all smiles and hugging. Turns out from the moment the guard heard Wynand speak Afrikaans he was stoked on everything we did. On more than one occasion we were actually welcomedinto tall, fenced-off office complexes to see how the marble would grind. It was as though security guards were more interested in getting a selfie with us than concerned about the scratched paint. Brendan took advantage of this every chance he could; he is the newest addition to our squad, and he brings a lot to the table. There is no spot he won’t charge and he always keeps the motivation going. He was also one of three handpokers on the trip, which meant tour tjappies got handles quick! This trip was a Australian accent training course for Tkay and Brendan, just thinking about their ‘Big Les’ impersonations puts a giggle in my talk. I feel like I’m stuck in the 90s when I examine TKay’s fashion, he’s tip top in that regard. He had no problem keeping his pants dry when our suburb started flooding.
The rainfall felt bleakly similar; humid, drawn out and with almost no chance of sunlight on the horizon. Depressing, to say the least, for our purposes. With water running down the walls and dripping from the kitchen light of our Air BnB, it was time to get out of town and track down a 12ft concrete halfpipe. That’s right, the Government built the most insane Skate ‘picnic’ area in Lobatse that’s built better than most of the parks in SA. After Mosako showed me a picture a few months back, I knew we had to make a mission here, even if this is the only thing we skate. It’s a rare thing coming up on a skate structure of this size and angles that haven’t really been skated before. There were some lengthy procedures needed in order to get ourselves anywhere near the thing and lucky for us Mike, one of Mosako’s homiesand a ripper on the board, took all those efforts onto himself. Thanks to his efforts he made it possible for us to skate the sickest concrete in Africa. The day was spent with good vibes, new chomsand more than enough skating for a rainy day on tour.
As the days pass by, our bodies slowly wear out; Gaborone was exactly what we needed, 8 days of searching to destroy takes its toll. Thanks to Warren and Leeman at VansZA for getting so many different personalities funneled into one direction.