– trekking in the Maloti Mountains
By Claus Bo Jensen, Dec. 2005
Photos: Karen Steffensen, Steering Committee member
– I wake up at 5 o’clock in the morning in our rondavel in the tiny village Ha Mothakhati, high on the banks of the Senqunyane River. It is still dark, and it takes some time to figure out the sounds, which have woken me up – it’s the sheep and goats leaving for another day in the mountains. I turn around in my sleeping bag and close my eyes again, but I can’t sleep – I just lie there and think of the difference from the busy city of Maseru, which we have left just 2 days ago. “We” are 3 Danish tourists and our friend and guide Joe Thaba from the Raboshabane Tour agency. One of us had made this trek with ntate Thaba a few years ago – very likely the first tourists ever – and now we were going to be the second group. From Maseru we drove to TY, and then east to Mapoteng. In Mapoteng we visited the police station to let them know our route and what we were doing – just in case – and then we continued another half hour to the village where the road ended. Now the easy part was over, and we had to put our luggage on the back and start walking. The first part was easy though, going through the tiny villages of Ha Lieta and Ha Mokhethi. The people were curious, and wanted to know where were going. They were sure that we were going to do some work because we had so big backpacks. These people really know how to travel light, with just a stick and a blanket, so of course they look at our luggage and wonder. One farmer was going the same direction, and he showed us the right path to Mosalemane pass, and then he left. The “road” up Mosalemane pass is an old road built in the 50’es. The road used to be a “highway” in the mountains linking the villages near the river with the rest of the world, but nowadays it has lost its importance, because better and more direct roads have been built. But for walkers like us it was perfect. It was a long and hot walk to get to the top, but when we finally made it the view was fantastic. Up there is a large kind of a plateau with no villages or anything. Just a herd boy with his sheep or cattle now and then. We walked for maybe another hour and found a very beautiful campsite near a small stream, where we set up our tents for the night. We found some wood, cooked our supper and sat around the fire and watched the sun go down and the stars come out. It is amazing how many stars you can see, when there is no electric light anywhere.
The next day we continued crossing the plateau. It was a little up and down – not totally flat – but much easier than the day before. The weather was fine in the morning, but clouds were building during the day, and just as we had made it to the other side and were beginning to descend towards Ha Mothakhati, it started to rain. So we were wet and cold when we reached the village. We found the chiefs rondavel, and asked him, if we could camp somewhere near the village. He remembered those, who had been there on the first trip, and was very nice. Instead of a camping spot he showed us an empty rondavel, and said we could sleep in it. As a result of the new road mentioned earlier, the village now has a small shop, and we went there and bought some biscuits and a candle to light up our new “home”.
When we finally got up on that third morning, we were treated with papa and mafi, and then we continued towards Senqunyane River. We were not going to cross the river, but we had to cross a smaller stream, witch had quite a lot of water because of the rains the day before. We followed the road a bit with nice views of the river, and then we started walking round Thaba Putsoa Mountain and westwards, up on the plateau again. Again we could see the clouds and hear thunder around us, but today it did not come our way. Our plan was to descend from the mountains today, but when we looked at our map in the afternoon, we realised, that it was going to be too late. Instead we found another nice place for our tents, and enjoyed another nice evening under the stars. The fourth and last morning we got up at sunrise. The backpacks felt light now – we were getting used to them and we had eaten our food! Just as we were packing we saw 3 people coming towards us – it was the police. They were not looking for us though, but there had been some trouble near by, and they were going to investigate it. We just had to walk up a small pass, and then a long way down again to the valley. Soon we saw fields and houses again, the houses became a village, the path became a road, and we were back in the civilisation again. Read more on www.raboshabane.co.ls