THE historic Moshoeshoe walk will always be an ideal platform used to teach hikers about the birthplace of King Moshoeshoe I, his initiation base, and the unique art of diplomacy. It also teaches the hikers about the formation of the Basotho nation. The famous 117km walk also instills patience and team spirit in those who wish to walk in the footsteps of the extraordinary leader.
March 23, 2023
THE NOMAD – BY MAPAMELA KHANYELA
5 min read
A walk to remember
Foreign affairs minister, Lejone Mpotjane also participates in the walk
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On March 9, 2023, I was among the 600 hikers who ventured out on the iconic three-day walk from Menkhoaneng in Leribe to Thaba-Bosiu, Maseru.
We left Maseru that morning at around 3:30 am with my colleagues from work, armed with our hiking gear.
Some three hours later, our team arrived in ’Mate, Leribe where the bulk of the hikers spent the night ahead of the great walk.
Like all travelers, we had our breakfast, each bought a walking stick, received a package of three branded T-shirts, and headed to Menkhoaneng to start the walk.
We gathered inside a circular pan, glad in our purple T-shirts waiting for a brief from the organisers of the event.
The pan was colourfully branded with several pop-up burners, helping to lift up the spirit of the hikers.
To the east of the pan, were remnants of a house believed to have belonged to King Moshoeshoe’s parents, Chief Mokhachane and his wife Kholu.
On the west, is the towering Menkhoaneng plateau, and Moshoeshoe’s famous water well is to the south.
Because most of the hikers did not know each other by name, they, therefore, addressed one another as “Matelile” - a name used over the years by patrons of the walk.
The chief orgnaiser of the event, Thabo Maretlane of T-Connexion gave a brief history of Moshoeshoe before the hikers went on their way.
“King Moshoeshoe was born here, around 1786, and went to initiation school in Malaoaneng in 1810 before relocating to Butha Buthe. He was frequently attacked by Batlokoa of ’Manthatisi and in 1824, he was forced to evacuate Butha Buthe and relocate to Thaba Bosiu where he formed the Basotho Nation,” narrated Maretlane.
Prime Minister Sam Matekane who also participated in the walk requested all hikers to each invite five of their friends for the 2024 edition.
Queen ’Masenate Mohato Seeiso and her entourage led the way from finish to start.
Along the way, I walked together with a number of fellow hikers, including Morolong Thoothe - a seasoned District Culture Officer of Leribe from the Ministry of Gender & Youth, Social Development & Culture.
He told me about the rich heritage of Menkhoaneng.
“Menkhoaneng is shaped by its unique stories. We have Malaoaneng, where King Moshoeshoe was tutored on customary values. The mountaintop has a well where warriors used to clean blood stains from their spears after heavy fighting,” he explained.
The walk offered endless breathtaking views, one of the iconic views was the Malaoaneng Mountain.
Residents who live along the route of the walk sold provisions like sour sorghum porridge, roasted and boiled corn as well as walking sticks.
A bowl of delicious sour sorghum porridge cost M10 with corn costing the same amount.
Mr. Matekane who was part of the walk for a few kilometres bought several items (foodstuff) from the vendors along the way.
As we passed through villages, our spirit was uplifted as women ululated, urging us on.
The national flag coupled with flags belonging to other countries flew all the way to our final destination.
To keep us enthralled as we travelled through the abandoned valleys and hills, we listened to famo music by different artists.
After walking for more than 40 km, we broke for lunch in Mahobong before heading to Thaba-Phatšoa where we spent the night.
Our first night on the road passed quickly.
Day two was the most challenging - we woke up at 2:30 am, and each paid M20 for a hasty bath before grabbing a breakfast package.
We broke camp at 3:30 am.
It was a dark Friday morning, hence, we had to rely on our torches for light.
The hikers arrive in Sefikeng, Berea
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The hikers leave Malimong
At sunrise, we arrived in Lipetu - another heritage site where we later learned King Moshoeshoe’s grandfather, Peete was caught and devoured by cannibals.
Throughout that day, we walked mainly in Berea.
We crossed scores of rivers before arriving in Ha ’Makhoroana where we had lunch at 13:20pm.
During the break, we took the chance to massage our feet which were swollen from the heavy walking.
Some of the hikers were ferried by bus to Malimong because their feet could no longer carry them.
Others were simply attended to by the ever-vigilant staff of our mobile clinic before they got back on track.
We shortly thereafter left Ha ’Makhoroana and headed to Malimong. For safety purposes, our team leaders instructed the female hikers to walk ahead of us.
When we finally arrived in Malimong at 10 pm, we were completely exhausted.
The next morning, we woke up to enticingly beautiful views of the Pulane valley, the cannibal caves, the Pulane Mountain, a source of the Phuthiatsana River, and a hunting area of the cannibals.
Berea is rich with its array of amazing medicinal plants. My walking companion, Thoothe explained that some of those herbs and medicines are bottled and sold in most towns of Lesotho.
In Malimong, we were joined by former Prime Minister, Dr.Moketsi Majoro.
As we crossed the Phuthiatsana River, we were welcomed by heavy rain which only stopped when we arrived in Thaba Bosiu.
The Moshoeshoe walk requires a number of prerequisites for one to enjoy it.
Firstly, a participant or hiker should be fit enough to sustain heavy walking. The hiker must also be in possession of a fully equipped hiking kit.
Teamwork is of the essence, as the walk is not a competition which is why an 87-year-old hiker simply known as “Matlharo” also finished the long walk.
The M2 000-worth ticket to join the walk covered meals, outfits, and a sleeping place among other things.