"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb"
Day 1: Mamafubedu, Rhino Heritage Park.
These were the words of Nelson Mandela, ringing in my ears as I stood atop the highest peak in South Africa, Mt Mafadi. Looking out into the distance, I could see Thabana Ntlenyana, and it was immediately added to my list of destinations to conquer. However, the Mafadi hike was a disaster in terms of our preparations. We had no proper camping tents, hiking backpacks, shoes, or clothes for the expedition, but we had curiosity and willpower. We completed the hike in three days, nonetheless.
Fast forward to March 2023, I found myself on a midnight call with Theo Molebatsi, our videographer based in Johannesburg, Gauteng, as we made final preparations for our upcoming journey. He was picking up PeaceMan, our photographer, in Soweto, and they were both heading down to Petrus Steyn, Free State, which was a two-and-a-half-hour drive. Tumelo Oa Mokoena, my colleague, and partner in crime, was checking our bags, and he is the guy you would want to have by your side when the going gets tough.
From Petrus Steyn, we took the R57 past Reitz and stopped at Bethlehem where we left our car and hopped on a taxi to Fouriesburg. The ride was smooth, but our backpacks and luggage made it challenging to hop on and off, much to the amusement of our fellow travelers. From Fouriesburg, we took another taxi to Caledonspoort Border Control. Upon crossing the border, we were warmly
welcomed by friendly Lesotho border control staff, who even helped carry our backpacks for a distance to the local taxis. We got new SIM cards to enable us to communicate with our contacts in Maseru, Buthe, and Mokhotlong, who were arranging our campsites and the bus to Mokhotlong the following day. Our first night was spent at Kimberlite Park in a place called Baroeng, near Butha
Buthe where it rained heavily, almost threatening our campsite. The rains and thunder were a good reminder that we were in the place where King Moshoeshoe, Lepoqo, Father of Basotho Nation, once fought Manthatisi The Warrior Queen of Batlokwa /Basia tribe in what was called the “Battle of the Pots”. He was later forced to retreat and settle at Thaba Bosiu.
Day 2: Bus from Butha Buthe to Mokhotlong
Waking up at 04:50 to start a fire and prepare breakfast was necessary to fuel up for the day ahead. At this point, food is still abundant and one can satisfy almost any craving until we reach the mountains. Our contact had advised us to be at the bus stop in Butha Buthe by 9:30 in the morning, as the bus would leave at 10:00 for Mokhotlong. We walked for 30 minutes from Kimberlite Park to the bus stop in Butha Buthe and caught the bus at around 11 am. The A1 Road to Mokhotlong
offered magnificent views, including Afriski and Letsheng Mine, which is the world's highest diamond mine above sea level. However, as the bus stops along the way it also revealed the challenges that many people of Lesotho face – some live in remote areas and must rely on donkeys or their own feet to reach their destinations.
We arrived at Mokhotlong at 3 pm, and it was exciting to finally be in the birthplace of Ntate Stunna and to shop at Shop where he shops! We connected with our driver who was taking us to our campsite for the night, but not before he asked us to assist in driving another taxi while he drove one himself. We reached Ha Mojakisane just as the sun was setting, and so we set up camp.
Day 3: D Day
At 3 am, we dismantled our tents, and our host, Mr. Mokotjo, was ready for us by 3:30. Off we went in a taxi. It was quite windy when we stopped at the highest point reachable by car, pointing in the direction of Thabana Ntlenyana. It was way too dark and misty to start our hike here, so we opted to start at Sani Backpackers, at Lesotho Sani Border Pass Control, where our taxi dropped us off after 5 o'clock. Here, it was very windy and freezing cold. We all realized we had to put on some extra clothing. I had a pair of skinny jeans, which I had no option but to put on. The Basotho Kobo jacket and hat by Thabo Makhetha were just made for these kinds of conditions, and I must say I have much respect for the Basotho shepherds and how they survive the conditions year after year at
At 6 o'clock, the border post opened, and we reported to Mr. Mzilikazi, Sub Inspector, and Police Constable Mokitimi of Lesotho Mounted Police Services, who welcomed us. After having our documents checked, a local shepherd was called to show us the route up until a certain point, as we didn't have a paid guide. Together with PC Mokitimi, he drew us a map on a piece of paper. To our
luck, the Drakensberg Ultra-Trail Marathon was taking place later in April, and there were rock cairns stacked about 100m apart, marking trails for the runners up to the summit of Thabana Ntlenyana. This meant the trail and stage were set for us to put the new Veldskoen Drakensberg to the test! By noon, we had covered some ground, crossed the Mangaung River, and met a few shepherds tending to their sheep who didn't mind posing for some pictures. The Veldskoen Drakensberg handled the terrain and the damp spots well, which we found ourselves stuck in now and then. I found Thabana Ntlenyana to be very rocky and twisted my ankle a few meters from the summit. It could have been worse if I hadn't been wearing the Veldskoen Drakensberg hiking shoes, which provided me with ankle support, warmth, and cushioning. Our videographer and camera were left on the other side of the Sehonghong River, which almost took my mobile phone, and they couldn't capture the moments.
We reached the summit at 2:17 PM, and the weather allowed us to enjoy the magnificent views with a cold Maluti Lager. At that point, we were the highest people in Southern Africa, and my friend joked that if we were to roll a joint, that would make us the highest people at that moment in Southern Africa.
We spent about 20 minutes on the summit, and the weather quickly deteriorated. We could see heavy fog/mist rising at Mafadi and Judges Pass. The shepherds advised us to be extremely cautious not to hike back in the darkness and mist, so we ran the first 3-4 kilometers down, thanks to the Veldskoen Drakensberg's lightness and crepe gristle sole. As we approached Sani Border post, visibility was impossible, and we had to leave the trail and hike towards the 1A road, where we could walk with ease.
Upon reaching the border post, Mr. Mzilikazi and his team welcomed us, and the food was ready. A hot coal stove and a gas heater were all on the go! We had a toast at the nearby tavern, which is the highest tavern since we couldn't cross to the highest pub in Africa. It was one of the coldest nights at Sani Pass, and we were fortunate to be offered a place with the sub-inspector himself.
Day 4 Sani Pass/Underberg/Khotso Lodge and Horse Trails
Every muscle ached, but after coffee, I dragged myself to Thaba Ntsho or Masobasoba; it was the best view of the entire trip. From Sani Border Post, we hitched a ride at the back of a truck down Sani Pass to the South Africa Border Control, further to Khotso Lodge and Horse Trails in Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal. Here we were welcomed by Steve Black, his wife Lulu, and the team (all wearing
Veldskoen Shoes!) at Balam Coffee shop overlooking a stream, then we headed to Khotso where we pitched tents. In the evening, we were joined by Clyde, Zoog, Hannah, and a few tourists. We realized later that these were not ordinary people but legends in their own right - members of an underground adventure group called the Mamu Loman Federation, whose fundamentals are health, vitality, and mobility!
We got to hear stories like this one time when Steve ran from Port Elizabeth to Durban while Clyde was paddling, and how Clyde summited Kilimanjaro barefoot. The following morning at breakfast, we heard that the guys were out for a run. It was not just a run; it was one of those 40km, and Steve is used to running the same distance as his age. Meeting these legends at Khotso Lodge and Horse
Trails inspired us once more. For 2024, we are tackling both Mt Kenya and Kilimanjaro all in one month, summit to summit in Veldskoen!
Veldskoen Drakensberg passed the Thaba Ntlenyana test with flying colors and another record was set! And if Basotho shepherds can survive the coldest winters in Southern Africa with only their blankets, it means we can take Kobo to the coldest places on Earth.
Arriving back home, I spent a few days at the farm with Manthatisi Mosia and Tumelo Mosia. Sadly on 12 April 2023, Manthatisi Mosia passed away leaving us heartbroken but with good memories for the past 8 years. She will forever be remembered for her love for trees, flowers, and animals at Rhino Heritage Park.
01/09/2015 – 12/04 /2023