from THABISO MAHLOKOHLA in Maseru, Lesotho
MASERU – HIKING, among the most sought-after outdoor activities in Lesotho, is fast becoming a tourism attraction in the country.
The activity has shown potential of growing the industry in a nation aptly named the Mountain Kingdom.
For this reason, the government has endorsed hiking.
An estimated more than 20 hiking clubs are active in the country, each with more than a dozen members that take grueling walks and climbs in the rough terrains and picturesque highlands of Lesotho.
Earth-lovers Hiking Club is one of the most successful and well-established of such clubs.
It currently has about 40 subscribed members, although the number of participants tends to rise during a hike.
The club has just organised a successful three-day hiking expedition held at the rugged mountains surrounding the Ribaneng Falls in the western Mafeteng district.
Liteboho ‘Fresh’ Leketa, Earth-lovers president, said the annual hike attracted more than 200 participants. About 70 of them were from neighbouring South Africa.
Leketa said the response was overwhelming such that more inquiries for membership and participation into the club’s activities have come through.
He said hiking’s contribution to the growth of tourism in Lesotho was on the rise as more clubs and more activities came on board.
Bodies such as the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Culture and the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation have endorsed the activity.
“Hiking is an outdoor activity that well-exposes one to the outdoor world where civilization is at a zero score level,” Leketa said.
“It’s through hiking that we are exposed to the wonders of nature It is here where we are most bound to come across creation at its best.”
“Tourism also has a large playing ground in hiking when one is out in the wilderness. It exposes one similarly to the same environment as hiking does,” the official added.
Lesotho, being a mountainous country, has an advantage in tourism.
This mountainous terrain offers features such as natural water bodies and waterfalls.
“Through hiking, we have the advantage of getting up-close to such scenic beauty and naturally attractive places which, in most cases, have some historic value and importance,” Leketa said.
The country boasts bushmen paintings in undisturbed cave dwellings. There are also unchartered territories of historic features such as dinosaur footprints.
“Hikers from abroad can come and visit Lesotho through our invitation,” Leketa meanwhile said.
“It goes without saying that the places visited are well-marketed and hence call for a second visit with a larger group the next time around.”
The most popular places for hiking and tourism hotspots in Lesotho include the Lion’s Rock, Lefika-la-Raboshabane, Soloane Hot Springs and Kome Caves.
Leketa says although the club was only registered in 2018, the idea started in 2014.
“The idea to form a club came from two young ladies who have been attending every event organised by T-Connections,” he said.
The agency organises the Moshoeshoe Walk to celebrate the founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe I’s birthday.
It takes place annually from Menkhoaneng to Thaba Bosiu.
“The ladies then invited seven other people who they met at the Moshoeshoe walk event. Since then the club has grown tremendously until today,” Leketa continued.
An Executive Committee that is elected every two years administers the club.
The club is currently in a transformational phase, moving from a society to a professional body.
Some of the club’s objectives are to promote hiking, camping and mountaineering, weekend trips, vacations and social functions like cancer awareness, career guidance at schools and rural villages.
It also aims to promote good health and exercising through outdoor activities, assist in the protection and conservation of the environment and to cultivate and maintain a love of nature and outdoor life.
“Our slogan is: ‘Qhazability Club or Your Club of Choice’,” said Leketa.
“We do this because we want a professionally run club that people from outside, not only in Lesotho but those from as far as South Africa and other countries can admire.”
Some of the planned activities for the rest of the year include: Let’seng-la-Letsie Camping Adventure, Quthing in April and the Make a Difference Day in Butha Buthe in June.
There is also the Cape Town City Tour in October and the Year-end Function in December.
Earth-lovers Make-a-Difference Day is hailed as the most significant of the events.
“On this day we will be handing out some goods for the needy people in that district,” Leketa explained.
“This is our way of appreciating how the community looks after us during our hiking activities. We also work with community leaders and chiefs during our hiking activities and sometimes we get fed and are given accommodation by members of the community.”
Apart from being a tourist attraction, experts say hiking contributes to health and wellness.
– CAJ News