MALIBA LODGE, LESOTHO
10 September 2009
The Mountain Backpackers Club (www.mountainbackpers.co.za) was approached to find members willing to “map” all the trails on a private lodge situated in the T’sehlanyane National Park, in exchange for free board & lodging, so my husband, Eddie and I happily volunteered. The place looked awesome on the website, but pictures could not do it justice once we actually set foot here! We left our home in Northdene at around 2pm, and had a comfortable 5 hour drive to the lodge. We stopped at Fouriesberg for an hour to re-fuel and grab a bite to eat at one of the tea rooms. The road through to the border post was all on tar and from the town of Buthe Buthe, we turned onto a gravel road and 40 mins later we arrived at Maliba mountain Lodge(www.maliba-lodge.com) We could not see any of the scenery because it was dark and were looking forward to waking up in the morning to see the views and the surroundings. We were warmly greeted by Hyke when we arrived at 8.30pm and given a welcome drink in the gorgeous reception area – nothing at all like our experience in Malawi!! This place is simply wow....!!! we climbed into a warm electric blanket bed with the fire still roaring in the fireplace at 10pm...
Friday, 11 September 2009
The alarm woke us at 6am and just as well, because the bed was way too comfy to wake up on our own! The view from our room was breathtaking – right in the heart of the mountains! The sun had already come up so we missed the sunrise...will try again tomorrow. After a lovely shower we took a slow walk up to the dining room and were warmly welcomed by the staff and gorgeous classical music accompanied the wonderful spread of food! The dining room was as tastefully decorated as the rest of the lodge – five star indeed! Daniel the barman offered us coffee, capachino, espresso or latte...we chose capachino...did we want it weak, medium or strong...choices, choices! The hospitality here at Maliba Lodge is incredible! Hyke gave us a run down of the trails in the area and prepared a stunning picnic basket for lunch. We set off at 8.30am, clear day not a cloud in the sky and absolutely no wind. We took the route to the “Upper Trail” and found it to be well marked, and an easy walk. After we had crossed the river some time later we stopped for a break to enjoy our Liqui Fruit & Bar One and continued climbing up quite a steep hill. Soon we reached the 3 tier waterfall which was sadly very dry but breathtaking nonetheless. The entire scenery that surrounded us was incredible! We walked right up to the very top of a hill, following the boundary fence and had lunch at an altitude of 2700m. The lunch that Hyke packed for us was a treat indeed....fresh fruit, greek salad, cold meat and salad rolls and butternut soup! This made quite a change to our normal crackers & cheese hikers lunch! Eddie took a walk up another 100meters to summit the peak while i waited below, i was feeling too tired from the long trek up. A short while later, we took to the long descent towards the lodge, some 7kms away. The walk down was very difficult with loose stones and soft gravel, but very enjoyable all the same. We finally reached our lovely hut at 4.30, having completed 17kms of trail hiking over 7.5 hours....a very successful day indeed! It was pure heaven to laze around on the recliners on our verandah and watch the days’ shadows lengthen....a hot shower later and off to dinner at 7pm where we were treated to crumbed calamari, trout and nougat parfait...the end of a perfect day!
Saturday, 12 September 2009
Another gorgeous day greeted us as we enjoyed breakfast out on the deck, overlooking the valley and river below. We were keen to map a few more hiking trails and set off at 8.30am to do the lower trail then the trail to the campsite and the trail up to the waterfall. The lower trail proved to be very flat, lots of birds were about and there was one very steep section to the trail which needed some attention. The walk to the campsite was also easy, we crossed a large “pool” on the river which looked incredibly inviting in the midday heat! The first 3kms towards the waterfall was reasonably marked but all too soon the path disappeared completely and we found ourselves doing Tarzan stunts cutting through very thick bushes, shredding our legs to bits! Not pleasant at all, on the positive side it gave purpose to our trip – being able to identify the routes that needed some serious work done before promoting them to the visitors. It was midday, extremely hot with no breeze at all and we battled to find out way to the waterfall. We decided to go further up alongside the mountain and at a point where I no longer felt safe to continue, Eddie continued on his own while I stayed behind on a ledge and waited for him. It took Eddie another 40 mins to find the waterfall only to discover that the river was so low there was almost no water flowing over the edge anyway. We made our way back to the lodge and had a late lunch at 3pm out on the deck, terribly sunburnt tired and bleeding all over from the scratches & cuts that we sustained on the hike to the waterfall. Sam, the assistant manager, proudly showed off all the photographs of the construction of the lodge while we were eating – it was fascinating to see how it all started and how the locals enthusiastically took part in the venture! At 4pm, Eddie set off with Daniel the barman, to go and map the trail to a nearby cave, apparently 5kms from the lodge. I was too tired and indulged in a soaking bubble bath back in the serviced rondavel, with the housekeeper arriving shortly after 5pm to light the fire in the cosy fireplace. I waited patiently for their return and by nightfall I became very concerned. Eventually I heard the car pull up at 7.40pm! The hike turned out to be rather challenging, and on top of the steep ascent, they had to navigate their way back by torchlight! The trip was well worth it and is highly recommended to the more adventurous tourists! We settled down with another excellent dinner and collapsed in bed after hiking a total of 24kms for the day!
Sunday, 13th September 2009
The only trails left to do were exploration type trips which were in excess of 20kms, so we decided to tackle those on a future trip. It was our day off, so after a late lazy morning we left the lodge with Sam, the Assistant Manager, and were taken on a tour of one of the cultural villages. It was very interesting to see the construction of the huts, the interior, and to meet the friendly local people. It was an absolute treat to meet and experience the readings given by a true Sangoma, in her hut! This session took about half an hour and was filled with rituals, prayers, and interpretation of animated dialogue by Sam. Her readings were amazingly accurate to particular events in our lives – we were truly amazed! On the way back, we stopped and met Kevin, a member of the American Peace Corps who was out here in sub Saharan Africa on a 2 year contract. Kevin was hosted by Maliba Lodge and was set up comfortably in a thatched mud hut. His work included doing HIV/AIDS testing and counselling as well as teaching the local people basic bookkeeping skills in the running of their businesses in the area. He told us there were 85 volunteers from the USA, based in Lesotho doing this type of work. Kevin has mini solar panels to charge his cell phone and runs up to the highest point to receive calls from his home in Chicago on a regular basis! He relies on water from the nearby river for his household chores and cooks on a gas stove, all supplied by Maliba Lodge. We then hit the road back to the lodge and realised all too soon that our wonderful time in the mountains was drawing to a close! After a scrumptious lunch, we insisted on meeting the chef – Andrew – and said our fond farewells to the staff at Maliba Lodge, until a future date!