HER Majesty, Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso, led from the front during the 116 kilometre trek from Menkhoaneng to Thaba Bosiu in a historic walk that aimed to follow the steps of the legendary King and founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe 1.
The annual Moshoeshoe Walk, also marks the celebration of the birthday of King Moshoeshoe 1 who was born on 11 March in 1786 and named Lepoqo. He led his people from Menkoaneng in Butha-Buthe to Thaba Bosiu in Maseru where he established his strong fortress.
Queen Masenate and the Minister of Tourism, Environment and Culture, Motlohi Maliehe were joined by more than 650 people in this year’s three-day walk which took place from 8 to 10 March.
Over the years, the grueling walk organised by T-Connexion has attracted international participants as seen by many trekkers who came from Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and the United States of America, to be part of the symbolic walk.
The Moshoeshoe Walk traces the route the Great Basotho King Moshoeshoe walked, leading his people as they fled from Butha Buthe to Thaba Bosiu during the Lifaqane period. It was not an easy walk for King Moshoeshoe and his people as on the way they were confronted by cannibals, leading to the loss of the king’s grandfather, Peete.
However, the Moshoeshoe Walk aims to re-kindle the spirit of unity amongst Basotho as embodied in the monarch’s legacy and to promote team-building skills as well as domestic tourism.
This year’s walk was one of the toughest following the rains received in the country, which flooded rivers and made some areas impassable.
The walk started on Thursday with the trekkers covering 31 km to Outward Bound in Pitseng Leribe where they slept.
They then left Outward Bound at dawn, walking a distance of 54 km, through the hills and crossing two rivers before reaching the ‘Hell day’ destination being Malimong.
Besides having to cross insanely furious rivers, the trekkers had to endure what their ancestors went through, walking a two-kilometer steep hill, which drained some of the participants leading them to call it quits at lunch time. While some participants took a bus back home, Queen Masenate soldiered on to the camping site.
On Saturday, the trekkers were excited to reach the destination with 32km remaining to Thaba-Bosiu.
The journey was shortened by the spirit of all hikers, singing and praising the founder until their arrival at Thaba-Bosiu Cultural village, where His Majesty King Letsie the III awaited their arrival.
Addressing the participants who successfully completed the journey, His Majesty said the walk was symbolic as it reflects Basotho’s resilience and spirit of unity.
“You volunteered to take this journey of torture for reasons that demonstrate the importance of preserving our culture. Walking all the way also shows that in everything we wish to achieve, if we can work and walk together we can succeed and become a better nation. We thank God the Almighty that you all made it back safe, despite some minor injuries suffered by some of you.”
He said it was heart-warming to see people from other countries participating in the walk, explained this showed that Basotho are a peaceful nation that interacts with people from other countries.
“During this walk, our father created alliances which stayed intact even after he had passed on, and this walk is a reminder of such uniqueness of Basotho.”
Speaking on behalf of South African Trekkers, Thebe Ikalafeng said this trek proved to be the tougher than he had imagined.
“I have been to several challenging places around the world but the Moshoeshoe Walk takes the pie, it is tough yet fun,” Ikalafeng said.
He said he was mostly impressed and amazed by the pace set by Her Majesty Queen Masenate.
“We walked 116 km, but as a walker, I felt as if I have walked more than that distance. What made us persevere was the presence of Her Majesty who was with us all the way. This was an incredible experience to have walked with Her Majesty, although her pace was fast and not easy to to keep up with.”
Also speaking at the gathering, the organizer of the event, Thabo Maretlane explained this year’s walk was much bigger than the previous year’s event, mainly due to the participation of high profile people and an increased number of international participants.
“Her Majesty’s participation has significantly changed the face of the walk, which this year attracted international participants. The presence of the Minister of Tourism will also add a significant plus on our efforts to market the event and the country’s tourism sector,” Mr Maretlane said.
Compared to other events held over the years, this year fewer injuries were recorded, Mr Maretlane said, adding that current experiences were going to help them plan better for next year’s Moshoeshoe Walk.