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Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Adventures in Mabita: Ts'ehlanyane National Park

At around 2200 meters while hiking in the park.
Welcome to the second Botha Bothe destination. If you missed the first, on Liphofung, be sure to check it out here.

Confession: Ts'ehlanyane is barely in Mabita. In order to reach the national park, the roads leave BB and travel through Leribe before curving back into my home district. But, technically it is in Botha Bothe and as such earns its spot as a Mabita Adventure

Ts'ehlanyane National Park is named for one of the plants found throughout the park. It is the largest national park in Lesotho at 5600 hectares and ranges in elevation from about 1900 meters to just over 3000 meters.

In the four visits I have made to Ts'ehlanyane thus far, I have participated in a variety of activities from plunging into a frigid swimming hole in winter to sipping cold draft beer on the deck of Lesotho’s only five star resort. With this in mind, here is a sampling of the adventures to be had in this large national park:

A cold mid-winter swimming hole.
Swimming: There are multiple potential swimming spots as run-off from the breathtakingly tall mountains feeds streams and rivers throughout the park. The most popular is near the Maliba River Lodges and is deep enough for jumping.

Trail marker and mountains
Hiking: There are day hikes and backpacking trails available in the park. Most trails are fairly well
marked and include impressive elevation regardless of distance. Thus far I have done two of the trails: the River Loop and the Litsumi Caves Trail. The River Loop begins at Maliba Lodge with the majority of its uphill climb before flattening out and eventually dropping dramatically to the banks of the Hlotse River. It has a nice offshoot to a waterfall for those with the time and energy.
The Caves Trail begins near the park gate and pretty much goes uphill until the end at which point exhausted hikers get to turn around and go downhill until they return to the park gate. It is an exhausting climb, but absolutely breathtaking, especially towards the end of the trail when standing above some of the surrounding mountains. Its conclusion includes a well hidden cave that houses porcupines and a small waterfall.

On the deck at Maliba after hiking
Food and Drink: Maliba is all inclusive, which means that people wanting to eat without paying for their accommodation need to plan ahead and make reservations. Drinks, however, are readily available. At Maliba, day guests can enjoy a bottle of wine, a full bar, and even Maluti beer on tap. Hikers can also grab cold cans of Maluti and other beers at the park gate—a great reward after the Caves Trail.

Accommodation: Maliba is the obvious option for accommodation in the park; however, there is also the lesser known and lesser priced government housing available. The park offers both a three-bedroom house and a series of two and three-person dorm rooms with shared bathrooms for surprisingly low prices. While they amenities are minimal, which can be a challenge when traveling via public transport, the beds are comfortable.

Heather is taller than some of the mountains we stood
underneath before we began our hike!

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