Last night we arrived in the dark and the cold, the Landies bouncing down a rocky track to meet with the mountain cyclists and pony trekkers who had made their way up Bushman’s Neck Pass to rendezvous at Sethlabatebe National Park. Huddled around a central fire it had been a great evening with Mike Nixon who’s heading up the mountain bike party giving us a talk on the adventures of climbing Mount Everest. Mike is one of only four South Africans who have successfully climbed the world’s seven summits and he ended by confirming that the mountain bike journey up Bushman’s Neck Pass ranked as a great adventure.
Today we are holding a Sethlabathebe community event at a remote soccer field which has been upgraded by a team of adventurers from 4×4 MegaWorld. White lines. New goal posts, nets, balls and whistles – it’s our clear expedition objective to link communities to conservation through a Boundless Soccer Challenge. The Lesotho minister of tourism arrives by helicopter from Maseru. Hundreds of local people have walked in or come by horseback. Three sheep and a beast have been slaughtered. There’s traditional dancing and singing; an art competition with a conservation theme; the presentation by the expedition of box libraries; Rite to Sight spectacles for the poor sighted and a horse race. Expedition member Mad Mike Rumble begs a ride on the helicopter and parachutes down with a symbolic soccer ball which he hands over to the minister to kick off the Boundless Soccer Challenge. The Scroll of Peace and Goodwill for Conservation that we are carrying through nine countries across Africa is messaged by the ministers and the community elders. The winning soccer team receives a floating trophy which local teams will continue to compete for in a run up to a 2010 rural world cup to be played off between the seven Transfrontier Conservation Areas – what a great day. The dignity of the event, traditional culture alive and well, people in conical Basotho hats and colourful blankets. So much is happening that , every day filled with activity – hard to believe it’s only day four of our 120 day journey across Africa.
Tomorrow we’ll leave Sethlabathebe to climb over the Matabeng Pass, then South through the Maluti’s following the banks of the Senqu River, on to Mokhothlong and then back to the edge of Drakensberg escarpment to rendezvouz with the mountain bike team at Sani Top. Lesotho has the highest average altitude in Africa. Tonight it’s minus five – we’ll keep you posted.