The hike of a lifetime

This past weekend, Kendelle and I had the opportunity to join the annual Moshoeshoe hike. William, the manager here at GNT, told us about it and told us that he would love to go along with us on the hike.  After our spiritual retreat on the 3 and 4 of March, we spent a few days in Durban and then travelled to Maseru. The hike started on the evening of the 8th and lasted until the afternoon of the 11th. We knew very little about the hike when we signed up. Little did we realize how intense and cross-cultural that it would be. It cost 600 rand (85 US dollars) for the experience, and all we needed to bring was a sleeping bag because they gave us a backpack, extra t-shirts, a refillable water bottle, and all meals except for Saturday breakfast. We were pretty excited after got some extra food and got on the bus for our starting point, Menkhoaneng which is a small village northeast of Maseru.

It took us about 2 hours to get there by bus. When we arrived, we stayed at a small school. After I found my accomodations in a small church beside the school, I ate dinner which was pretty good. There were about 100 men sleeping in this church, and we were planning on leaving at 7 am the next morning. We only had to carry a day pack with us, which was very nice. The people in charge of the hike took our sleeping bags and other stuff to our next stop each evening so we didn’t have a lot to carry, except water.  I went to bed at about 9:30 pm, hoping that I would not have to get out of bed until 5:30 because breakfast was at 6.

When I woke, several guys were starting to wash themselves using a basin of water. The time was 2:45 am. I could not believe it. We had over 4 hours before we were supposed to leave, and people were already talking loudly and getting out of bed. About 30 minutes later as I continued to try and fall asleep, someone came up to me and yelled, “Neo, get up, pay your 5 rand, and take a bath.” I resisted yelling back at him, and only said that I was not planning on taking a bath during the trip. It was only 3 days, and I had gone longer without a shower or bath in Lesotho before, so I was not too stressed about it, but they could not believe it. After this comment, I packed up my stuff in my bag, put on a coat because it is colder at night in Lesotho now, and I went outside the church where I was hoping that it would be quieter. Sadly, people were still talking outside very loudly and it was still 3:15 in the morning. I sat down against the brick wall of the school, put in my earphones, and tried to fall back to sleep to the beautiful music of relient k and owl city. I slept a little, but I spent most of the time laying there which was nice too. At about 4 am, the leaders actually started blowing whistles to get everyone up, which was also annoying, but they did not do that for a long time. At 4:30, I went back into the church, and most of the guys sleeping again on their sleeping bags. I was baffled. Why could they not just wake up later, rather than waking me up so early? It seemed easy to me. Well, we had breakfast at 6 am and we left at 7. We spent the entire day hiking until about 6 pm. We had lunch around 2, and after getting accomodated in our home for the evening, we had dinner. The leaders warned us that we would be starting the hike on Saturday morning at 4 am, so I was definitely in the mood to go to sleep after dinner at about 7:30. On this night, I found a tent available that I could sleep in, so I was hoping that people would not wake me as easily in this situation. As I tried to go to sleep, I couldn’t block out all of the people that seemed to be talking right outside of my tent until about 9:30 pm.

I awoke to the sound of a basotho male shouting something to his neighbor. The time was 1:10 am, and I was ready to jump out of my tent and kick the man (I know; that definitely is not nonviolent, but my feelings at the time were kind of overwhelming). If you remember, we were not going to have breakfast on this morning, so I was not worried about waking earlier than about 3:30 if not later. I laid there in my bed and tried to fall back to sleep until I started packing my stuff up at 3:15. I was uncertain if I would make it through this hike if every night would have this little sleep. This day was the big hike. We had been warned that we would be going over 50 kilometers on this day, and now I believe them. We started hiking at 4 am before the sun came up, and we finished the hike at another school at 10 pm after the sun had gone down. We had lunch at 1 pm, and then dinner when we arrived. I had samp and maroho, but I was unable to actually eat the boiled chicken feet that were laying in the pot that evening. Something about them just made my stomach turn in too many ways. I went to sleep right away in my tent that evening. Kendelle and I had talked before we went to bed, and we both thought that we were leaving at 7 the next morning.

I woke up to people milling about at about 5:30. I had set my alarm for 6 am, so I rolled over and laid there. When my alarm went off, I got out of my sleeping bag and started packing my stuff up. When I got out of the tent, I saw the whole group walking away from our site. I quickly ran and told Kendelle to make sure that she was up. I warned her that everyone was leaving, so we quickly got some breakfast and started walking. There were other stragglers like us behind the group so we were not too worried. We hiked all day until 4:30 when we arrived at the base of the mountain where Moshoeshoe led the people. My legs hurt more than I could have imagined during the last few hours of the march. Not to mention, we had a downpour about 3 hours from the final destination. I had thankfully brought my raincoat, but Kendelle did not bring hers. They had a nice reception ceremony for everyone that lasted about an hour, and then we went back to Maseru.

After 120 km, I don’t think I could ever complain again about walking across campus for classes at ISU. Walks to different places around the mission seem much easier in comparison. I’m not so sure that I will ever want to hike that far again, but maybe after a little time, it will sound better.

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~ by randallkoehler on March 19, 2012.

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