The ‘Alps’ of Africa

The ‘Alps’ of Africa

BUTHA-BUTHE – HUMANS are masters at tainting the environment.
You see that as you wind through the several settlements to Butha-Buthe. A combination of human settlements, overgrazing and poor farming methods have scarred the once pristine hinterlands.
Deep and wide gullies have swallowed the land at an alarming rate.

Yet there are some places where humans have learned to live in harmony with their surroundings. You see that coherence between people and nature soon after Butha-Buthe.
As you manoeuvre your way up the mountains the beauty returns, reminding you of what this country could be if its people live at peace with their mountains, rivers and forests.
As you slowly nudge up the mountains the air becomes fresher, the water cleaner and the grass greener.

Altitude steals your hearing a little bit. A hamlet here and a lone shepherd there, remind you that you are still with the people.
Then after climbing some 3 222m and driving 200km from Maseru, the capital, a spectacular sight embraces you. The wooden cabins on the foot of a steep slope covered in snow announce your arrival at AfriSki.

For Europeans this conjures memories of the Alps.
For locals visiting for the first time AfriSki tells them how little they know of their country.
The dozens of white people skiing down the thick snow is a reminder that you are in another world.
AfriSki is the only ski resort in southern Africa, yet little is known about it and few locals have been there.

That explains why the Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation (LTDC) took a group of reporters on a free junket last week.
The event was the Afriski Winter Music Festival that marks the start of the skiing season at the resort.
Held from June 7 to 10 this year, it was a four-day event packed with activities from skiing to dancing. From feasting to swimming in the icy pools.
Yet amid the jamboree a much broader agenda was unfolding.

MuchoMoo and Afriski Mountain Resort, the organisers, were on a charm offensive to market the resort.
Tour companies from South Africa were invited to get a taste of what the resort offers. Refilwe Tladi of Thalera Tours from North West, South Africa, who was visiting the resort for the first time said she got the impression that AfriSki will fit seamlessly into their tour packages.

“The reception, the hospitality and the set up are just perfect,” he said.
Afriski Mountain Resort is using the festival to foster collaboration between Lesotho and South African tour companies.
“We want to market Lesotho in South Africa and our other clients all over the world. We are going to package the accommodation and other activities that are available and use social media which is the perfect platform to market,” Tladi said.

Tlali and officials from other tour companies also visited Thaba-Bosiu for hiking, Katse Dam and went to ’Maletsunyane Fall.
“In general we found the country (quite impressive). Other places are far apart but when you get through other destinations you are stunned,” Tladi said.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Lesotho, Sello Moloto, also attended the event. This was his first visit and he said he was impressed.
“Actually I heard people taking about the place. I never thought it will be where it is today,” Moloto said.

“When people talk about something you don’t see and feel you don’t take it to heart but coming here you can see that you are in Europe in Lesotho.”
“My suspicion is that many people who are coming here are South Africans,” he said.

“I think what needs to be done is to expand it even more beyond the borders of South Africa. South Africa is a big country and a very small group of people know about the place.”
“So, if it can be expanded more and more people will be attracted to come here. It can be a busy place because it is a unique place in the continent.”
The LTDC, the state company charged with marketing tourism, supported the event by bringing journalists, the police, army and correctional service officials to the event. The motive, according to the LTDC, is to encourage locals to visit local resorts.

“This was done as part of our mandate to encourage domestic tourism,” said LTDC spokesman Molapo Matela.
It is not ideal for the tourism industry to rely on foreign tourists, he said.
“We have many Basotho that tour South Africa on honeymoon, in Cape Town and Durban, and leave the gem here,” he said.

“I’m happy that the Sehlaba – Thebe Road is going to be tarred, which will enable people driving small cars to reach the place”.
“The LTDC has engaged the LMPS on their campaigns to educate and sensitize the shepherds on how to treat tourists.”
Mato Majoro, a police officer who was part of the LTDC’s delegation, said he now appreciates why it is important for the police to protect tourists.
“We need to work hard to keep peace here,” he said.

Molise Molise

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