The Tale of Maluti Syd
“The Maletsunyane was stocked with trout in the late 1950’s mainly through the efforts of the then manager of the Frasers’ store, Jan du Preez, a pilot, Dick Southworth, and a police officer, Ken Short Smith. The site on which the lodge now stands was a favourite camping site from then on for people either trekking on horseback or flying in on Basotho Air which was a fledging airline doing a fantastic job in opening up the then Basutoland. The campsite was ideal for trout-fishing visitors to the falls due to its close proximity to the landing strip (and that’s literally what it was), store and a good supply of drinking water. The spring on the hill behind the camp always had lovely clear, sweet water winter and summer. It was also ideal in that it was flat and well grassed and situated midway on the fishable part of the river. The fishing in the early days was fantastic, as Yellow Fish could not get up the falls so the water was completely virgin.
I first visited the falls with a party of school friends in 1955 and we camped there. Although we were complete novices we managed to bag at least 8 fish of between 2 and 4 lbs. It was also on this trip that the idea of Maluti treks was born.
A friend and I were sitting on the bank of the river one evening at sunset and Tim said to me. “You know, Chappie, people would pay to do this”. In 1962, fed up with university, I decided to start a pony trekking and trout fishing safari business; we called it Maluti treks. We established a base camp on the bank of the Senqunyane and built 3 rondavels with the help of the Maseru District Council. This is now the site of the Senqunyane Lodge at Marakebei. From this base camp we rode to the falls, taking two days and all our equipment on mules, at least two pack mules per guest and then some. The night camp was set on the banks of the headwaters of the Maletsunyane, a beautiful spot leaving an easy and pleasant ride downriver to Semonkong. We camped at the old campsite on the river, which is now the site of Semonkong Lodge. After about a year of operating we decided to build some sort of permanent structure at Maletsunyane to make life easier for all concerned. Again with the help of the MDC we were given permission to erect a wooden hut on the site. This was the real beginning of Semonkong Lodge. The hut was about 10m long and divided into one small room and a larger ‘mess hall’. The hut was prefabricated in Maseru and driven to Ramabanta. From there we hired Basuto women, two to a section, who carried it to Semonkong on their heads.
Charges for a Maluti Trek were R10 per day all-inclusive - which even included booze. My idea at the time was to establish camps a days ride apart, all over the Maluti’s. My ideas changed, however, when I visited Oxbow and decided to concentrate all my resources in that area. We kept the two southern camps for a few years, as, with great difficulty, we had managed to get the liquor licensing laws changed to allow our lodges to sell booze, but eventually I sold our interests to Frasers who had stores at both places”.