By Thembelani Mkhize
When you think about Mpophomeni township, I reckon “tourism hotspot” is probably the last thing on your mind.
Fortunately, Sphamandla Mabaso of Emphare Organics has a plan to change all of that, with something he calls Mpophomeni Hiking Trails. Pha, as he is affectionately known in his community, is a 28-year-old farmer and businessman. He’s currently studying phytomedicine at the University of Pretoria through correspondence.
Pha started walking in the hills of Mpophomeni and KwaDulela as a child, sometimes escorting his grandfather Mr Ndlovu to get medicine from the forest. This is where Pha fell in love with nature.
“Every time I went up there I’d find something new and interesting. Nature would provide everything I’d need, even fresh spring water to quench my thirst after a long hike” he says.
On one of his walks with grandpa, the elder introduced Pha to a herbal tea that he used for medicine and casual consumption. Pha later saw this as an opportunity to test his skills and created Mpophomeni’s first locally produced iced-tea.
Since 2017 the entrepreneur has been taking people (including me) on what he calls the getaway hike, which is about seven kilometre through the hills of Mpophomeni and KwaDulela.
Hiking the hills around Mpophomeni, blog here
On the way, Pha educates the groups on the different types of plants while keeping them entertained with stories about the history of the trail and some of the major events that took part in the hills, such as the infamous ANC and IFP battles that terrorised both communities.
The medicinal hike is a little under two kilometres long. It includes the hills where Pha discovered the bush tea with which he has created his iced-tea. This hike is more focused on the medicinal side and offers tourists a chance to learn more about the benefits of being at one with nature. It’s a little under two hours long, but the information and knowledge you get out of it lasts a lifetime.
One of the challenges Pha has faced while trying to grow his business is the amount of pollution in the township. A tour company from Howick came to visit him in the hope of partnering on the project. Though they were very impressed by the locations and the sites, especially the spring, their biggest concern was that few people would be willing to pay to walk through a trail with lots of litter.
Read about how Mpophomeni enviro champs are doing their bit to tackle sewage and rubbish problems here
To counter these obstacles, Pha is offering free hikes for anyone willing to bring a black plastic bag to clean up the trails. This is how he plans to do his part to tackle the township rubbish problem.
To book a hike contact Pha Mabaso on the following numbers: 071 454 0323; 081 278 0323.