Star Date: April 2011
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
(Hello - or literally Peace. Basotho - Lesotho)
"He walks the plains with hardened feet. The hunting is good here and the gods generous. With rocks to shelter, water for life and the African sky to humble him. This is the bushman's home .......tonight."
Lesotho, the Kingdom in the Sky. Mountains rise out of the plains, sentries guarding the 'loveld' that stretches to the horizon. Crossing the border from South Africa transports you into a land removed. We breathed a sigh of relief as we discovered that this is a land where fear forgot to visit. Worries are replaced by genuine smiles. Electric razor wire fences are replaced by no fences. Here in the solitude of the mountains the modern day stress and pressures of life have taken a holiday.
Most of this tiny 18,000 sq. mi. country is rolling pastures, zig zags of crops, eroded foothills or soaring mountains. Heading up towards the peaks you are met with the tinkling of cow bells in the mountain wind. We inhaled the delicate fragrance of acres carpeted with stunning purple and pink cosmos swaying to the rhythm of the breeze. Shepherds or herders each have from 4 to 50 goats and cattle under their care. Armed with a stick and sporting new gum boots these solitary fellows, usually wrapped in a brightly woven wool blanket, hiding under a unique Basotho reed hat, go slowly on their way. Still a position of esteem, this simple shepherd existence allows for months on end wandering the mountains; just him, his animals and Nature. Smoke pours out of the few shepherd's rock huts dotting the mountain sides but mainly these rugged souls just curl up under their blankets and sleep under the phenomenal night skies. Up here, without a single light piercing the darkness, you can reach out and touch the stars.
After crossing "God Help Me Pass" Maari Safari decided she had endured enough mountain driving so we pulled over at a little area near a stream. Up we went scaling the boulders until we found a deep pool, just made for bathing. We plunged in, luxuriating in the sun warmed pool I even washed my long hair and a few clothes. Then we basked in the sun, enjoying the panoramic views below. The next morning we put our chairs out on the edge of the ravine and ate our fruit salad. We sat sipping a hot cup of rooibush herb tea to ward of the chill in the air, relaxing in the calming stillness of the mountains. Soon a herder bare to the waist strolled by, stood and stared, oblivious to the cool mountain air. Curious both, we invited him to sit down and poured him a cup of tea. Katso's herd eating around us, consisted of 51 goats and 17 cows. We had seen him the evening before. He had driven his animals straight up the mountain to a little rock ledge and spent the night curled up under his blanket. With no education he was like a curious little child. When we told him how breathtaking the mountains were he spread his arms out and exclaimed, "It's big, my home!" Each season he is given several animals as payment and he carefully guards his new flock along with that of the owners. At some point he will be able to sell part of his herd, buy land, build a house and get married. He may someday encourage one of his sons to become a herder as a way to advance in life in this land of little promise.
After an interesting afternoon looking around in the bustling capitol of Maseru we headed back out to the quiet countryside near Roma. We parked out in a field and awoke to a completely flat front tire. Always happens on a weekend! A helpful farmer went racing away and returned with a bicycle pump! That was just one example of how helpful everyone is in Lesotho. Kennedy, a 'rasta' man, stopped by and as soon as we put on our feeble spare tire we followed him to his little backpacker hostel to park until Monday morning, when the tire shops opened. He and 'mahoa' wife Rose, from Texas, opened a day care for 3-6 year old orphans whose parents had died of Aids, many of whom are HIV positive themselves. We visited the school the next day surrounded by hordes of little sweethearts wanting hugs and attention. As with many countries in Africa, conditioned by missionaries, black locals assume that white visitors ought to give them money or gifts, apparent from the insistent begging by young and old alike. Kennedy was perplexed why foreigners wouldn't just give money towards the school, instead of giving gifts for the children, thus cutting him out of the equation. People have been very generous with their gifts thus far and the school's children are thriving in this colorful, lively environment.
It just happened that Kennedy
was hosting a gathering of 20 interesting young German volunteers,
doing community service in lieu of military service back home. We
enjoyed a fun bonfire, drumming and b.b.q. into the wee hours of the
morning. The next day we hiked down into a deep ravine to see
ancient cave paintings of the Bushmen. The Bushmen are
Southern Africa's oldest inhabitants, roaming the land as long ago
as the Stone Age. The following day we had a
one of a kind Lesotho
experience on the way back from beautiful Mohale Dam (Lesotho's
selling of its last resource - water). Kennedy took a
bumpy back road back to a village perched on the side of the
mountain. He had made friends with the people when he spent
several years in the area as a young herder. From the
surprised looks on their faces it was obvious that we were the first
whites to visit. They were absolutely spellbound as they
watched our every move; invited us to sit round their cooking fires
after touring the dark inside of their stone huts, showed us the
biltong (dried meat) on the fence,
laughed at our photos and chased a balloon in the blustery breeze.
Music plays a major role in their culture and the children treated
us to a song and dance. Life is harsh here, especially in the snowy
winters, with surrounding mountains reaching over 3500m or 10,000
feet. The assimilating hand of modern life hasn't reached into the far
mountainous corners of these Basotho villages. With no
electricity, no village ruining TV's, and no reception we only saw
one cell phone. The 'sangoma' or witchdoctor mixes magic and traditional
herbs to treat the villagers. We were told the Basotho are buried sitting
up, facing the rising sun, ready to jump up when the time comes.
This is the true origin of the Boy Scout's motto: "Be Prepared".
And so it goes.........................................Next month Zululand, Durban, &Swaziland. Until then let's try to enjoy wherever we are, wherever we lay our heads tonight, thankful we have a place! Thanks for sharing this website with friends and family. We are excited that over 80,000 readers join us on our trip each month. That's one hell of a party! Keep in Touch! Keep Thankful! Keep Smiling!
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00US = 7 Lesotho malot, (same as South African rand)
The best way to have a great visit to Lesotho is to relax and smile. Go with the flow and it will be a memorable experience.
The visitor information center in Maseru is a good stop. Just starting to get organized, these friendly folks will give you their glossy brochure and play a video.
We would just pull off the road, out of the way, and although we would sometimes gather a crowd, it was completely safe. We were invited to stay, twice, in little round villager's rondavels. We instead just slept down the road in our van and visited during the day.
In Lesotho you must develop a thick skin to everyone begging or just asking for money. It is very annoying, but for some reason it is ok in their culture. Even well dressed people or someone in the line behind you in the grocery store will ask for money or a gift. We just say, "No, but we can be friends !" (or something similar) and smile. If they ask for 50, turn around and say, "If you give me 100 I will give you 50." They laugh. As we have said many times before we NEVER give money. It only promotes further begging. We donate towards education - a long term solution to poverty and future change.
Ready for the cool evening air.