Lesotho: Kingdom in the sky!



Sat, 19 Aug 2017 - 08:30 GMT


Sat, 19 Aug 2017 - 08:30 GMT

Nature’s glory in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

Nature’s glory in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho

CAIRO -19 August 2017: The unknown Lesotho is a country entirely surrounded by South Africa. It is a small mountain kingdom on which I had an eye ever since I was planning the “mad about Africa” adventure. It is the only country in the world that is entirely located in altitude higher than 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It is also a fact that its lowest point is, amongst all other countries’ lowest points, the highest, with an altitude of 1,400 m (4,593 ft.)! All these facts were very promising for my mountain-loving soul…

Nature’s glory in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho…

I entered the country crossing the borderline at the peak of the legendary Sani Pass (2,876 m / 9,436 ft). Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed to ascend the pass, which is sometimes closed due to bad weather conditions. I headed towards Thaba-Tseka through Kotisephola Pass (3,240 m / 10,630 ft). On my way, I found an amazing place to wild camp at, next to a crystal-clear stream. I was already caught under the spell of the mountain kingdom…

Climbing the legendary Sani Pass (2,876 m / 9,436 ft)…

From Thaba-Tseka I did a detour riding around the picturesque lake formed by the Katse Dam. I luckily found some dirt roads next to the banks, so I enjoyed the magnificent scenery having ridden only a few kilometers on the boring asphalt until then. But the best was yet to come…

A settlement next to the picturesque lake formed by Katse Dam.

When I returned at Thaba-Tseka, I headed south. The part from Sehonghong all the way to Sehlabathebe National Park was meant to be my favorite in the country. Some parts of the route were kind of rough, with plenty of stones, especially while ascending the Matebeng Pass, where my GPS indicated I was at 2,966 m (9,731 ft). I did not run across any vehicles there. The only human beings I met were at some settlements on the mountains and some random shepherds grazing their herds at the beautiful green meadows of the area.

Looking down from Matebeng Pass (~2,960 m / 9,711 ft).

While I was descending the pass, I saw a beautiful, green open space next to a small stream. I could not resist… I wild camped there! The wind was blowing harder now and black clouds were coming my way, so I hurried to pitch my tent before the storm would start. Suddenly, I heard a voice greeting me. While I was rushing, I didn’t notice that a young shepherd had approached me. He was covered in a woolen blanket, as most locals in Lesotho do.

The huts in Lesotho are made out of stones and mud, are usually round and have a straw roof.

It was Frantietier, a very nice and warm youngster. He knew a few words in English, so we made acquaintances. He wanted to improve his English and he was showing me birds, stars and other things around, telling me how all these are called in South Sotho, his own language, and asking me to teach him the English word. He was curious to see the inside of my tent. I decided to cook a traditional Greek meal for both of us, trahana, while Frantietier asked me to play Greek music on my mobile phone. He ate with pleasure the food I cooked, so I assumed he enjoyed trahana, the traditional meal of Greek shepherds! At night, we said goodbye and he walked home.

Frantietier, a very friendly and kind shepherd I met while wild camping.

I was feeling very nice after meeting Frantietier. He reminded me the hospitality of the Asians… Lesotho, being an independent kingdom, did not face the apartheid consequences that left their mark in neighboring South Africa. This was obvious to me from the very first moments I was there. The atmosphere was refreshingly free of the racism and the hate which stigmatize South Africa. The locals, who are almost entirely black, were waving at me with smiles.

Horses are the most common mean of transport in the countryside of Lesotho

The only exception were a few children on the mountains, who, like in some other countries, were playing the dangerous game of throwing stones at trespassing vehicles.

One of the stones hit my motorcycle and I stopped to inform the elders of the village, because this has to stop eventually. Despite the fact that they could not speak English, they had already realized what had happened. They sent the rest of the kids to bring the guilty one who was hiding in a corn field. They told me they would hit the child or they would bring him to me so that I could hit him. I would not be able to do that, so I just left asking them to chide the kid and explain him that he must not do that again.

Next day I headed to Semonkong, where I hiked to visit Maletsunyane Falls. The water drops from a height of 204 meters (669 ft). This is the place where the Guinness world record is held for the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil. I preferred, though, to stick on my peaceful hike… I ascended to the green plateau where there was a village. People were walking by or wandering around riding their horses. It was a nice feeling to walk in this peaceful scenery and see how the villagers live there. Some people were working in the fields, cultivating the land, growing corn, wheat or sunflower.

Women were washing clothes or cooking out of their stone hut. Children were running around, carrying water from the village’s spring or firewood. It was a strange feeling I had when considering that the entire world of these people is this plateau. It is a beautiful world yet very confined. So it doesn’t seem strange to me that most of them want to see something more or get to live someplace else…

Through nice dirt roads and trails, which at some parts were a sea of moving stones, I headed to Malealea. While riding northwest, the high mountains started to fade and gave their place to fields and inhabited areas. Since the scenery was not of much interest any more, I took the paved road to the capital city, Maseru. It was the last weekend before the elections and people were celebrating everywhere with loud music and lots of alcohol! I finally left the country one day before the elections, just to be sure I will not be caught in any violent protest after the election results would be announced. Unfortunately this kind of things happen in many African countries…

Finally, I headed north riding a few more kilometers in this small country. I crossed the border to South Africa and I bid farewell to this beautiful, mountain kingdom, leaving with the best impressions…

This article was originally published by Madnomad



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