Next morning, after breakfast, I let Rose, the backpacker owner, take photos of me and the bike for her brochure (she said), and then headed off to find Thaba Bosio, where the graves of the kings are. So I started eastwards along the road to find Thaba Bosio. There were two prominent hills which I suspected had something to do with it, but because there were no road or information signs, I kept on going. The kingdom of mountains, Lesotho truly is! So incredible.
Further on, I saw signs showing that the Kome caves or Ha Kome as its known here was up ahead. The lady at the tourist information by the Maseru border post had told me that they would be worth seeing. It could not be too far, I thought. I decided I might as well go there and on my way back I can attempt to find Thaba Bosio, which I suspected I’d actually missed. The road was scenic and beautiful . Before long it turned to dirt and gravel. Just where the gravel started, was a small settlement. I decided to stop and ask if I was going the right way. Its not difficult to find people when you have a motorbike. Curiosity always draws them in. With a massive verbal language barrier, it was hard, even to say HA KOME in various accents so that they understood where it was I wanted to go, Also lots of hand signs indicating caves. I wasn’t sure in the end we understood each other, but felt that maybe their positive sounding responses (how I knew they were positive, is anyone’s guess), meant I was on the right track.
And a terribly bumpy track it was. I found myself eventually on my first gravel mountain pass. You can bet I was extremely nervous, and filled with self doubt for the most of it.
Though the road was tough, it was also very beautiful, and I got to see how the rural people of Lesotho Lived. I had never seen anything like this with the naked eye before. It really looked like an amazing kind of life. These are truly people of the mountains. I thought that Kome Caves didn’t look too far on the map so I kept on going.
Kome Caves didn’t seem to want to come any closer though, It seemed I’d been riding for ever, bouncing and slipping and drifting and half shitting in my pants too. I stopped at least 5 times to check that I was still going the right way because there had been some little obscure turn-offs along the way. Constantly in a state of contemplation about whether to turn back or keep on going. At some point I was blessed with a km or 2 of tar road. Eventually, I saw another sign for the caves, and some locals directed me to the place where I should go. I thought I’d been on as bad a road as I was ever going to see, but boy oh boy was I wrong. As the terrain got more and more harsh (and the view better and better). Distances seem so very long when you are having a hard time getting somewhere. It was not easy at all to get to the caves, and I kept stopping to ask if I was still on the right road. Only few people understand english, but everyone is very friendly and tries to help. The road was really getting worse and worse. Finally, down in the distance I could see the site of the Caves, as the locals had pointed it out. To get there, I needed to descend a very narrow, very steep, very unstable, gravel path winding down a hillside. There were two options. Go back where I came from, even though I had come so far, and was about 10 minutes away in principle. The other option was to face my fears and just go down.
It would be a waste if I didn’t go down there (or what do you think?). The final spiral down to the cave site was so nerve wrecking. Apart from worrying about getting down this path meter for meter, I was also very worried about how I was going to get up it again. It was so bad, I switched of the engine and got down the last half of the hill slowly slowly letting the clutch out and in. Once on this downward spiral, the ONLY reason I didn’t turn back around was because it was simply not possible to do so. Wow, wow, wow. It was a great relief when I eventually got to the bottom.
Once down there were no regrets. It was totally worth the risk and suffering. Lesotho is a wild Goddess. You have to work to find the most special places. Every kilometer traveled here feels like an accomplishment.
The young lady at the desk took me on a personal tour of the site telling me the history of the area and mister Kome who came from the Eastern Cape to settle here in order to escape tribal wars. I have no idea HOW they managed to settle and build and bring their cattle and other materials here, to this seemingly unreachable place. But that’s the view of myself who’s never had to struggle for anything.
The huts themselves are very basic inside, the guide said it was ok to take pictures, but I opted not to.
She also told me the story of the cannibals who were in the vicinity near mister Kome’s settlement and how if the skirt of the girl would be hanging outside the house of the cannibals, the family of the girl could know that the girl had been eaten up. A girl’s skirt was unique, each one’s was different.
There was also the story of mister Shorty (because he was short), who later also came to settle and build himself his own mud house very close to mister Kome. Kome suspected him of being a cannibal and so for about a year they didn’t even talk. Its hard for me to fathom because they must have been looking into each other’s faces all day long, they lived meters away from each other. That Kome didn’t drive Shorty out is kind of a sign of how peaceful the culture was in Lesotho, and still is, I think. Thats besides the cannibals, which seemed to be an accepted part of society at the time. They eventually ‘saw reason’ changed their diets from human to animal flesh. Eventually though, loneliness on the side of sole alone mister Shorty broke the silence and Kome and Shorty became good friends with Shorty actually marrying one of Kome’s daughters.
The inhabitants of those caves are direct descendents of Kome and Shorty from 250 years ago. They continue to live and expand on the site of the caves. Living a life very much similar to their forefathers of 250 years ago. For each 20 rand, the tourism center gives the inhabitants 3 rand, which I think is very little for the invasion of their privacy. But thats the way it is, and I think, like me, the other tourists put in an extra tip.
As much as I was dreading the way back up that crazy hill, I had no choice, unless I wanted to become an inhabitant of the caves myself, so up, up, up, I went and it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Up is never as bad as down. Even the road back to where I came from, was not as bad, and didn’t seem as long as it did before.
I vowed that that would be my last offroad for the day. It was so tough. I decided not to rush down to Quachas nek which was where I planned to go back into SA. I drove past Thaba Bosio, deliberately this time because I was just to knackered to tackle any gravel, let alone hike up to the graves. Next stop would be Malealea lodge, which came highly recommended by a few people I’d met. Once I got back to the main road that I took from Maseru, I’d travel the 60 km towards Qacha’s neck and then turn in for the final 33 km to malealea lodge.
The pamphlet for Malealea lodge was very inviting. Little did I know a hell of a tough dirt road was waiting form me for the last 10 km. By now, the usual dirt and gravel and stones and cemented rocks were fine for me. But just when I thought that was as bad as it gets, then came the downhills with deeply weathered grooves and pointy rocks and gravel and everything. There is just no way to use brakes on these parts, and you just have to keep calm and try to guide the bike on the most stable parts. At one stage, at the gates to paradise, I felt, this was it, I couldn’t anymore, and as far as I’d come this piece of downhill just looked to hard to cope with. Then a man came out from his house with a huge smile and he somehow in broken english assured me that this was the worst and after that piece, the road was good.
Not a good road of course there were many more worse pieces, than this gateway of paradise. I think these were times when I start to hope God exists and can keep me safe if I ask Him. Its more the mental fatigue that got to me. I started cursing about how far this place was and that Its impossible to get there. When I finally did get there, I was just so relieved. Its a good place, they really involve the community so that everybody wins from the lodge. And I can tell you this much. These Sotho men were starting to look mighty fine to me. They are strong from a life of doing manual farming and other hard labour. Mmmmm. I never realized wearing a blanket could be so sexy. But eish. There is a serious HIV problem there.
Locals from Malealea village are employed at the lodge, In the evenings these same people form a choir and a band with some handmade instruments to entertain the guests. It was a nice experience. And then it was off to bed.