My Southern African Road trip day 11, Sunday 8 December 2013 – Lesotho (Malealea to Quthing)


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A cool morning in Malealea

Taking into account, my finances, and time before the roads started to get crazy busy in SA for holiday season, It seemed the best idea to not spend another night at Malealea, but I wanted to make the most of it.  So I booked a 5 hour hike to see some cave paintings and the waterfall.  My guide’s name was Max.  We walked through lots of farmlands.  He says that the farms I saw are all subsistence farms.  To obtain such a farm, when on has to be married and have started a family.  If you have reached this point, you go to the chief and ask for a piece of land.  And the chief allocates you land.  The chief knows all the land like the back of his/her hand.   The people plough the land old school way, with cows pulling a manual plough.  Max does not have land yet as he is not married and therefor still lives with his parents.  In the village, people will swop produce with each other.  And everybody has cattle and sheep and goats. 

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subsistence farming in Lesotho

At the moment the chief’s wife is chief because he passed away.  I love that women can be chief, and Max says the people respect her.  When the wife dies, then one of the sons will become chief.  Walking long distances is very normal to the Basotho. They need to walk kilometers and kilometers into the fields to get to their patch of farmland.  This all Max told me.  He also told me that the Basotho people came to Lesotho from South Africa to escape the wars.  The mountains of Lesotho offered them a way to defend themselves.  They found bushmen there.  And when the bushmen started hunting the Basotho’s cattle, the Basotho ‘expelled’ them from their land.  I was afraid to ask how.  The hike was really tiring.  Not really very very hard, but my body was exhausted from the road trip. 

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scenes on the hike

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scenes on the hike: the beginnings of a house

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scenes on the hike: A family lives here. How lucky are they?

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cute veggie garden

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scenes on the hike: Looking down to the river below

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Scenes on the hike: Max says it was a rainless winter. Everybody had it very tough.

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lush greenery

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scenes on the hike: spot the sheep dotted against the hillside

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ancient San rock paintings

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Max climbing this steepness as if it was flat. Basotho boys seem to float up and down the mountains.

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scenes on the hike: This is a cattle kraal

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scenes on the hike: some building happening

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scenes on the hike: cattle descending to graze among the green grass below.

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scenes on the hike: This is the life in Lesotho

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scenes on the hike

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nearly at the waterfall

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finally, the waterfall

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Spot the cattle grazing against the Mountain. These beasts must taste really good from all that mountain climbing.

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another dwelling

After the hike, I just had a shower ate and prepared to hit the road.  It was very overcast, but hadn’t started raining yet.  No sooner had I started riding – back up that harsh dirt road –  than it started raining.  Just about a km into the ride, it started to pour down  buckets and buckets of rain!  Hoping that I would outride it,   I didn’t turn back.  When I got about halfway back to the main road from where I would make my way to Qacha’s neck, I stopped.  I rode on to the first town where I could fill up petrol.  During the ride it started coming down really hard.  So hard it felt like hailstones through my jacket.  I rode with lightning flashing and thunder crashing, what seemed like right  next to me!  I was so afraid, so so afraid, but what could I do, I was miles from anywhere, just mountain pass after mountain pass, after mountain pass. Every road in Lesotho is a Mountain pass.  Wherever you are in Lesotho, you are surrounded by mountains.  Its a sight to behold.  And that day it was a scary sight for me in that weather.  It must be very likely to be struck by lightning.  Lesotho needs the rain though.  The animals were thin, their ribs were showing.  Max said it had been a hard winter without rain.  All of Lesotho came out of winter very brown.  There was nothing for the cows to eat, they were starving.  The people were happy for the rain. 

At Mateteng, I made a BIG FAT MISTAKE.  I forgot my handbag with money, cards, passport and everything at the garage.  I rode to the ATM and realized I didn’t have it so I went back, and it was gone.  I was so scared and worried, the petrol attendants carried on in what appeared to be a very dodgy way, but said, they are trying to help me.  Then it turns out a street vendor lady did see someone take it and run after me with the bag to give it to me.  They knew who he was.  Two more guys in a 4by4 by now jumped in also to help, but I was so scared I tell you.  What was I going to do without any money, no passport, no ID, no bank cards!

Its tough when you don’t understand a language, so vulnerable.  In the end 4by4 guys convinced me to go with them to the police station to find out if they guy had taken the bag there.  The police station really looked VERY informal and  the policemen/women, do not wear a uniform.  I felt very vulnerable.  Nobody had come to turn my bag in, but the policemen did have the guy’s number, so they called him, and he said he will bring it.  It took a while for him to come, probably 30 mins.  Longest 30 minutes of my life.  But he came and I was so relieved. 

It was after this that It started to rain hard on the road.  The roads are not straightforward in Lesotho.  One should always ask at a circle or a major junction which way to proceed.  At least along the main routes, most people speak English well.  Thus far, the main routes I used had very good roads.  Just the odd pothole here and there.  I kept to a lowish speed 80 to 100 because every now and then one encounters unexpected reckless shitty traffic, and also potholes.   There are a lot of blind rises which sometimes hide sharp curves.  Also, I came upon one accident in the rain, and was glad for my moderate speed.   My other saving grace is the the people.  They are just good to the bone.  Always someone to put the good spirit back in you.   The idea of Basotho man was playing on my mind.  Anything to keep me sane in the rain.  They really know how to work.  They all will own land, and have livestock, and they are quite easy on the eye.  Eish.

Finally, I arrived in Quting just as the sun was reaching the horizon.  Quting is not rural.  Its a busy place, because its only 2 km off the main route.  Its dirty and busy.  In terms of tourism, there are dinosaur footprints which I was planning to go see the next day, if the weather was good and my good spirit returned. If not, I would head straight for Qacha’s neck.  I stayed over at a decent enough lodge. At least they had a heater in the room, so I warmed up nicely after that soaking wet and cold ride.  The bike was wonderful in the rain by the way.

This day had been by far the most challenging.  I was tired in body and mind.  And I felt ready to  be at home.  But, Lesotho is so breathtakingly beautiful.  To see the sights though, requires between 10 and 40 km of dirt road riding at a time.   At the time I felt like I could never do this alone again.  In hindsight, I think I could.  And I think it could be a richer experience next time round.

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