The above photograph summarises this trip pretty well: a lot of time in the car – much of it with me pointing my camera out of the window – and a lot of clouds in our skies! I was also 11 weeks pregnant and nibbling crackers and cereal bars almost constantly to keep the sickness at bay! Indy’s now 6 months old (loving avocado, courgette, bouncing in her Jumperoo and blowing raspberries!) – that’s how efficient my blog writing has been since then! I don’t like to leave things unfinished so, at last, I present the final of the four-part journey! So far, we’ve been to Kruger National Park in South Africa, across the border for a cultural experience in Eswatini, back into southeast South Africa and now we arrive for a two-night stay in the Kingdom of Lesotho (Li-soo-too).
It’s a tiny (30,000km2) and elevated (1000m +) country enclaved within South Africa, and home to around 2,000,000 Basotho people. I was interested to learn that 95% of the population are Christian and that the country has one of the highest rates of literacy in Africa, due in part to the government’s free primary education initiative.
The contrast from South Africa was immediately apparent once we’d made yet another hassle-free border crossing. The place seemed instantly much poorer, with far more pedestrians walking long distances, and fewer vehicles.
We drove through a small market town but, other than that, stuck to the stunning countryside with its soaring mountains, fast-flowing rivers and lush vegetation. It was beautiful!
Diamonds and water are the country’s main natural resources. Mining and manufacturing are key economic activities but the majority of families subsist on farming – agriculture and livestock. Large herds of cows and sheep were everywhere, accompanied by one or two herdsmen, dressed in traditional Basotho blankets. It was hard to get a good photograph of them whilst driving!
Our accommodation, Maliba Lodge, was high in the mountains and offered stunning panoramic views. We were supposed to stay in a little rondavel by a river – the cheap option at what is otherwise a fairly pricy place. However, someone came to light our fire for us and it filled the entire hut with smoke that, even after two hours with the doors and windows open, just wouldn’t dissipate. Aside from the lingering smoke, without the fire, we’d have been extremely cold over night so, in a highly unusual step for the Patricks, we complained. The only other comparably priced option was to stay in a tiny conference hotel room. It was basic but had two huge windows with good views and, more importantly, an electric blanket!
The stormy weather, that had characterised our trip so far, returned at night. By morning, the clouds had left a gloriously sunny day and we enjoyed possibly one of the most excellent breakfast views imaginable.
As a consequence of the storm, our intended horse trek couldn’t go ahead due to the ground conditions in the National Park. Instead, we headed off on foot to explore the lower reaches of the mountains. At several points, we had to take our shoes off for refreshing wades through streams and little waterfalls until, eventually, we reached one that we deemed impassable. We admitted defeat and headed back to the lodge.
In the absence of wildlife (aside from Dean of course!), I turned my photographic attention to the alpine-like range of flowers growing along the route. I think I found a whole rainbow’s worth.
Lesotho – it was brief but beautiful.
Now grounded for a while, and having cancelled Indy’s first adventure abroad (to Lisbon back in March), I’ve turned my camera to the flora and fauna of my local area. So look out for an uncharacteristically British post coming soon!