How much have you heard about Lesotho (le-soo-too)? Well if you are like I was before coming to Africa, not a whole lot. In fact I didn’t hear much about it after many months of living here. Back in January, at our In-service Training, we watched a movie called ‘Ask me I’m Positive”, it’s a movie about four HIV+ men who travel around Lesotho teaching the Basotho in small villages about HIV/AIDS myths, facts, and how to give help to people who have HIV. We all loved this movie, we loved how brave these men were, motivated by their dedication, inspired by their journey, but we were also in awe of the strange and beautiful mountains they travelled through. So it was this movie that gave me that itch to go to this little country inside a country.
Our trip to Lesotho was planned about six months ago, we knew we wanted to hire a driver to go in a private combi, so the preparations had to get started early. This was actually great for me, for the last six months, any time something particularly tedious, obnoxious, or stressful happened I could close my eyes and say to myself, “its ok, this too shall pass. In ____ months you’ll be climbing mountains. You can pretend that you are journeying across Middle Earth.” Lesotho was my light at the end of the tunnel.
We started our journey on Friday morning. 10 volunteers, 2 drivers, one flow chart for directions (the drivers forgot to bring the google maps directions, but because we were blindly optimistic we trusted them anyways), piled in the comvi, all bright eyed and bushy tailed (sorta.) We left a bit later than planned, but were still confident that we’d make good time, definitely we would see a sunset over the mountains of Lesotho from our lodge.
That optimism drained away throughout the day. We made about three hour long (or more) stops in South Africa to eat KFC and exchange money. We got pulled over for not having a commercial permit for the vehicle (our “professional drivers” were supposed to take care of these kinds of things.) We got lost a few times, the flow chart was neither updated for new roads nor did it indicate how far between each point. We made it S.Africa-Lesotho border at 10pm, (should’ve been 6-8hrs from Gabs) and spent a solid hour at each end pleading with them to let us through despite our lack of proper permits. We pulled into Malealea Lodge at 2am.
Driving through the night we didn’t see any mountains, I can’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed that night. All that pain, 20 hours in a comvi, only to arrive and see no mountains! Don’t worry, I was just tired and pissed that my butt was so sore. We woke up to find ourselves in the middle of a stunning mountain range.
The first day was full day of hiking. We were guided by locals through a beautiful green valley, following a rocky river to find ourselves under a waterfall! The smell of fresh water was strange but relaxing, we sat to eat our lunch under the falls. Basotho locals were down around the falls to, they were playing homemade instruments and showing off some traditional dances for us.
We spent the afternoon on a more strenuous path through the cliffs to go see more rock paintings. It was hard climbing but I was so excited to be there, to smell the fresh air that reaches the tops of the cliffs. Fatigue was out of my mind completely. I had to soak it all up.
After a big dinner that night I crashed into bed and fell asleep at 7:30. We got an earlier start for the second day’s hike; a few on ponies while the rest took it on foot again.
Our guide took us down this snaking path down into a deep gorge. I felt very quiet during the hike, maybe because I kept thinking Lord of the Rings references and didn’t trust myself to not slip talk about it all day. At the bottom of the gorge we hopped along another rocky creek for a while until reaching our destination, these tiered rock pools which made a perfect little waterfall/slip and slide.
We spent the afternoon climbing, sliding, swimming, sun bathing and having lunch in the cool shade of the rocks. I thought the hike the day before was exhilarating but scary, this hike definitely took the cake. We walked straight up the nose of this mountain. Some parts had large rocks you could climb up, other parts were a slippery gravel, but steep, path. My fear of falling was unmatched by the thrill of climbing, looking back over the mountain range, seeing the gorge we just climbed out of. It was incredible to look at.
I loved Lesotho. I loved the lodge, which is actually a development trust so its partially owned by all the village people. I loved the mountains. I felt almost guilty that I got to go to this hidden paradise.
I felt way less guilty when our driver got us lost again on the drive home. The winning bet on time for the return trip was 14 hours, 30 minutes. Well, it was still worth it.