LESOTHO

During my trip to South Africa in late 2011 I decided to travel into the mountain country of Lesotho. This independent nation is often called the "kingdom in the sky"
as it contains the highest peak south of Mt. Kilamanjaro and much of the country lies above the tree line. In fact, the lowest elevation in Lesotho is higher than any
other country's "lowest elevation." Most of this country is very remote, especially the eastern half which is very mountainous. To reach my destination in Lesotho,
the village of Libibing, I traveled four hours by 4x4 and then about 5 hours by horse. Many of the rural villages not only do not have electricity or running water,
they don't have roads. The only way to get to the back-country is with the sure-footed Basotho pony.

 


Mounting up on my Basotho steed, a breed of pony that exists only here in Lesotho.

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The village of Libibing (pronounced "Di-bib-ing").
Use the mouse to cursor around this image.

Lesotho
My trip to Lesotho started out in South Africa. This is the view outside my local Rondavel hut.


The Land Rover we took up into the mountains.


The view of the Drakensburg mountains in the background. We have to climb these mountains to get into the country.


The old trading post on the way to the Sani Pass.


The Drakensburg mountains are a world heritage site within South Africa. They border the country of Lesotho on the eastern side.


The elevation is high and wildlife is not as abundant as it is in lower altitudes. This lizard is very similar to the legless
or glass lizards found in North America and Europe.


A primary difference is that this lizard actually HAS legs, they're just REALLY short. The back half of the body,
behind the back legs is tail and will break off if attacked by a predator.


The Drakensburg mountains was home to J.R. Tolkien, author of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
There is no doubt that this scenic area gave him great inspiration for his novels.


Drakensburg means "dragon mountain", which if you look at the peaks, they look like the back of a winding dragon.


In the very center of the photo winds the Sani Pass, a goat trail turned into a road. This is the only way in or out of this part of the
country. A 4x4 vehicle is mandatory to traverse it.


A pit-stop along the way.


The Sani Pass is only passable in summer months and requires quite a few switch-backs
and three point turns.


Before making our way into Lesotho, we had to stop and check out of South African border control.


Climbing ever higher. . . . on top of this ridge begins the country of Lesotho.


Notice the big line of circles in the grass. They were made by a boulder rolling down the
side of the mountain, but are said to be "the footprints of a giant."


About half way up, looking down over the Sani Pass. The far horizon is where we began the morning.


Checking into Lesotho border patrol.


We are now in Lesotho. At the top of this hill, we look back down the Sani Pass into South Africa.
From here, we still drive higher into the country.


A christian church built by missionaries.


Notice that most of the country is above the tree line.


A Lesotho traffic jam.


Another traffic jam.


We met our local guide at the "chinese" store, which is the local version of Walmart.
They have more and cheaper items that the traditional stores.


Inside this mega-store.


Saddled up for the cross country trek.


Lesotho does not have private ownership of land. If you want to build a house, you talk to the village chief and he allocates
a parcel of land for you to build. Most activities in the country involve herding sheep and goats and subsitence farming,
which creates little need for fences. This means that you can essentially ride through the mountains in any direction without.


My local Basotho guide.


One of the local villages we passed.


Coca cola being transported by donkey.


We rode over ridges, down valleys, through streams and over peaks, most of the time without another soul in sight.


One of the small rivers.

 


Arriving at the village of Libibing.


The stone walls are corrals for the sheep. Many things in Lesotho are made of stone as trees and wood are often
hard to come by.


This scrub brush is collected and dried to be used as tinder to start their cooking fires.


My horse taking a well deserved break.


I'm not sure if this hut is just being built or is the remains of an old hut.


Cattle being used to till the earth.


This was my rondavel for the visit.


This hut is a bit of a sleeping quarters and a bit of a storeroom.


In Lesotho, there is often little to spend money on in comparison to much of the industrialized areas. As a status symbol and
sign of wealth, this man used chain link to fence in a section of land.


Very few people in rural Lesotho have cameras and therefore do not have photos of themselves or their family.
The people are very excited about people with cameras and go out of their way to ask to have their photo taken.
This is done in the hopes that once you return to wherever you are from, you will print out the photos and send them back
to Lesotho. Many of the following photos were taken during such an occasion and many people pose
with their prized posessions, like this prized ram.


The blankets and hoods are a traditional part of Lesotho culture. The shepherds wear
them to keep warm. Although we don't typically think of Africa as cold, due to its
southern latitude and high elevation, Lesotho often gets snow in the winter months.


This is the chief of the village with one of the local dogs.


The chief was very excited to have a photo taken with his new bed and comforter,
one of just a very few in the village.


Hanging out with the chief outside of his rondavel.


This is me trying some of the locally brewed beer inside the village store. There is an indoor fire to cook with and keep warm.
This requires everyone to sit near the floor as the smoke rises and fills the top of the hut. Because wood is so scarce,
the primary source of fuel is dried bricks of cow dung, which is what is in the white metal bowl on the ground.
Cow dung is also used like plaster on the floors and the walls. As you can see the walls are very smooth
and not the rough stone as is seen on the outside of the building.


Another patron of the store drinking some beer.


Handing out some photos to the villagers. These were taken by previous travelers many months before.


Hanging with my posse.


The traditional stick used for herding sheep.


Early one morning while walking through the village, I happened across this little puppy.
When I bent low to take a picture, the mother dog became protect and started growling.
A young boy came to see what was going on. Shortly after, his father came over to see
what was happening. When he saw I was a foreigner with a camera, he was very happy
and asked me to take quite a few photos.


Dad, son and puppy.


Showing off the prized sheep.


After seeing the photo I had taken of him, the man took me to his house. I wondered if, like the chief, there was something
else he wanted a photo of. He knocked on the door and woke up his family so they could see the photo I had taken on the
camera screen. This family all piled in bed to look at the photos I had taken.


The woman was using this photo to try to explain that she wanted me to send her photos back.


The intimate look into these peoples lives is something that would not happen in most places. The people of Lesotho
are very friendly and welcoming and have a wealth of very unique culture to share with the traveler who is willing to
make their way off the beaten path.


A duplex.


Saying goodbye to some new friends.


On my way "out of town."


Very often supplies and equipment are towed from place to place by the cattle.


The white stones on the right hand side are grave markers. This is very rare in Lesotho and signifies someone of
great wealth and importance.


Jackal Buzzard


I'm not sure that there is actually a phone in there.


This is the biggest bar for 100 miles.


This is the Lesotho souvenir shop. This lady's family collects the grasses and she weaves them into
baskets and the traditional Lesotho hats.

sheep
The shepherds from far and near bring their flocks here to be shorn.


Me helping shear the sheep.

 


This pile of rocks is meant to look like a shepherd to scare away jackals,
sort of an African scarecrow.


A car crash that happened 30 years ago.

 


Playing with the local children.


Stopping by another local store to sample some fresh bread.


Inside the local store/bar.


As the sign says, this is the "highest pub in Africa."


Drinking Maluti, the official beer of Lesotho.


The flowers are called "Red-Hot Pokers."


Heading back down the Sani Pass into South Africa.


Eagle Rock


Two lovers waterfall.


This waterfall tells the story of two lovers (two small waterfalls above). By themselves,
they are small and rather insignificant, but when they come together and merge, they
become a wonderous thing of beauty.