Malealea, Lesotho

[ 4 ] February 18, 2012 |

Our trek from Johannesburg to Lesotho was an interesting one.  A total of 8 hours in the car, our journey was mainly spent traversing the prairie lands of the Free State province in South Africa.  Half way through our drive, the road we were set to take happened to be closed so we ended up taking a slight detour down the most pothole ridden road you could imagine.  A mere 60 km detour ended up taking us 2 hours as we swerved from the left to the right shoulder trying to avoid the massive pot holes.

Nerves shot, we finally arrived at the Lesotho border and made our border crossing.  Exit stamp from South Africa, check.  Over the Lesotho border, told the man at the gate nothing to declare, check.  Off we went into Lesotho.  Wait we never got our entry stamp – crap.  Turn the car around and back to immigration we went.  I’m still amazed that you can enter a country without being forced to go through immigration and/or having your passport checked – but hey this is Africa, things are a little more lax here.

Lesotho Mountain Roads

The next two-hour drive from the Lesotho border to Malealea Lodge was one of the most breath taking drives I’ve witnessed in my adult life.  Lesotho itself is basically a giant plateau surrounded by mountains making for some of the most incredible vistas I’ve experienced in my lifetime.  While 90% of the drive was on nice paved roads that wound their way through the Lesotho valleys, the final 10km leg was a dirt road over a mountain pass.  Needless to say it was slow going but we finally made it to Malealea and quickly found the Lodge.

Beautiful Lesotho Mountains

Man Working in Fields

Malealea Town

Malealea Lodge is a diamond in the rough.  Upon arrival we were greeted with an ear-to-ear smile by a Basotho (indigenous Lesotho tribe) native named Eric who showed us to our room – a round traditional style Basotho Hut complete with en-suite bathroom and all the modern accoutrements (electricity, heater, etc).  Not really knowing what was in store for us in terms of accommodations, we were very pleasantly surprised.  Having settled in we made our way up the hill toward the main lodge where were to have diner that night.  Looking over our shoulder our mouths dropped as we noticed one of the most spectacular rainbows we’ve ever seen. The rainbow stretched itself all the way across the sky making a perfect umbrella for the mountainous landscape behind it.  It gave me chills.

Malealea Lodge - Our Pot at the End of the Rainbow

Our Banda Room at Malealea Lodge

Dinner that night was communal style and full of local fair – maize meal with “sauce”, baked potatoes, spinach, and a braai (BBQ) of T-Bone steaks; delicious.  We had the pleasure of sitting next to a lovely older couple from Wales who entertained us with their stories of world travel.  He was an OB/GYN surgeon who preferred the unconventional lifestyle.  Having worked in the Middle East, South Africa, and host of other places, he and his wife were still traveling the planet after 40 years and were currently on a month tour of South Africa before heading back to Wales.  Later that night, some of the locals came to our campsite and shared their original music with us all using homemade instruments.

Homemade Instrument Band

The next morning we were awakened by the sounds of the mountain animals – birds, frogs, chickens, and cows.  Our second day in Lesotho was dedicated to Pony Trekking – basically riding a mountain pony through the Lesotho Mountains in search of a waterfall or two.  The trek took about 7 hours in total.  We started out at the Lodge mounting our horses.  I was blessed with one of the most stubborn horses in their stable.  I forget his name now, as I was more focused on trying to get the thing to go.  We eventually had to whittle a make-shift switch to use during some of his more stubborn moments.  Despite his pace, I have to give him credit for his sure footedness – the guy never missed a step.  Our journey that day took us up and down some of the most steep inclines I can remember climbing – and we were on horses.  Known for the their surefootedness and gentle disposition, the Basotho Pony is a mix between various Arabian, Spanish, English, and American horse breeds and was once a highly desired commodity in the international horse market in the early 1900s.  Our horses lived up to their reputation and did a tremendous job hauling us around for the day.

Here we Go!

All geared up and ready to go

Trying to get my horse to move

Mountain Vistas

Down the trails and into the valley we go

Shaken not Stirred - Al on the Rocks

Over the river and through the woods

Happy Trails

The pinnacle of our pony trek was reaching the Botsoela Waterfall.  Too steep to take the ponies down, after arriving at the cliffs edge looking down into the pool below the waterfall we dismounted and headed down the ridge toward the base of the waterfall.  A local boy helped us navigate the terrain and pick the best route down, and after 15 min or so we found ourselves looking up into one of the most beautiful waterfalls.  Failing to bring my bathing suit, I stripped down to by boxers and went for a swim nonetheless.  A bit colder than expected but definitely worth the experience.

Botsoela Waterfall

Polar Bear Club

Al Under the Waterfall

After a quick dip, we trucked it back up the slopes and back onto our horses for the ride home.  Not able to out run the rain, half way into our journey the rain got so bad we decided to dismount and take shelter under a large boulder alongside a couple young shepherd boys looking to escape the torrential rain as well.  Alison started chatting with the younger boy and learned that he was only 9 years old.  He lives with his grandparents and since there is no money for him to go to school he was forced to start herding at a very young age.  Alison gave him whatever supplies she had in her backpack and sat with him a while as he practiced writing his alphabet on some scraps of paper.

Our Temporary Shelter

A Very Young Shepard

Mrs. Wilson's Class in Session

After the rainstorm we headed back to the Lodge.  We dismounted for the last time, tipped our guides and told them thanks for the amazing day and sauntered a bit bow legged back to our Banda for some zzz’s before dinner.  The next day Alison woke up to find a giant awesome charcoal black bruise on her inner thigh, which she nursed (a bit vocally I might add) for the next few days.

In terms of its sheer “differentness” and most certainly its natural beauty quotient, Malealea Lodge and Lesotho was one of our top 3 experiences in all of South Africa.   The only improvement would have been spending another day galloping around the mountain towns of Lesotho on horseback – next time I guess.  Uncle Aaron – I now finally understand your obsession with horseback trail riding and am looking forward to tagging along with you at some point in my post-RTW future.

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Category: Blog, Destinations, Lesotho, Pat's Blog

Comments (4)

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  1. Russ Porter says:

    Hey Pat….those pictures makes me think you and Al are part of the Amazing Race TV show!

  2. Jackie Jones says:

    Hi

    That is such a beautiful write up and photos. Would you mind if I linked it to our Malealea facebook page.

    Regards
    Jackie

    • Pat Wilson says:

      Thanks so much for that compliment, so nice :) We would be honored if you linked it to your Facebook page. We are just glad you enjoyed the post. We had such an amazing time at Malealea and fell in love with Lesotho. Keep up the great work!

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