Out of this world
Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
160Trip End Oct 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
with a family
I did some pretty stupid things myself though and had some narrow escapes.
I might get to that later.
For now I want to tell you about Lesotho, a place I was hardly aware of. A small kingdom within South Africa, but for me it was out of this world.
It took my breath away.
Stark and barren, subtle shades of brown, ochre, grey - a shimmer of green. The mountains so different to anything I'd seen before; surreal and eternal. Keepers of tales of bygone years, of battles fought and smugglers dens.
Time has stood still here, I thought, after braving the Sani pass, iced over, for it was winter here and cold. I hadn't realised Africa could be so cold.
Vast spaces of unspoilt land, dotted with clusters of round stone huts, the inhabitants mostly outdoors, wrapped in their traditional, often grey, blankets. Children, chickens, sheep and the odd donkey.
It all spelt poverty yet the feeling was one of peace and good will.
On our way to our hosts, a farming family accommodating tourists on the side, we encountered many a shepherd leisurely leading his flock. Often still young lads, having walked miles to school and back - no gaming here - this is their life.
They'd exchange greetings with our guide, who sometimes stopped to share a few words in their own language.
One man stood out. Proud, well-dressed, a golden tooth, he halted the Jeep and after a brief conversation our guide seriously informed me the gentleman had asked for my hand.
That was a bit unexpected. And had we known each other just a little better.........
We moved on and he didn't seem terribly put out by my meek rejection.
By now I noticed my purse was missing. Everything of any importance in it, not to mention a large sum of money as we wouldn't come across a bank soon.
I remembered tipping out the contents of my bag, sitting on a stone near the border. I must have left it there.
Zedekiah, our guide, despaired of me. We must go back and look for it. He must be joking, would take us the best part of the day, and anyway, it was gone - good luck to the finder who probably needed it more than I.
I'd sort things out when we got back and that was that.
But Zedekiah could not let it be, giving me soulful looks, shaking his head, he was really upset.
And so, slightly subdued, we arrived at our lodge. Warmly welcomed by the kind and friendly people there. Relatively prosperous, they owned several huts, land and cattle.
Food and beds were basic, sanitary outside: a plank with a hole and bucket underneath a rickety tap.
It was cold.
It was wonderful. I was so happy there.
The people were open and friendly, gentle and sincere.
One evening ladies sung and danced for us at a neighbouring village. We made our way back by moonlight, its glow transforming a herd of sheep to a sea of pearls on the hills.
In the early morning, the air fresh and crisp, we went horse riding, high up in the mountains where the view is spectacular, and you've never felt so alive.
We talked. We sat on the floor of the cosy, smoky hut, eating and drinking and talking. The sweet, heady smell of dried cow dung smouldering in a metal pot in the middle of the room.
We spoke of our countries, our traditions, our lives; the family respectfully trying to hide their amazement though some things must have been inconceivable.
When I couldn't sleep for the cold I stole outside into the dark of night to meet the stars.
The stars - no, I wont even try, just close your eyes and imagine........
Ah, Lesotho, to think I never even knew, could have easily missed, this wild and romantic encounter.
But I found myself there, by fluke or by fate, to embrace the unexpected.
PS On our way back to South Africa, Zedekiah found my purse lying next to the stone at the border - the leather and notes stiff with frost.
I hadn't even looked myself.
Life can be sweet sometimes.
(thank you, zed)