Semonkong and Malealea, Lesotho
Bouncing up and down on a friendly and cooperative but overly eager donkey after taking a single shot, joined by four other travellers who did the same with me, I thought: What in the world am I getting myself into? My donkey’s owner, Bafuke (who also named his donkey Bafuke), was all laughs as he ran after me, trying to get my donkey to go in the right direction without the aid of reins or even a stick.
Three bars, three hours, and three beers later (and most of you know that’s far more than I can normally take), I had a permanent grin plastered to my face, waving to every villager I passed (who all waved back), giggling as my donkey broke into a run and I was a little too tipsy to hold on tight.
Yes, I made it back in one piece. But this is Lesotho — real, tough, and yet a total riot. We were joined by other patrons at the bars who arrived on horseback! They spent the night playing pool, dancing along to whatever they could find on the jukebox, playing slots, and chatting with us.
Sani Pass to Maseru, Lesotho
“How do you know Lesotho?”
I didn’t, actually, beyond the fact that it’s a country completely surrounded by South Africa. But boy, this is a fascinating place.
Lesotho (li-su-tu) packs a punch despite its tiny size, and doesn’t feel at all like any other country. I first did a daytrip to the village of Mafika-Lisiu (di-si-ew; the orthography is weird) from the northern Drakensberg, just past a remote border post and relatively inaccessible. Enamoured by the rolling fields of purple cosmos flowers, the resolutely traditional but friendly people, the fact that it’s the highest country in the world (its lowest point is at 1400 m, and most of the country is above 1800 m), and the story behind its survival as an independent state — the largest of the four enclaves in the world, ahead of San Marino (within Italy), Vatican City (Italy), and Monaco (France) — I resolved to return, minus the unwieldy daytrip tour crowd of 20 people.
Besides, given my frustrations with South Africa’s lack of public transit, returning to a land full of minibus taxis and leave-when-full vehicles was more than welcome, and a last hurrah to being in a part of “African” Africa. I don’t know why Lesotho gets skipped over for its reputation of being difficult for independent travellers — it isn’t terribly so, and deserves far more visitors than what it’s got!