#LesothoRoadTrip: Discovering more than just majestic mountains

2016-07-17 14:21 - Selene Brophy
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Lesotho is Sky Kingdom. For the most part it is all rural expanses of majestic mountains, home to a few of the most unique sights and exceptional waterfalls.

As you cross the border from SA, seeing women with 20-litre buckets of water on their heads coming from the spring becomes common. They don’t put their hands on the bucket to balance like you or I would, they just put it on their head and walk.

Traditional Basotho, decked with their tribal blankets, a big cultural tradition in the tiny African kingdom, all walking along the side of the road looking after their animals - sheep, goats, cattle, horses and donkeys.

Yes, these are the common sights.

If you’re up before dawn, much like the Basotho men, you’ll spot them ploughing the fields with the ox-plough pulled by oxen with no guide in front of them. They just pull. 

And if you visit more towards December and early January, you will perhaps catch a glimpse of the young boys on their journey to becoming men, fresh from initiation school wrapped in their blankets, with sticks and knobkerries in their hands as red animal fat all over their faces and bodies heralds their newfound status to the world.

They’ve truly arrived as they sing for the community, after the graduation, all white gumboots and red pants, which will become their uniform for the next three months…

These are just some of the inspiring images painted of Lesotho by Bongane Koebu Donald, a 24-year-old Mosotho tour guide.


I enjoyed it so much, hence my career today and I believe this is going to be my lifetime career.”

Donald lives in a small village called Ha Majara Mopeli in Botha Bothe district, just a few kilometres from the Fourisburg Bridge and Calendonpoort border post between Lesotho and South Africa.

He grew up here and spent the better part of his life seeing what he describes as "droves of tourists passing on the road near his home". 

“This is when I started to be interested in tourism,” he says

Young and passionate, entrepreneurship seems to come naturally to Donald, having started his own small tours business called Lesotho Northern tours in January 2015.

“When I was done with my grade 12 I told myself that I have to be part of those people who kept passing next to my place on the road and to get to share with them how we live as Basotho,” he says.

“Tour guiding has been my passion. It grew while I was at the university and kept on growing.”


At university he studied tourism and as he puts it, “learned history, norms and beliefs of the Basotho people and the entire culture” from his elders. 

Having initially completed an internship at Ts’ehlanyane National Park and needing to submit a post-internship report, he says he decided going ‘freelance’ would be the best route for him.

“When I met those people I used to see passing on the road at the park now as their guide during my internship…I enjoyed it so much, hence my career today and I believe this is going to be my lifetime career.”

Back in May 2014 Donald left Ts’ehlanyane National Park to become a freelance tour guide, ”To be fair, I struggled so much to get the clients in 2015 and it was really a tough year, ” he says.

But a turn of events came about when he was approached by SA-based Maluti Tours, situated in Clarence in the Free State, one of the more popular route points for those headed to Lesotho - and they agreed to work together, says Donald.

And while he admits the business of tour guiding in Lesotho is “tough”, he delights that it has also been “fun so far”.

“I will never forget the day I was doing a community tour with three ladies; one form Switzerland, one from Tunisia and the other from France.

“They were so impressed when the traditional healer predicted how they live, what happened in their lives in the past, they could not believe it.”


And while he admits the business of tour guiding in Lesotho is “tough”, he delights that it has also been “fun so far”

Donald explains how this traditional healer, based at Tlokoeng Village has his own way of doing things.

“There are traditional healers all over Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and all over Africa, they throw bones and communicate with ancestors, this one does not do it that way. This place is a must-stop in Lesotho. Pay a visit and see how he does it.” 

“From the healer we went to taste local homemade sorghum beer, only one from the three wanted to taste the beer, after tasting she was like ‘Wow it is nice, it tastes like juice’, and then they all tasted.”

“In some countries people go for wine or whisky, in Lesotho we go for tsotsorane (sorghum beer). There is beer like ours in RSA, they call it umqombothi, but ours is a bit different and unique."

For Donald, allowing these tourists to discover how the people live in the village, seeing them wearing Basotho blankets as part of the experience makes him feel “over the moon”.

“One thing that I will never forget is how the locals mixed with these ladies. They captured photos with them, introduced themselves and showed how much they appreciated their visit in their community.”


For another taste experience Donald suggests having lunch at the beautiful 5-star Maliba Mountain Lodge in Ts’ehlanyane National Park with scenic mountain views, the clear blue sky and the green cheche trees all over the valleys.

“Take a hike in the open, safe trails and swim in the natural rock pools, learn about some new plants species. Never miss these experiences whenever in Lesotho, with its breathtaking views of nature, the quiet and wide spaces and fresh air".

For Donald, his tour itinerary is not complete without a visit to Liphofung Caves.  Here he is able to share about the history and legend of the founder of Basotho Nation, King Moshoeshoe I.

“Here King Moshoeshoe once hid with his warriors during the bad time of Lifaqane wars. No one could easily see the cave during that time so it was a good hiding place. The cave also has massive San paintings in it.”

“There is also a cultural village at Liphofung that shows how the early Sotho people lived, their tools, music instruments, how the kitchen looked an kditchen equipment, the bedroom, their weapons and clothing.”

“To me history and culture is my identity. One sees the blanket, one sees me.

“Lesotho culture and history means a lot to me, they determine who I am, where I come from and I am so proud of my culture and history hence why I need to share it with other people from all over the world with different backgrounds.”


"Lesotho, with its breathtaking views of nature, the quiet and wide spaces and fresh air"

To arrange a tour with Lesotho Northern Tours Adventures and Sightseeing:

Email: kbonganedonald@yahoo.com or dkoebu@gmail.com

Mobile: +266 63486631 /59905945

Facebook page: Lesotho northern tours adventure and sightseeing


Other must-do things to add to your itinerary:

- Visit Kick 4 Life  and their Number 7 restaurant to learn about how they are changing people’s lives through Football

- Visit Thaba Bosiu, King Moshoeshoe’s famous stronghold

- Learn about the country’s history by visiting the local Museums and other interesting historical sites around Morija

- Explore the Ramabanta Trading Post via the famous Maletsunyane Waterfall

PICS: Surreal, must-see pics of Lesotho's Malestunyane Falls

- Make time for Mountain action with Mountain Biking, Pony trekking

- Take a scenic drive to Mount Moorosi to climb Chief Moorosi’s Mountain Fortress

- Enjoy a 4x4 Sundowner expedition in the Roma Valley

(Simon Lewis - #LesothoRoadTrip)

Where to stay:

-          Molengoane Lodge

-          Morija Guest House

-          Malealea Lodge

-          Trading Post Guest House

Infrastructure upgrades in Lesotho - "Lesotho is now more accessible as the roads are improved and easy to drive in a normal 2-wheel drive and during our trip we had excellent 4g network."- Simon Lewis, #LesothoRoadTrip

 


Upcoming events and highlights:

Winter Whip 2016 at AfriSki

The jam-style Snowboarding and Skiing competition brings together some of the continent’s best athletes, and provides a fun-filled weekend for those participating, as well as those supporting. 

When: Saturday, 6 August 2016

Contact: For accommodation contact bookings@afriski.net and for event information contact ryan@lwmag.co.za.  

Lesotho Ultra Trail Marathon

In the heart of the Lesotho Highlands lies the Maluti Mountains, some of the best terrain for high altitude running in the world. 

When: Saturday, 26 November 2016

Contact: andrew@kzntrailrunning.co.za or +27 82 603 4098 



Annual Rocky Mountain Festival – hosted by Afriski

While the 2017 dates have not been announced – keep an eye on the Afriski Facebook page for more details on this outdoor festival. 

What to read next on Traveller24:

Extreme Lesotho: Bikepacking the Kingdom in the Sky

Gateway to Lesotho: 8 Winter must-dos in the Drakensberg

Are you ready to hit the Afriski slopes ahead of Winter Whip 2016?