Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lesotho


Mohau with his dog

A few weeks ago my roommate and I traveled to Lesotho. It’s a tiny country within South Africa’s borders.

Armed with guidebooks and assurances from friends that Lesotho was much safer than South Africa, we caught the overnight bus to Bloemfontein. This is where I finally boarded my first African taxi: a white, beat up and rusted mini bus. There are no bus schedules and few safety standards, but the price is right. Devi and I pulled up to the dusty taxi rank in the morning and found a taxi with “Maseru” in the window. I settled into my seat early and waited. These taxis don‘t leave until they‘re full, and they’re full when people begin filing onto the bus backwards, ass first, jamming their bodies into spaces meant only for a leaning leg. Then the driver throws your suitcase on top of you. Then he turns on the music. Then he turns it up.



Generally, Devi is a very organized person. In fact, I’d say she’s everything I’m not. So I was surprised when she hadn’t taken out enough money for our trip. No problem, she said. I’ll just hit the first bank in Maseru. And that’s when we saw the lineups. Lineups that wrapped around buildings and down streets. They all led to bank machines. Turns out we arrived on pay day in a country where employees aren’t paid by direct deposit.




The next day, Devi and I caught a taxi to Malealea, south of the capital. Our guidebooks pointed us here, along with plenty of vacationing NGO workers and tall Germans corralled on buses with extra big wheels. Malealea is beautiful: a tiny little town in the mountains whose small economy is driven by the tourists here. In fact, the complex where we stayed has been the town’s nucleus since the turn of the century. Only there’s a chain fence around the whole of the property, and the locals are left to stand around at the front gate.

Devi and I hired a guide, a very nice young man named Moeketsi, to take us on an overnight pony trek to a nearby village. Devi took an hour to pack her saddle bag, lining it with a garbage bag and carefully filling it with a rain jacket, extra socks, and a sleeping bag. I packed in five minutes. I threw my unwrapped clothes into the bottom of the grungy old bag, threw on my jean jacket and forgot my sleeping bag altogether.




We left in the morning. The view was beautiful. The ride was not. Horses are huge animals with skinny little ankles, so when our guide took us down narrow, rocky hairpin turns along the side of a cliff, I got off poor Chamomile and guided my horse down the path. Devi, in all her self-assuredness and stick-to-it-ness, stayed on her grand white stallion and bumbled down the path. I don’t care what she says: horses can trip too.

By the afternoon it was hailing: hail that bounced off your head and had our horses’ heads buried deep in their chests. We were only halfway to the village. Too far to continue on, too far to go back. But just five minutes earlier we had passed Hanlsoeu, a little village along the side of the bumpy path. We turned around, and headed back. Once we arrived, Moeketsi ran into a small round hut. Within seconds a woman eagerly stood in the doorway and waved us in. There were lots of women inside: old women, fat women, women lying down, women carrying babies and women dancing to music playing on a ghetto blaster over in the corner. One of the women was the chief - acting on behalf of her husband who was away working in a mine. Without hesitating, Mamothobi said we could stay the night in the house next door. She said the owners would sleep somewhere else. The one room home had a double bed with several blankets and a dining room table with a lace tablecloth.


Devi and I had a lot of visitors that night. By the end, the floor was caked in an inch of mud with all the feet in old oversized shoes tracking in the night’s storm. One 15 year old girl fetched her English homework and together, with half a dozen of her friends crowding in to get a good look, we finished her assignment. Only, I just gave her the answers. In fact, I had half a mind to write her English teacher and tell him his assignment was obviously intended for English speakers and was far too hard and irrelevant for Mapompa Bosiu.

Here are a couple of examples from the test. Choose the correct word:

You may be amazed by children’s ___________to learn a new language. (capability/capacity)

Women gained ____________ to the exclusively male club only quite recently. (admission/admittance)

Mohau took us on a hike

11 comments:

Dad said...

Looks like a great time Beck

Mom said...

I really enjoyed reading your story Becky. You are such a good story teller and a great writer of course!

Your cousin Andrea said...

I just came across your blog Bec... Wow! I can't believe the adventures you are on! Can I live vicariously through you? Please!?!?

VicZan said...

Yay! You've updated your blog!

Patty Thorpe said...

I love to read your stories and look at the pictures. If you get a
chance please write more and put more in pictures.

Martini said...

You got to ride horsies in Africa? Nifty!

devi said...

It is 'unorganised' of me to be reading your blog so late, especially as a fellow traveller..so sorry maa...an!! I loved every bit of it, brings back wonderful memories!!

devi said...

Hey Rebecca,

As a fellow traveller, I loved reading every bit of our Lesotho adventure. I am reliving all the wonderful moments (including my quirkiness)..so soorry ma..an I took so long to read it!

Brent said...

I would fail that English assignment. Maybe I should have paid more attention to Mrs. Wagemans.

Have fun and remember someday we all can say "I'm big" and actually believe it.

Aubrey said...

Rebecca, I am impressed.

Tracey Froats said...

I've been driving your Dad crazy asking him to get you to write all about your Gorilla trek!! And pics??? Love reading your blog, keep up the good work, and have fun!!!