The Kingdom of Lesotho
December 30, 2007
WOW – does not adequately describe the Kingdom of Lesotho! You simply have to see it to believe it. Roads do not ‘exist’. So often I have heard complaints about the road conditions in Kenya to and from the Maasai Mara National Park . . . in my opinion, compared to the infrastructure of Lesotho, Kenya’s roads are like the I95. Let that not deter you however from considering a visit to this magnificent place.
Leaving the Sani Top Chalet, we were confronted with a seemingly endless journey toward Mokhotlong (the distance is not that great but appears to be so due to the road conditions . . . there is no way you can drive at a high speed) which was once billed at the remotest village in the British Empire.
My childhood memories surface at seeing this village. My mother once told me a tale about her Uncle Loed who once owned a Trading Post in Basutoland as the country was named when ruled by the British Empire. I imagined what life must have been like then and if indeed my great, great uncle Loed traversed these roads with his wares. As a little girl, my mother told me how excited she and her siblings were when Uncle Loed would come and visit them in East London for always, he would bring all of them sweets. Immediately, I became aware of passing by remote villages from which bare foot little children would run waving and yelling ‘Sweeeeets’ as we passed by. My driver/guide, Allen, is such a gentleman. Traditionally Zulu, Allen was always so kind to the children and told me that rather than give them sweets (candy), he always carried a selection of fruit to hand out for fruit he said would be better in the long run on the children’s teeth – medical facilities are dreadful in the Kingdom and toothache in a remote village must be unbearable.
The amount of people we gave lifts to en-route were un-countable. I find it hard to pass a stranger on the side of the road who needed to be transported from one remote village to another, which journey could take an entire day despite the fact that the villages were geographically close by. The terrain and winding roads does not make for an easy ‘walk’ from one spot to another. And so rather than see someone standing in the blistering sun waiting for a taxi to ‘perhaps’ pass by within a couple of hours, I told Allen to simply help people as we traversed their beautiful country. Always, we were thanked profusely! Its little random acts of kindness I believe that enhance our lives.
Still I am enamored by the blankets of alpine flowers all over the show as well as the popular wild flower I am so familiar with, the cosmos, which buds in gentle pastel colors. Everywhere you turn there is another WOW. Just the moment you think that you have see it all, there is yet another breathtaking vista that makes you look twice and then simply stare.
Allen pointed out several shepherds along the way. These are children aged about 14 years old who are sent out into the mountains to tend the family’s livestock of cattle, angora goats and sheep. These boys are so young and so isolated for periods of up to 8-months at a time that I cannot help but wonder what on earth happens to these children should they become ill in such remote conditions. Who is there to take care of them, who can they turn to, what on earth do they do? They cannot abandon the herds to seek medical assistance and even if they could, getting to a Medical facility does not provide instant assistance . . . I learned that even if you ‘make it’ to a Clinic, there is no guarantee that a doctor will be available – sometimes the doctors do not turn up for months at a time.
That in itself of course prompted me to ask Allen about the HIV statistics in the Kingdom but he assured me that in comparison to other African countries, the rate of infected people is relatively low. Perhaps due to the tight family unit which is created by the Basotho people? In their culture, disobeying ones elders is unheard of!
Finally we made it to our lodge in Mashai way after sunset having received directions from a man named Freddy who told us that despite the fact that he owned a farm, there were no jobs in the Kingdom and living conditions were very hard indeed.
Allen and I have settled in for the night in our Unit at the Lodge for a restful night with the promise of an even more breathtaking day to come. Can it get better I wonder. Well, we’ll see and I will let you know what I can when I can bearing in mind that once more, we are so high in the mountains and so remote from any form of communication that I only have small windows of opportunity to write to you – but I will do my best and until then, good night from the Mountain Kingdom in the Sky!
Kenneth R. Hieber
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