Monday, December 21, 2015

Come on a Hike With Me 1

This is going to be a thing from now on.  I am going to go on hikes in interesting places and share the results.  One of the Peace Corps goals is to introduce Americans to the host country, so here it goes.  

My site is in Popa Mokhotlong on the side of Thaba Popa (Mt Popa) at an elevation of 7500 ft.  There are countless 9000 ft peaks around and a few taller.  The day after my hike fail, I decided to hike up Thaba Popa and take a look around.  Here is what I found:

Dung Beetles!!!  This is a little tiny goat pellet so one beetle can easily manage it.  For larger uhm loads, it takes two beetles.  The first beetle pulls the load towards him, while his assistant does a hand stand on the opposite side, while pushing the load with his feet.  Sort of like a reverse wheelbarrow.  Notice I didn’t even use the “P” word.  

Due to the drought, herders are having to take their livestock higher and higher up the mountains where others are not likely to have gone.  Most of the grass in the lowlands is too short or brown to eat.  

I ran into some herd boys and a herd man?  Not really sure what was going on with that guy but I think he was just short.  Check out that homemade guitar job out of a fuel can and some piano wire.  Two of the guys could actually play a few decent licks.

The green you see below are the plowed sorghum and corn fields.  I love the cloud formations out here.  The days usually start clear and then these beautiful puffy guys show up by midday.  Notice the mountains kind of form a “U” shape around the village.  I am heading down Thaba Popa into a valley to the right.  Next I will ascend up the mountain on the right and follow the ridge line.  

As I walked down the hill I saw this group watching some donkeys.  I greeted them “lumella ntate le bo-abuti” (hello father and boys), strange greetings I know but it tis the custom.  I talked to him for a few minutes when he said in perfect english, “this is my younger brother (on the right) and my daughter”.  Whoops, at least it is nearly impossible to offend a Basotho, remember political correctness is around 1600’s level.  He explained to me that he had to travel several hours up here in order to find any good grass left.  He happily obliged to a photograph and I was on my way.

The area is filled with herder trails and you can pretty much follow them anywhere you need to go.  Look at the CLOUDS!

Looking SE from the top of some Thaba I don’t know the name of.  The fields below are the corn and sorghum fields from picture 3.  Thaba Popa is the peak directly across the valley and my village is on the downward slope on the other side.  Notice how much of the land is actually used for agriculture.  A lot of the fields are left fallow for a year.  The other alternative is to plant complimentary crops such as Nitrogen fixating beans and Nitrogen depleting corn, see you learned something.

The elevation is second from the bottom at 9,681 ft.  Please ignore the max speed of 99.5 mph I can be spirited at times.

The last landscape photograph was taken from the dark peak on the left half of this photograph, for bearing.  There is a cell phone tower on the top of this peak with an old helicopter landing pad.  My village is straight ahead 3.51 miles away as the crow flies.

America meet ‘M’e Mamolikeng from Ha Ramohale.  Her village is across the valley and over a ridge.  I don’t know where she was wandering but she was very curious about the stream behind her that I just pumped water out of.  I explained who I was, where I was born, what I was doing, and who I lived with.  She knew who my host family was as my host father is the regional chief.  She agreed to a photograph and we went separate ways.

Now I’m not going to tell you what to focus on it this photograph but this guy better watch out for tall rocks when he walks.  

I ran into two young guys on my way across the valley.  They agreed to a photograph but were reluctant to smile.  The blankets they are wearing are an absolute staple in this country.  Everyone owns at least 4 and they wear them many different ways.  Each district (Mine is Mokhotlong) has its own colors and styles then each village has its own.  Some are thinner, like the ones pictured and some are very thick like bed comforters.  The ridge in the background is the one I hiked up after meeting the man with the two kids.

I just had to do it folks.  I think I have a crush on these clouds.  This was taken on a plateau on my way back.  I realized I walked around the wrong bend and had to climb another steep hill in order to get back.  I was 4 hours in at this point with only an apple to eat.  

This is what poverty looks like in Lesotho.  I probably should not have been intruding but the family was out tending the animals and fields and I just couldn’t help myself.  I was told by the four herders in the earlier photograph that a newly wed husband and wife live here.  People often marry very young in this district and often times they are not ready to support themselves yet.  This family had two small corrals made of piles of stones and this modest rondavel.  They don’t even have a door.  I would estimate the interior diameter at 7 feet and the height at 5 feet in the very middle.  I didn’t try, but I would have had to get sideways and duck in order to enter their home.  Their house is located on the windy side of the mountain and there was no garden to speak of.  

Lesotho is a beautiful country, full of amazing people with a wealth of culture to share.  Of all the places I’ve lived, this country is by far my favorite.  

Thanks for coming along!

- Peace


  1. Greetings Old Tribe/Cataan-Loving Mate! So far my favorite Joel-isms are any reference to the 1600's, irrational snake fears, Poop, Mooning at ceremonies, thoughts on murdering Roosters and Large Machine Gun (fitting). You seem to be seizing the moment! All the best brother, I'm sending you many prayers of blessings! Merry Christmas from the flooded forest lands of Oregon! I look forward to more Joel-isms and poop stories:)

    All the Best,

    Jason Lewis, Jenni says Hi too

    1. Glad you're enjoying it buddy. I assure you there will be plenty more poop stories to come. I've discovered an exponential relationship between the number of months you spend in Africa vs the number of times poop comes up in conversations.