Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Come on a Hike With Me 2

Today I decided to hike up the tallest peak in the opposite (southern) direction from the first hike.  I got a late start at around 10am but my Ntate assured me it was a 4 hour round trip.  I packed 3 liters of water, my Lifestraw filter, an apple, and my Canon 6D and headed out the door.  I hope you enjoy this photo heavy blog.  

I'm heading up that peak in the very center of the picture.  This is the same mountain that my site mate Rob (see Thanksgiving) lives on the right side of. 

These goats are all over the place.  Some of there bleats sound like children crying for help and it always throws me off a bit.  Pretty soon I will be immune to cries for help from anyone due to the goat-who-cried-wolf affect.  Some of these little guys can get a little onery so they have to tie their front and back legs together.  This insures the goat can’t gallop (not sure if untied goats can gallop but we’ll go with that until proven otherwise).

Uh oh here come those amazing afternoon clouds I always look forward to.  The Senqu (orange) river is in the foreground and if you look closely you can see it finally has water in it!  We’ve had a few rain storms lately but we need a lot more.

I took a similar photo in the same spot (see Mokhotlong First Hike Fail) a few weeks ago.  As you can see there is a tiny stream now.  

This is a Blue Agave plant.  Yes the same one native to Mexico, which they make Tequila out of.  The plant grows up to 10 feet tall and has a very fiberous thorny leaf.  They take up quite a bit of area and the animals leave them alone.  Because of these reasons the Basotho use them in leu of fences.  The only downside is they take 10 years to mature to this size.  At around 10 - 35 years the plant quickly grows a trunk out of the middle.  The plant then flowers and promptly dies.  

When making tequila, you need to wait for the plant to mature and grow the trunk.  The plant then draws up all of the sugars and nutrients from the roots and leaves and stores them in the base of the trunk.  At this time you cut the trunk down and remove all of the leaves.  You are then left with a large pineapple looking, sugary lump of fiber, which is then mashed up, fermented, and finally distilled into Tequila.  

I was asking this gentleman where the footbridge across the Senqu river was, when he insisted he show me in person.  His name is Joseph H. Letsoepa.  He is a contractor who specializes in home construction.  Below is a picture of his rondavel.

He was in the process of building a compost using Blue Agave leaves when I came across.  We then walked down a goat path to the footbridge.

I thought this was going to be another case like the Hike Fail blog, where he insists on escorting me so I don’t get hurt or lost.  They must think Americans are so fragile, how do I say “I’m not from California” in Sesotho?  It turns out he is working on a house in the next village across the river.  He wanted to show me and get some work done.  

This is the aptly named Senqu (orange) river.  It is the longest river in Lesotho starting in South Africa in the north and ending in the southern most district of Qache’s Neck.  When I arrived in Mokhotlong on December 17th, there was no river at all.  There was just a series of non connecting puddles.  

I took an altitude reading on my GPS to find out how much I ascended.  This reads 6,332 ft above sea level.  We’ll see the delta H later.  

This is the house Ntate Joseph was working on.  The building is two months in the process, which is not bad considering the work site is a 2 mile walk away and all of the rocks had to be gathered by hand or beast.  His village is the one just above the right most window frame.

I climbed up the hill and decided to take a break under the shade of a tree, where I could air out my boots and enjoy the clouds.

After a few minutes I was joined by a neighbor.  This is General Mongele, yes General is his real first name.  He was a friendly man and told me I could stop by for a water refill anytime I pass.  I was fairly close to the mountain and he pointed me towards a path that leads up.

The tree I met Ntate General under is in the bottom left center.  This area has more sorghum and wheat planted than corn.  The clouds are just great.

I found a road and walked down it for a while.  I rounded a corner and saw a young boy (maybe 10 years in age) walking towards me.  He started slowing down and came to a complete stop when I was 50 feet or so away.  His jaw dropped and he stared at me even after I passed.  When I was 70 feet or so past him I turned around and took this picture.  He had just began walking again.  I don’t think they see a lot of white folks around here.  

I ascended the lower mountain and was greeted by some shepherd boys, who seriously materialized out of nowhere.  One second there were 3 of them and the next thing I knew, they were coming up the hills and dancing to Famu music (accordions, bird calls, cow bells, and really really bad rapping.  Seriously don’t ask.)

Finally reached the top and at 9,490 feet this gives an elevation climb of 3,158 feet.  Not bad for a day hike.  By the way I’m beginning to think my Ntate has never actually done any of the hikes I’ve been asking him about.  So far he has been 100+ % wrong on the time estimates.  It took me 4 hours to reach the top, granted I was taking pictures, breaks and talking to people, but still.

Look at how close the clouds are!  See that tall ridge in the center of the picture, just below the horizon?  That’s what I climbed up on the blog Take a Hike With Me 1.  From here I am 5.6 miles as the crow flies away from my home.  I think it’s fair to say this was a 15 mile round trip, 4 hours total Ntate?

A close up of the chairn.

There are plenty of small lizards of the skink, anole, and gecko variety but this guy was around 10 inches long.  He didn’t seem to mind posing for me so I obliged.  He reminds me of a small monitor lizard.  

You thought I was done with the cloud pics?  Ahhahahha, no way I can’t get enough of these things.  Just look at them!!!

My feet were blistered (thin socks) and sore by the time I finished this one.  I was hungry and had drank my 3 liters plus an additional 3-4 liters through the Lifestraw (thanks for the gift Will).  I descended the 3,158 feet and headed up the next 1,100 to my home.  

Last one I swear.  When I had about a mile left to go the sun broke through and graced me with a very cool view.  Enya started playing “Sail Away” and I finished tired but unbroken.  Thanks for coming along. 

Until next time…


- Joel


  1. What an awesome post, Joel. I love how colorful it all is, even the wildlife.

  2. Thanks Scotty, I'm glad you enjoyed it. plenty more to come.