Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Run For the Border

Last weekend former Peace Corps volunteer Eric and I decided to try and hike to the the South African border in eastern Lesotho.  On Saturday early morning, we took a taxi as far as the driver would take us east of Mokhotlong town.  

The road was pretty bad in a few places.  The road gets better past Malefiloane as it is only a year old.  Our destination would take us through villages that have only had vehicular access this past year.  Previously helicopters were the only vehicles able to reach these remote villages.  

Our taxi dropped us off at Ha Mohale and was on his way back in no time.  We had several kilometers to cover before we reached the last village Matlaong.  We both took lots of pictures along the way.  

There were a few exotic black birds with long tail feathers and plenty of horses.  Horses are constantly ruining an otherwise perfectly good photo.  

Finally we reached Matlaong.  We were trying to meet the chief as part of Eric’s research but he was out.  We met with one of Eric’s friends for a brief visit.  

We were soon on our way.  

We stopped at a beautiful canyon to admire the view.  I really wanted to capture it but the light was extremely harsh in that mid day sun.  While waiting for the weather to improve, a shepherd rode up on a horse.  This is the only place in Lesotho where the shepherds wear hats like this.  The blanket and hat are very important symbols to the Basotho, so much so that they put a hat on their flag.  

Clouds began to roll in on our way towards the escarpment.  Delusion began to slowly set in…

No Eric!  That’s not your sandwich.

Small herd boy dwellings, singular motebo, were scattered throughout the area.  Wealthier patrons hire the herd boys to watch over their animals in more remote regions of Lesotho.  Grazing grass is plentiful and the boys are free to come and go as they please.  

We spotted a wall of clouds to our SE, a telltale sign that the escarpment is close.  

Soon our visibility dropped to 40 feet.  

We walked for 45 minutes through the clouds.  It was a bit unnerving that we were searching the clouds for a cliff.  

Then the ground just ended.  This point marks the boundary between Lesotho and South Africa.  It was eerily quiet.  

Eric and I spent a few minutes reveling in our accomplishment and then we turned around and headed back.  We found a reasonable place to camp and called it a night early due to the cold.  I miss campfires.   

The sunrise painted the landscape.

It rained all night and my tent leaked.  Blame it on or thank Africa but I just don’t care anymore.  While I’m still an optimist at heart, Lesotho has taught me to expect disappointment.  Murphy’s law could have been coined right here.  Maybe that’s what Eric meant when he called the Basotho “the most mentally tough people he’s ever known”.  

I just grabbed my rain jacket, pulled it over my face, and entered the land of Nod.

It was a brisk morning, the kind of brisk that renders your hands useless after a few minutes of exposure.  We packed up our gear as quickly as possible.  The goal was to make it to an incredible canyon we had visited the day prior.  The lighting was harsh on Friday, Eric and I were hoping the morning light would give us a good photographic opportunity.

That morning, drinking coffee along a canyon cut by the Mokhotlong River, I witnessed the most spectacular view I’ve ever laid my eyes on in Lesotho.  

After breakfast we turned to make the long trip back to Malefiloane.  

The Mokhotlong River made 4 passes in a very short distance.  What a view.

Even though we were walking on the road, the fact that it was only a year old made the walk back impressive.  There were only two vehicles the entire 5 hours.  The rest of the traffic was as it has been for possibly hundreds of years.

After 5 hours of walking we finally reached Malefiloane.  The taxis only venture past this point once every week or so.  It’s crazy to think that if a villager in Matlaong needs to get to town on an off taxi day, they have to walk 4 hours to wait for a taxi in Malefiloane, which then takes another hour to reach town.  

The taxis can take up to 4 hours to fill but fortunately we didn’t have to wait that long.  We were back in town by 3pm.  

Eric whipped up a delicious pasta dish and we both passed out around 8:30 pm.

The next day I stopped by TTL to pick up a phone.  Nastassia was making cinnamon rolls, it was perfect timing.  A great end to a great weekend.

If you would like to see more photos from Eric or myself check out our Instagram pages. 


- Joel

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, insightful, and hilarious. "Horses ruining an otherwise good photo" Ha