September 28, 2006

LesothoLast night was a bit cloudy and not at all cold, so with eight people inside the rondeval it was uncomfortably warm. But the door was blown open by one of the strong gusts of wind, and when we got up about 6 am the sky was clear.

We had a quick breakfast and were on the trail by 7:30 am. Craig had said that today would be the hard long day with eight hours of hiking and three very long uphills. And we started by climbing for an hour and a half, until we were on the plateau above the Ribaneng Falls. The trail was well graded and consisted of a series of switchbacks interspersed with almost level parts. At the top we headed off on a 10-minute side trip to the lookout over the falls, far below in the valley.

Once back at our packs we carried on, gently up a broad valley. It was really pleasant walking, especially as the trail was well-worn with not many rocks to step over. Lunch today was tuna, tomatoes, bread, canned corn, baked beans, and a variety of other items. The lunch spot was very nice, with comfortable grass to sit on and nice views. After lunch we continued on up the valley, still not climbing much. There were no villages or fields in this valley, only a couple of shepherds’ huts, but we saw several boys guarding their herds and we would wave to them in greeting.

Finally we reached a pass to the east, from where we could see several mountain ranges, of which the farthest away was snow-covered. In the distance we could see a couple of huts. But we didn’t go towards those; instead we followed the contour line around the side of the mountain for a couple of hours. There was quite a bit of terraced cultivation in this area, as the slopes were not as steep as in yesterday’s valley.

After several hours we finally came to the last downhill before passing through a green valley to the homestead where would be staying the night. Today’s hike had certainly been long, as we didn’t reach our destination until after 4 pm, but it really wasn’t all that strenuous. Most of the trail was earth-surfaced, which is easy to walk on, and much of it had been side-hilling rather than up and down.

We gathered our mattresses and set up our beds in the two rondavels allotted to us. The owner of the homestead, a woman named Georgina, came and introduced herself to us in very good English. She said she learned English at a school in Maseru.

Dinner tonight was beef stroganoff, rice, and green peas with mangoes for dessert. Tonight it was clear and cold again, but the moon was close to first quarter so it rather washed out the stars. However we did see the Southern Cross just setting. We sat around the fire talking and trying not to go to bed too early, but the fire was just charcoal and didn’t give off enough heat to make much difference against the cold breeze. Finally at 8:30 pm we went into the rondavel to finish journal-writing before going to bed about 9 pm.

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