September 29, 2006

LesothoLast night was colder, so it was more comfortable in the sleeping bags and we slept very well. The sheep with the bells were quiet and there was not much snoring. At 6 am a shout from outside the rondavel woke us up, and we all leaped out of bed and packed up our bags for the horses.

Breakfast was the usual, except there was no muesli and the boiling water for tea ran out very early. Before leaving, we stopped to photograph Georgina and her pig in front of her rondavel.

Just as we left the homestead, a helicopter flew over and landed at the village just up the hill. Later we found out that it was returning the body of a villager who had died in hospital in Maseru home for burial. (A free service from the Lesotho Ministry of Health.)

As usual we started by walking uphill. We went through some fields where there were a lot of birds, including a flock of weavers. It was a long slog up to the first saddle, about an hour or so, but once at the top we side-hilled for quite a long way through a moist grassy valley. Near one village we saw some ice rats in a meadow. The scenery was fantastic and luckily the trail was good, so we were able to enjoy the view. At one point we took a little side trip to see some rare spiral aloe plants. They were quite large and the leaves were definitely arranged in a spiral, and at least three of them had blooms starting. (Full-grown flowers are pink and about two feet tall.)

Before long the trail went over another pass, then down for a while to a side-hill section. There were quite a few flowers such as blue mini-irises, pink star-shaped flowers, and large clumps of bright yellow daisies. Lunch was just over the next pass, the same food as other days but good just the same. From there it wasn’t long before we could see our destination in the distance; however it was actually a couple of valleys away. Finally at 3:30 pm we hiked straight down into the village, only to have to climb up to the top of the village, where our rondavels were.

We went through the process of gathering mattresses and securing our places in the rondavel. There is really no good way of arranging rectangular sleeping mats on the floor of a round building, but we did our best. Apparently they had “re-done” the floors just before our visit. This involved mixing cow dung and water and replastering the floor with the mixture. Our floor was almost dry, so the smell wasn’t too bad.

Before dinner we sat and watched the village activities. But we weren’t the only ones watching, as we seemed to be a major source of entertainment for the village children. Even people sitting on chairs were an unusual sight for them, so they would sit fairly close and wave at us whenever we looked at them.

Dinner tonight was spaghetti and meatballs, mashed potatoes, and mealie pap (made by our horse guides). All the food was really good. Tonight we had a real campfire so not only were we dusty from the trail, we were smoky as well! Bed time was 9 pm.

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