David & Clement talked incessantly amongst themselves in SeSotho. To us of course it was rabble of noise punctuated by frequent loud hearty African laughs. What they were talking about was anyone’s guess.
Normally on these treks, one guide is enough for six people but as we and Olive and Petra had booked separately somehow we had ended up with a guide each. We think it was more to create employment rather than any real need for two guides.
So I guess these two guys were making use of the opportunity of having a real conversation whilst working, instead of having to continually talk to ‘dumb’ tourists.
They did stop talking when we came across a store in the middle of nowhere. Not another building or village was to be seen. But what silenced David and Clement were the big mouthfuls of beer they took from the couple of cans of Castle purchased from this place.
Our destination was the village of Ribaneng, famous for its falls and where our “five star” rondavels awaited us.
Well I guess almost anywhere can look five star after a day in the saddle.
Basically it was a mud hat with about ten mattresses on its spartan and dusty floor and a couple of gas rings with a gas bottle. Lighting was five star candles and BYO torches and our toilet was the long drop variety located down the end of a vegetable garden in a small wooden hut.
The falls itself was almost out of view and was according to Clement an easy two hour return “stroll”.
Guided by yet another David, we brushed rather uncomfortably through rough vegetation, jumped and hopped from one huge boulder to another and slipping on the many small stepping stones along and around the river.
It’s at this point that I would like to describe to you a wonder, a creation of nature so beautiful that it brought tears, a spectacular feast for our eyes but I can’t.
It’s not that it’s indescribable nor that it’s too wonderful for words, well it was just a waterfall and after the struggle to get there it was just not the spectacle that we had hoped for. It was, well, sort of nice, nice and boring.
And with that we struggled back to camp.
Maloti Mountains of Lesotho in the early afternoon light.
Somehow we made progress until we reached the river crossing about an hour in.
In fact it wasn’t actually the river crossing that was the problem, it was the steep, narrow, rocky path that zig zaged down the side of a small gorge at an angle that would make you think twice about walking down there, let alone ride a pony, that had me spooked. Black Power stumbled down at her almost standstill pace whilst Black Label wanted to go down at breakneck speed and consequently was forever trying to overtake.
Well let me tell you there was absolutely no room for overtaking and it took a lot of “wooing” and pulling in the reins to keep him back. Far below I could see Sue and Olive patiently waiting with David. Clement was with us trying to speed up Black Power, slow down Black Label and hold onto the packhorse. Eventually we made it down physically unscathed but mentally frazzled.
The rest of the journey was a lot easier and I was able to relax a bit and take in the view without fear of my psychopathic pony deciding to crack on to Black Power and take us both down some steep ravine (Clement came up with the idea of keeping Black Power behind us rather in the front).
The scenery was pretty much the same as we had experienced on our previous days walk. A continuous range of high country surrounding us, it seemed as if it we would have to climb great heights to go forward but somehow that never seemed necessary, there was always a low pass to take us through the mountains.
There were plenty of villages too. I couldn’t help thinking that the Basotho people lived in a country that has a GDP of US$ 2255.00 per person and yet they appeared to live their lives quite happily. By comparison, Namibia has a GDP of US$8190.00 per person and the USA a GDP of $ 53,000 per person!
When we passed the villages or just the odd traveller they all said hello and gave us that broad watermelon grin that you just couldn’t help but return. They seemed so content and peaceful! Maybe a good GDP is not as important as economists of the western world would have us believe.
A sheep herder stands overlooking a gorge in the Maloti Mountains of Lesotho.