African shoestrings – South Africa Day Twenty-seven

Our first stop was the “poor end of town” which in size is the smallest part of Soweto but also by far the most densely populated.
We were taken into a small two room “house”.
I say house loosely because it was no bigger than two decent size tin sheds found in any Australian suburb. This shack had two rooms, walls and a roof of corrugated iron and floors of metal panels on top of what was probably just mud. Looking around, every other ‘dwelling’ was the same with about two or three metres between them where vegetables were grown, washing was hung and occasionally a communal chemical toilet or a water tap was available.
None of these places had running water, sewerage or indeed electricity. The only form of heat was a small wood burning stove also used for cooking.

But the most remarkable thing about this shack were the tenants. Somehow a family of eleven lived here! Mum, Dad and nine kids aged between one and 20 years old.
Mum told us that there’s no work for anyone much and because there’s no such thing as dole in South Africa, Dad picks up a little bit of money from “Piecework”, odd jobs here and there.
She earns a little bit of money from telling fortunes and knitting and selling hats. Fortunately they don’t have to pay rent. Mum was surprisingly, articulate and intelligent. Why was I surprised? I don’t know, I had never met anyone in this position before.

I was equally surprised that she was also cheerful, optimistic and quite accepting of her lot in life and happy to give us a first hand account. As we had in Lesotho we reflected on how much we have and how little these people have in comparison. In Lesotho it seemed different, they were poor but content. Here this was just a brave face and it’s so frustratingly close to not only white affluent suburbs but black ones too! This eventually got the better of us and we gave Nic some money later to pass on to this women who had been good enough to allow us into her home.

Mother and child in Soweto in the shadows of Soweto's upmarket and large homes are residential tin shacks. Soweto, South Africa.

Mother and child in Soweto in the shadows of Soweto’s upmarket and large homes are residential tin shacks. Soweto, South Africa.

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African shoestrings – Lesotho Day seven

Malealea Lodge is at the top of a hill right next to Malealea Village. The lodge itself is a collection of chalets, huts, a dorm and a bar/store dotted among Pine trees and areas of brown lawn. Set to one side away from the other buildings, stood a colonial style house that the old man at the gate pointed us towards.
There we managed to find Mick Jones with his feet up on the veranda overlooking the Malotti. Mick owns and runs Malealea with his wife Di. At the time, Mick stayed all the time at the lodge whilst Di ‘commuted’ to their office in Bloemfontain in South Africa.

We watched Mick from our chalet veranda striding around and barking instructions at his employees in the local lingo, SeSotho, until the afternoon thunderstorms that had been threatening all afternoon, turned on a show.

Thunderstorms are a way of life here. Incredibly more people die in Lesotho from lighting strikes than any other single cause. Which is really surprising considering the way they drive! I suppose the bottom line is that a country as poor as Lesotho, it’s one of the world’s poorest, doesn’t have that many cars but does have plenty of people travelling by foot. When you travel by foot in such a mountainous country the risk of getting struck by lighting is relatively high.

That’s not to say that it’s unsafe to walk around Lesotho, it’s just some care is required during their thunderstorm season in the summer months.

The spectacle of these thunderstorms is a show not to be missed, especially after dark.

Watching this show brought home to us that we were actually living our dream. We were away from our home, family and friends travelling the world without a care, except that constant nagging fear of spending too much money. It was a great feeling and a place like this was what it was all about.

Mother and Boy outside a hut, their home in the mountains of Lesotho

Mother and Boy outside a hut, their home in the mountains of Lesotho