16 January 2010

lesotho

Lesotho is known as the kingdom in the sky, and for good reason, as the mountainous nation's lowest point is higher than the lowest point in any other country in the world.

The best part of our trip was miraculously connecting with a friend of mine who was serving in the Peace Corps in Lesotho. Neither of us had had regular internet access, but we knew that we'd be in Maseru, the capital, around the same time. When we arrived in Maseru, we went to the American embassy to see where the Peace Corps office was, and we were given hazy directions to more or less follow the road.

We continued on and met a kind Basotho/Canadian woman who said she wasn't sure, but she thought it might be up this little street-- and possibly this building, since the other one was a UN building. So, up the little street to the gate we went, and when we asked the guard if our friend might be there, the gate opened, and there she was. She screamed when she saw us, we ran over and hugged her, and it seemed like we were stars in our own cheesy, happy-ending afterschool special.

Our favorite part of Lesotho was Malealea, one of the few parts of the country with a bit of tourist infrastructure. (This meant there was a small lodge in which we could stay-- in the capital, our only budget accommodation option had been to stay in a church training center.)

Here are some shots from our bus ride to Malealea:

We stayed in traditional round stone huts called rondavels.

They aren't very large, but we loved ours. The ceiling was lined with straw mats, and there were small drawings of people on the walls.

We went on a pony trek to see some of the spectacular scenery. Each turn brought us to a different vista.

And each panoramic view was better than the last.

I loved the colors:

One interesting and sad thing we learned about Lesotho is that much of its domestic income comes from its most precious natural resource: water. Its "white gold" goes into its wealthier neighbor, South Africa, and unfortunately, its own water needs are not often met:

On the morning we left Malealea, there was a peacock on the roof of our rondavel, which just made it seem all that much more magical.

And then we headed out on another share taxi minivan into the rain. We had been so lucky with our pony trek weather the day before, and the overcast skies matched our sadness in having to leave what many appropriately call heaven.

We didn't have terrific visibility through the windshield, but we made it safely back to Maseru.