I got a chance to travel to Lesotho for the first time this year in April. The first thing I thought when I got to the boarder was “this country is freezing cold”. It’s expected right? After all, it’s a mountainous place. I should have actually invested in the blanket Sotho men put on.Its a necessity. Right next to the border was house were there were a lot of men drinking beer, one of them shouted as he saw a bus written Botswana “Bana ba ga Seretse” with so much excitement in his voice, this meant “Seretse’s children” for those who do not know Sir Seretse Khama was the first president of the Republic of Botswana. This automatically warmed my heart. Something that I found so embarrassing was the fact that I did not even know it was a constitutional monarchy until I got there. Yes I know, that was ignorant of me, but in my defense Lesotho is one of those countries that the media hardly ever talks about, the last newspaper article I read on Lesotho was in January when there was political unrest and SADC had to intervene. I am sure I am not the only one in this boat, do you guys know what their current population is? What about their gross national product?
On my first night there we went to the Thaba Bosiu cultural village where there was a music festival and the rain was pouring down on us, for the Basotho this was normal, I am from a country which hardly ever experiences intense rainfall especially during the month of April but I endured the wetness anyway, I just had to go see my favorite South African acts performing, the line-up was- Cassper Nyovest, Dr Malinga, Emtee, Fifi Cooper, Zinhle and Trademark, Nokwazi just to name a few, I also discovered a great artist from Lesotho by the name of Jacob, really enjoyed his song ‘Skipa se nteke’. You can only imagine my excitement that night, the bonus was that even though I bought a standard ticket, me and a friend of mine ( Bame) ended up at the V.I.P. section. In Botswana we believe rain brings goodluck so I guess that was my goodluck.
During the whole music festival I was going crazy, Dr Malinga was literally wild. Such an amazing performer, then Cassper Nyovest went on stage I couldn’t even keep myself from crying, tears were rolling down my cheeks. Wow! Fifi Cooper and Emtee were the last acts at around 5am. Didn’t even see the sun rise I was just in awe. Overall that was the best music festival I have ever attended, although I would have really liked to see more acts from Lesotho.
During the duration of the week I got a chance to go up Thaba Bosiu (The mountain at night) . The reason it has this name is because back in the 18th Century, the first King of the Basotho, King Moshoeshoe I and his people arrived here in the night. The tour guide said it would take 30 minutes to go up the mountain, it took us a whole hour going up, and going around the mountain took 2 dreadful hours considering the fact that I was so unfit at the time I almost gave up. But it’s a good thing I endured because what I learnt was mind-blowing and it got me so interested in learning about African cultures, Lesotho is rich in culture and Basotho are so deeply rooted in their culture. It’s a beautiful thing.
While up Thaba Bosiu the tour guide told us to pick stones (which I found odd at first), we did just that and he led us to this big rock with carvings on it, he proceeded to say that we should write our names whilst saying a certain phrase. The phrase was in Sotho so I unfortunately cannot remember. The rationale for doing that was so we seek permission and protection to actually go up. Upon doing just that we proceeded to climb up the mountain. The tour guide went on to tell us that Basotho believe that if you go up the mountain with bad intentions you will never reach the top. EVER!
After what seemed like a lifetime we arrived at the top. There was a huge rock I proceeded to sit on because I was just too exhausted only to learn that that was the chair of the great King Moshoeshoe I. You could see the whole of Maseru while at the top, and I am not exaggerating, Maseru is a really small city.
Next stop was the homestead of King Moshoshoe, his house was opposite that of his first wife (senior wife), I also learnt that he had 140 wives. I am still in denial I cannot possible imagine so many wives. How is that even possible?
We continued on the journey and there it was the Qiloane mountain which is honestly the reason I embarked on this journey to climb up Thaba Bosiu, just to get a better view of this iconic Qiloane Mountain. This mountain inspired the design behind the mokorotlo also known as the Basotho hat.
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We stopped by a water spring, my goodness. That water was out of this world. I was a bit sceptical about drinking it since I did not know the source of this water but we were told how safe it was plus I was really dehydrated. Till today I have never tasted water so good, I cannot even describe it, it was so pure, very light, had this lingering taste in your mouth and was really cold so it went down really well.
Finally we arrived at our last destination the Royal Cemetery, that’s where I got to learn about the family names of King Moshoeshoe and King Letsie, the hierarchy and the royal family members. While the tour guide was showing us the graves, he told us about an old culture Basotho did when a King died. When he died, they would kill his 6 bodyguards and bury them with the King. The bodyguards had initially consented to this because it was a sign of loyalty to the King.
Also, when someone died they would put a seed in their palm then put their hands together the same way a foetus’s hands are in their mother’s womb then bury them. This was driven by the belief that there is new life after death.
Afterwards we went horse riding, and then went to 2 of the biggest malls in Maseru, Pioneer Mall & Maseru Mall. Then returned to the small town of Roma were we were staying. Unfortunely I did not get the chance to see the Matsulenyane falls or go to the small tourist town Oxbor. My overall experience in Lesotho was phenomenal as you have all read; it is definitely a place I would recommend to go for relaxation and Sotho culture is beautiful, it really is. Go to Lesotho guys!
(A special thank you to Amantle Lefenya for the wonderful pictures she took.)