Exploring the communities of the Thaba-Putsoa mountains

Lesotho, the kingdom in the sky, is famed for its mountainous landscapes and communities living isolated, yet free in the altitudes. To truly understand the lives of the Basotho people who inhabit the mountain villages you must live it for yourself.

 

The lodges across Lesotho offer a variety of treks on horseback, mountain bike or by foot. As shoestring travellers we went for the cheapest option: hiking. At 150 Rand per day for a guide (split between the group) and 90 Rand per night to stay with the chief of each village in his guest hut, this is an option for every backpacker. The only thing you have to bring is food, and during the drought there was a limited selection for vegans so we settled on 3 days of rice and soya mince! Our hosts provided cooking equipment which was perfect for our basic culinary needs.

  

As we write this, we are sitting in a 100% sustainable local hut in the depths of the Thaba-Putsoa mountain range. 2.5 hours from the nearest shop, by foot or horse, this picturesque village is overlooking the Ribaneng waterfall and the subsequent river. All huts are built around a structure of sticks that is kept together by a mixture of clay and cows excrement, for structural strength, rocks  found in the river are chiseled and piled as an outside wall. The village has no electricity or pipes providing gas or water. Solar panels are used for the small electricity they need to charge their radio (for the weather or football). A spring an hour up-hill supplies water for the 50 or so villagers. With no possibility of motorised transport they must travel up to 15 hours there and back on horseback or by foot to collect necessities from the not-so-near-by towns.

Our second night introduced us to Georgina. She was the wife of the chief in Ketane village. Georgina has transformed her house into an orphanage and has 14 children living with her, who she treats as her own children. She is not only a mother, but a teacher and is a highly respected member of the community with an incredibly kind heart and a very old sole!

Each member of this community is happy to be here and from their youth their only aspiration is to live a happy simple life, caring for their animals as their predecessors have done before.

 

The hike takes you through several mountain villages like this, where everyone welcomes you with simple english or the few Sotho phrases we had learnt. With basic greetings we knew, we were able to put smiles on several faces. The children are especially excited when they see the backpacks and foreign faces. Their english speaking is not as good as their elders and they play hand games or imitate us, a unique interaction. The Basotho people are amongst the friendliest in Africa and with their beautiful faces they happily pose for pictures.

Balanced precariously on the steep faces of the mountains, shepherds; wrapped tightly in the traditional Sotho blankets and leaning on their walking sticks, watch over the herds of cows or flocks of sheep. The connection they have with their animals and the environment they work in has made them the people of the mountains.

The landscape, whilst keeping to a constant mountainous theme, changes consistently. The weather affected us on our walk greatly. Hot days meant red faces sweaty bodies, but calm and happy minds. The colder-windy days meant dried lips, Lesotho blankets and shivering bodies wrapped inside them, minds not quite as peaceful!

Lesotho hikes are eye-opening experiences, but they are also a serious challenge. With many hikes to choose from, select yours carefully and be aware of your physical condition. More than anything, this hike will teach you about Basotho culture through first hand experiences, which is a valuable experience when travelling.

If you think you are up to the challenge, or would like to know how you can support Georgina and her orphanage, or if you would like to let us know your thoughts on Basotho culture, please comment below as we would love to hear!

Read about our 5 highlights for Lesotho and why it should be on your bucket list here...

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