What’s interesting about Lesotho (pronounced Le – Soo – Thoo)? Well, first, it’s completely surrounded by South Africa, and couldn’t be more dissimilar to its neighbor. This place feels like Africa, and to be honest, much of South Africa feels like Europe. Second, it’s mountainous, as opposed to the flat plains of South Africa. Third, the central region of Lesotho is unlike anywhere I’ve been in Africa. It’s more reminiscent of Nepal and Tibet than Africa.
This country used to be called “Busoutoland”, and during much of the 1700s – 1800s there were warring factions all over the region. However, the British controlled Busoutoland as it was rich with diamonds and sandstone, had plenty of water and fertile land. So, when all of the rival factions came together to form the Union of South Africa, Busoutoland was excluded and protected by the British. So, that’s how you get a country within a country! They finally got their independence from the British in 1966.
I journey to the Meletsunye Falls, about a 3 hour drive outside of Maseru (Ma-SER-U). It was a wonderful trip en route – a photographer’s dream! The vistas were mind-numbing, and the villagers walking the highway were equally as fascinating. Many wore colorful blankets while on horseback. There were yurt villages, with kids running around playing tag like they do anywhere and the women were tending the fields.
At the Falls at Semonkong Village, I met an interesting sheep herder trying to sell 9 sheep before getting married. Why? He needed the money to put a metal roof on his home before winter set in. We walked through the nearly village to locate the Lodge. Walking through this village was like going back in time 150 years. Picture this: Everyone has a horse or donkey, and they’ve come to town to purchase supplies. There’s a corral where the animals are tied, a la … the wild west in the US back in the 1800s. It was a very cool scene … so dodgy and volatile.
My guide and I brainstormed ideas to improve the experience at the Falls, including 1) improving the road, funded by tourist tolls, 2) adding horse and donkey rides to the Falls site, 3) opening a curio market for local products, and 4) building a pub/restaurant/B&B near the Falls for people to enjoy the scenery.
Lesotho has a trade agreement with the U.S. where they produce textiles to be shipped directly to the States without being taxed. Sounds great for them correct? Problem is the Chinese have purchased these companies and are exploiting and profiting from these agreements.
I stayed at the Avanti Lesotho and Avanti Maseru, and found the ambience and staff to be excellent. Rooms were nicer at the Maseru.
Overall, Lesotho is definitely worth a visit for a few days to see the Falls and the Drakensburg Pass.