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May 2nd 2008
Published: May 10th 2008
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Amazing place

The backpapers at the Drakensberg organised day tours to Lesotho - The Kingdom in the Sky - and as we were so close we decided to head over there.

The roads up to Lesotho are very, very bad and very, very twisty. You wouldn't believe that we could get up there in a normal minibus! on the way we passed Qwa Qwa (to say this you have to use the click found in Zulu/Sotho languages - replace the Q for a click - very hard to get right!). This is another of the Apartheid's homelands and again thousands of people were relocated to this area on the South African border, far away from any cities and therefore work, and with very poor agricultural land. Qwa Qwa was the focus of a British documentary trying to highlight the problems. They are trying to improve the area and there is now a university there to encourage education but there is still a way to go.

The border crossing for Lesotho took ages but once through it became very obvious, very quickly that Lesotho was going to be very different to South Africa. The people wear the traditional woollen blanket over their shoulders. This isn't something that they make themselves. Apparently, as Lesotho was a British colony, the Queen on a vist brought a blanket from the UK and gave it as a gfit to the King. Since then, it's been the adopted national dress of the people and they are very proud of it.

We dropped down into a village and were surrounded by beautiful mountains. The scenery was stunning. Our first stop was a local school. There is no national system of edcuation in Lesotho so the children rely on community and charity work to provide them with a school. If this is set up then the government will usually provide the teachers. Part of the money that we had paid for the trip went to support the school.

The school was closed for the day as it was a week of national holiday but lots of children came to greet us and they were really happy to see us which was nice.

We headed up into the mountain on a bit of a hike to see some of the paintings of the San people. The paintings have been there a long, long time so they were a bit faded but the clever San people, who were nomadic and didn't have a written language used to use the pictures to pass information about where the food was in that area - so a picture of an Eland facing north would mean that there were Eland to the north!

All the children accompanied us on our walk which was very funny. They liked sunglasses, sun cream and seeing their picture on the camera screens. They had also liked to see their reflection in the side of the minibus and had danced and giggled at that quite a lot.

Our next stop on the walk down was a local pub or "shebeen". We got to try the local beer - a bit fizzy - you wouldn't want to drink a lot of it! There were quite a few people at the pub and they were really happy, sharing their drinks with us and singing and laughing. It was a shame to leave.

We also visited a sangoma - the local healer. Sangoma get a calling from the ancestors to tell them that they need to become a sangoma. The ancestors then tell them how to cure the sick people that come to visit them for help. They use herbs to do this. THe sangoma that we met explained how he had received his calling. He also talked openly about the interaction between this type of medicine and western medicine and was happy to answer questions. Our guide was quite superstitious about the sangoma and was quite nervous. In African tradition, they believe that they have special powers and should be revered.

We had a really good day. It was amazing to see people who seem to have so little by our western standards, so happy and content and willing to share with us their culture.

We hope that you are well and enjoying the great weather that we hear you have been getting!! Typical - it clearly only rains when we are in the country! x

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