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Published: October 27th 2007
Sketch of happiness
The cheaper ones pleasures are, the richer one is. If you can feel total happiness just by meeting a few weird white guys with cameras, I think you're richer than those white guys with their expensive cameras ever will be.
It had been a cold night with little sleep. I looked out of the tent and found Mr Seja
scraping off frost from his tent and efficiently packing his belongings into his red German
rental car. We'd met him one day earlier as we - resembling two bagladies - had dragged our plastic-bagged belongings across the border at Maseru
bridge. He was efficiency personified. Punctuality, rationality, German humour and break-neck driving skills all in one. With him behind the wheel we managed to see half the country in less than a week.
- "Bloody cold wasn't it?" I called out, looking early morning grumpy.
- “Not too bad, it was only minus three,” was his calm response before he smiled back at me. He was always optimistic and didn't fall for the disillusioned Swedes
wining or cynicism.
We were residing at a small trading station in Roma
's only University lays) and before we headed south to the tourist mecca of Malaelae
, we managed to climb a high hill, check out the university and visit a newly built dam (that lay far away from Roma). Efficiently. Very efficiently. Aili
and I would sit in the backseat munching on
At an elevation of almost 2000m the Katse dam is the highest in Africa and the whole dam project in Lesotho (Katse along with four other huge dams) is the biggest dam project on the continent. It is also arguably the coldest dam in Africa, too.
Mr Seja's Rittersport
(chocolate bar) collection he'd brought from the Bundesrepublik
, and we'd say things like: “Are we there yet?”, “I'm hungry!”, “need to pee!”.
- girls, Swedish
missionaries and loud South African
quad-bike maniacs had all their personal interpretation of the buzz word "Responsible tourism" at Malealea Lodge, and we quickly felt that the "white tourist"-ghetto was the least interesting part of the country.
The next day we went back to Maseru and stocked up on food, before Mr Seja took us further north and into the highlands.
The highlands were barren, the ochre/cappuccino coloured hues of the southern hills turned into snowcapped jagged mountains. We visited a CBO that had set up a weaving workshop, slept in a National Park, saw some more dams and of course, as we crossed the snowline we threw snowballs on Mr Seja.
We went searching for crystals on the mountain slopes near Southern Africa's highest pass, had a beer at the highest bar in Africa and truly enjoyed watching Africans ski at the one-slope-only ski-resort (one out of three only, on the entire continent) at Oxbow
in north-eastern Lesotho. After that the time was up for
A blanket draped horse man feeding his source of livelihood in the early morning hour. Malealea valley
Mr Seja and he departed very efficiently in his WV Golf
, heading towards the Jozi
We were back among the people again. What had been flickering faces smiling and waving to us from the other side of the windscreen as we raced past them in the red Golf, now became alive as we browsed the markets and sat crammed together in the jampacked minibus taxis.
The population was poor, extremely poor. As we were in the country, the health minister pleaded to western donors for more aid since he estimated that at least a quarter of the population would suffer under a famine due to the last two years poor crops. Still the people were so humble and kind, nobody begged (except around Malealea thanks to the tourism influx of the heavily marketed Malealea lodge). The Basothos
(what the people of Lesotho is known as) were friendly and funny, curious and always smiling despite their hard living conditions.
As we later left the country after another five days in the capital Maseru, I'd really got to respect and revere the Basothos for their endurance and patience, humbleness and hopefulness. They belong to a hardworking nation
The Katse Dam
The bigget economic hope that Lesotho have: An ice-cold dam generating electricity that's being sold to South Africa. It's very beautiful to look at, but oh so painfully cold to touch.
that's little affected by the western cultural influence that's slowly but surely is devouring the African traditions in surrounding South Africa.
Just the day before the national celebration of his royal highness King Letsie III
's birthday, we went back to South Africa.
The racial tension was immediately back again. The situation between blacks and whites, that's so cumbersome and mentally tiring hit us like a bad hang over as we crossed the border.
Straight away I regretted leaving the country, so as I sat in yet another cramped minibus heading towards Bloemfontein
I closed my eyes and for a moment I went back to the snowcapped peaks of Lesotho again. Picturing a Basotho family draped in their traditional blankets, slowly rocking up a hill on a rickety donkeycart, with genuine smiles waving in my direction as I swished past them in a very efficient red Golf, muching on Mr Seja's efficient last Rittersport.
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