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Lesotho - Hike up to the "Kingdom in Clouds"

LESOTHO | Saturday, 9 August 2008 | Views [1376]

Lesotho (le-soo-too) – What is it? Where is it? You may not have read about it in your geography books or must have missed it on the world map, but believe it or not – it is the one of the smallest yet highest country in the world! Popularly known as the ‘Kingdom in the Sky’, still ruled by a king and with the lowest point in the country at 1800m above sea level, it is a mountainous bean-shaped country, nestled island like, right in the centre of South Africa. Found it? Find out more about this quaint country and its people in this story….

Lesotho came into existence even before South Africa ever existed as a unified country. When this part of the dark continent was still being disputed amongst the "Boers"(Dutch warriors), Zulus (African Tribes) and the British, many of the weaker tribes chose to escape rather than subjugate. Most migrated north to present day Zimbabwe and Botswana, but some of these people, led by their king 'Moshaeshoe' took on a different route. They climbed high up in the Drankensberg mountains where protection was easier. Still they were easily outnumebered by the Zulus and overpowered by the Boers. The King then sought protection from the British and ever since then, his kingdom became a 'protectorate'.

Once you cross the border of the kingdom with South Africa, you can easily tell what an isolated yet peaceful and pristine this country is. Men ride their ponies wearing colorful woolen blankets which symbolize their position in the hierarchial society and young boys as herdsmen (who are made men by the notorius 'Coming of Age' ceremony, where they are circumsized using sharp bark and are expected to take the pain like a man without crying) tend to their sheep while smiling and exchanging some pleasantaries with us.

A local 'Basotho' guide welcomes us and shows us the new school project sponsored by these organized tours for tourists. Watching the arid land being tilled by the farmers and their cattle, playing with the local children who kept asking us for sweets, hiking up to the top point in the village to view some primitive rock art depicting the huntings and celeberation of ancient bush men, trying out the local staple and beer and then listening to the enchanting stories of the local 'Sangoma' (witch-doctor who heal people by getting cues from the spirits of their ancestors)filled our cultural day in Lesotho.

As the sun starts its descent into the horizon behind the mighty and proud mountains of this Lesotho village, we boarded our mini-van to attempt getting back in time before the border police closes the gates for re-entry into South Africa!



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