Malealea is a small village living primarily on subsistence agriculture. The one exception is the Malealea Lodge. It was started in 1970, primarily catering to a handful of backpackers, content with vary basic traditional accommodation. It grew significantly over the years and now has tens of little cabins, most with en-suite facilities. In the good years it was often full of Dutch tourists, but the recent economic downturns in Europe have significantly reduced business.
On the right, one of the lodge rooms, built just like the traditional accommodation of the region. On the left, the cafe.
The owner certainly doesn’t lack humour.
A few peacocks live on the site. When I think of the beauty and grace of peacocks, Toyota pickups and gas cylinders are rarely in the picture, but that’s the difference between dreams and reality. The peacocks certainly like the pickup.
Every evening in the lodge, the village choir and band perform. This is a picture of the band. They use homemade instruments and one might think they wouldn’t be able to get much sound out of these contraptions. One would be right; it is, well, not very good. However, the choir is nice. I even bought their CD.
One thing was very puzzling to me; who were these women in the picture? The Indian guy with the baseball cap is the only tourist. I was certain the women were not tourists, but they were going crazy over the music. I know Africans can be very expressive, but this was too much. These women could not be lodge employees or village women, and yet I was sure they were not tourists. I learned the truth the next day. As European business diminished, the lodge started to offer retreats and other such work related services. As it turns out, most of the people at the lodge were Lesotho public servants on some sort of retreat/conference/training thing.
Evening braii, the very popular South African version of BBQ. Really the same thing, except the coals are usually on a concrete slab instead of a steel “bowl”, so you can’t close it like you would a BBQ. The guy on the left is the owner and founder. One often sees European expatriates open this kind of business in exotic lands, but he was actually born in Lesotho and is fluent in the local language of the Malealea valley.
My pony hiking guide, whose name I forgot. Fairly harsh country for riding; it’s basically on stone half the time. After some practice in Cambodia earlier this year, I dare to say I’m getting a little better at taking pictures while on horseback.
This is not a trail I ever would have considered taking a pony on.
I’m not a big fan of heights to begin with, but heights on a pony, on a narrow slippery stone path with a massive drop on the right; not much fun, especially when you’re trying to take pictures at the same time. The picture doesn’t do justice to how high this is. The guide assured me in the many years he’d done this, no pony had ever fallen off the cliff. Reassuring, I guess. It helps that the lodge sets a weight limit of 90 kg (200 l) for rider and gear. Considering most tourists are Dutch, that means a fairly significant percentage cannot participate!
The purpose of the trek was to get to this waterfall. Just like the cave paintings the day before, the destination was nothing to write home about, but getting there was awesome.
Around the village.
A village meeting. I couldn’t understand exactly how it was set-up; people were sort of waiting everywhere. Perhaps it hadn’t yet begun. My guide said any decision which has consequences on the whole of the village involves one of these meetings.
Little pony, I put my life in your hooves and you did not let me down!
Driving around Lesotho. Small villages don’t have stores and people produce their own food. However, individual families can have surpluses for sale, and they indicate it by placing a flag outside. This yellow flag indicates the family has beer for sale. White is for another kind of beer (made from grapes I was told), green for fruits and vegetables and red for meat. I would estimate a good 75% of the flags I saw were for one of the kinds of beer. My kind of place!
Close to the small border post of Van Rooyens Gate, in 99.95% non-muslim Lesotho, I find myself in hot pursuit of three black Talibs in a minivan. Business as usual I guess. I took them out and made my way to Bloomfontein to catch a flight. Now, if only I could remember who I am…
Seriously, I have no explanation for this. I even looked online at a Sesooto-English dictionary to see if “Taliban” meant something, but no. Certainly an unusual farewell from Lesotho.