Let the adventure begin! (yep I was able to pack everything I needed for 24 days into 1 small back pack!)
After about a month of planning, my roommate (who is another American and intern with Grassroot Soccer) and I picked up the rental car and headed north. He had done a similar drive previously, but this was my first time driving this far in South Africa, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. We left Cape Town around approximately 11:30 am (after a very long goose chase to pick up the rental car) with the music playing and the windows down. After about an hour or 2 I realized we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere surrounded by greenery and hills. We’d stop for snacks and the bathroom when we needed petrol at about 1/2 a tank left because petrol stations were few and far in between. The drive is pretty much on a 2 lane highway, which means there is a lot of passing trucks and other slow cars, which definitely keeps you on your toes.
Fortunately, we made it to the Lesotho (pronounced li-soo-too) border around 11 pm (1,149 km later!) and entered into Maseru (the capital). The border was very easy to deal with and we got our first new stamp in our passports with little hassle. Once across the border, we had a little adventure finding our friends (also fellow Grassroot Soccer interns) house due to the fact that our cell phones didn’t work anymore and their house didn’t have an actual address, but we eventually found our way about 20 minutes later.
The next day we spent our time visiting the Football for Hope Center that the other interns work at as they were having a Christmas event there. We also drove around the city, got food and enjoyed the views of the “Mountain Kingdom” which Lesotho’s famous nickname.
*Disclaimer – unfortunately I lost my camera in Mozambique (after we left Lesotho), so I’ve had to rely on my roommates pictures for this portion of the trip. Luckily, I was able to buy a (overpriced) camera at the airport before heading to Botswana.
The next morning we were excited to head further into Lesotho to Semongkong. This is probably where the real adventure began. There is only 1 lodge in Semongkong and we hadn’t made reservations. We didn’t have internet access or phones, so we were hoping we’d have somewhere to sleep when we showed up. Plan B was to sleep in the car. The next challenge was the fact that the road to Semongkong is a combination of dirt, rocks, and mud. Unfortunately, it had been very rainy for about a week before we arrived and people told us they weren’t sure if our little Chevy, non 4 wheel drive car, would make it. Again, plan B was to sleep in the car if we got stuck. However, we went for it anyway. We spent a lot of time in 1st and 2nd gear on the 3 hour drive (it’s only about 90 km, but you have to drive very slow), but we eventually made it to our destination and it was breath taking!
The drive was through the mountains and clusters of villages. The Lesotho people (which are called Besotho people. Please read more about Lesotho here as I don’t want this post to be any longer than it already is going to be 🙂 But Lesotho’s people and history are very interesting) are very friendly and we exchanged waves and hellos as we drove through different villages. They use donkeys and horses as their main transport and wear traditional blankets called the Basotho blankets (google image Basotho blanket to see some beautiful blankets).
We arrived at the only lodge in Semongkong and waited patiently as the receptionist checked to see if there were any rooms available. Not only was there a room available, but it was 1 of the nicest rooms in the lodge! We were definitely living in luxury while there. The room had a fireplace, very nice shower and comfortable bed. The cost was approximately $45 per person and it was a $45 well spent.
After we settled in, we headed out to attempt to find the famous Maletsunyane waterfall. At this point, I had another “omg, I’m in the middle of Lesotho, in the middle of nowhere” moment. It was very peaceful, serene and simple. There was no clear path after about 5 minutes so we just walked in the general direction of where we were told the falls were located. We walked through some villages and by people transporting items on their donkeys from in town. After about an hour (we were told it would take about an hour to get to the falls) we didn’t think we were making much progress and a swarm of about 10 kids ran up to us. 1 of them could speak very limited English, but the others just smiled at us and grabbed our hands. We spent about 15 minutes with them smiling and laughing and realized we weren’t going to make it to the falls that evening, but the journey was worth it up to that point. After about 15 minutes we attempted to explain to the kids that we had to leave. After about 3 attempts to walk away in which, the kids would stop for a second and then continue to follow, they eventually ran back to their huts.
At this point we decided that we didn’t want to be too adventurous and end up lost at dark. So we decided to head back to the lodge and try to make it to the waterfall the next morning. The lodge served us a great meal, including a bottle of wine and we were in a food coma. We made it back to the room and took advantage of the fireplace and fell asleep by 9:30 pm. It was pure heaven.
In the morning we woke up and ventured out to attempt to make it to the waterfall again. The walk was absolutely gorgeous. We heard cow bells and farmers in the distance, but other than that it was very quiet and peaceful. After about an hour we reached the waterfall and enjoyed its beauty. We relaxed by the falls, both of us in silence for much of the time, taking in all the sights, sounds and feelings for about 30 minutes. It was blissful.
After enjoying the waterfall, we trekked back to the lodge to pack up our stuff and head back to the big city of Maseru. Along the way we ran into our friends and other interns who had just arrived in Semongkong and would be spending the night in the area as well. We had a quick bite to eat with them and then said our goodbyes and enjoyed the bumpy and slow ride back to Maseru.
We made it back to Maseru uneventfully and spent the day getting ready for the next leg of our journey. At about 10:00 pm we headed to bed and woke up at 2:30 am for the next adventure.
Next up: Mozambique!