Travel & Outdoors
Kingdom in the clouds
The first time I visited Lesotho, I spent a weekend hiking through the mountains, sleeping in caves and bathing in rivers. On my second visit, towards the end of last year, I was part of a group of journalists invited on a four-day media tour of the country’s capital, Maseru.
While my first trip was spent entirely surrounded by mountains and rivers, with very little human interaction, this time around I was able to really engage with the people and experience some of the beautiful culture and hospitality this unique country has to offer.
And it really is unique. For starters, Lesotho is the highest country in the world. Its lowest point is 1400 metres and over eighty percent of the country sits above 1800 metres. It is also the southernmost landlocked country, entirely surrounded by South Africa.
Add to this the wonderful mix of interesting history and rich culture, along with the splendid scenery and both freezing cold and extremely hot weather, and you’ve got a wonderful melting pot of adventure and intrigue.
As I was traveling from Durban, my trip started with a quick flight to Joburg’s OR Thambo airport where I met the rest of the media crew and we boarded a flight directly to Maseru.
There is something to be said about arriving at an international airport in a country’s capital and yours being the only airplane on the tarmac . . . it’s both wonderful and slightly unnerving at the same time.
Home for the duration of our stay was the recently upgraded AVANI Lesotho Hotel & Casino and, it has to be said, they employ some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. From the team who greeted us at the airport with hugs, to the management and staff at the hotel, we were treated like royalty the entire time. Now, I am always aware that staff are usually putting their best foot forward when they are hosting journalists, but I can honestly say I think this is simply the way the Basotho people are. Everyone looks you in the eye when they talk to you and, when you introduce yourself, they say your name back to you, sometimes twice, to make sure they get it right.
The hotel has 158 guest rooms and mine overlooked the bustling city of Maseru. I couldn’t help but notice how peaceful and safe it seemed, despite the fact that 400 000 of the 2.2 million people in Lesotho live in its capital.
The hotel amenities include a 320-seater conference centre and a variety of excellent quality restaurants and bars.
One of the biggest draw cards for both local businessmen (most of whom are predominantly Chinese) and visitors is the modern casino.
Our itinerary included three full days of guided tours in and around Maseru, including a visit to the market place where we were given the opportunity to shop for beautiful traditional (Shwe Shwe to be Seshoeshoe) fabric and the famous Basotho heritage blankets.
Other stops included the Mokorotlong craft centre, the statue of King Moshoeshoe the first and a very interesting visit to the Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village which showcases a selection of huts replicated to look like the settlement built by the King on top of the adjacent mountain.
We were also taken up to the Mohale Dam, which forms part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. As we travelled up the mountain passes (including the hilariously named ‘God Help Me Pass’), I was reminded that the true beauty of Lesotho lies away from the city.
The exquisite scenery is dotted with blanket-wearing shepherds on beautiful Basotho ponies, children playing with whatever they can find on the side of the road and magnificent mountains that seem to be almost engulfed by the clouds.
Whatever your reason for visiting Africa’s ‘kingdom in the sky’, make sure you take the time to speak to the locals, experience the rich culture, visit the intriguing historical sites and make your way up into the unrelentingly beautiful and rugged Maluti mountains.
Get In Touch
AVANI Lesotho Hotel & Casino
Rates are from R2298 per person sharing an executive room, including breakfast and excluding taxes. Kids under 3 are free and kids under 12 are charged 50% for breakfast. Contact: www.minorhotels.com/en/avani/lesotho / email@example.com
How to Get There:
Airlink, the regional feeder airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within Southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA, servicing more than 1 million passengers to 35 destinations in 9 African countries. They offer direct scheduled flights between Johannesburg and Maseru. Bookings: www.flyairlink.com / 27 11 978 1111