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7P8EI Lesotho

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What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear, "A state within a state"? The Vatican, of course. Well, that's not what today is about. There is at least one other country with the same parameters, and that is Lesotho, a state bordered on all sides by South Africa.

7P8EI LesothoLesotho. Author - Grzegorz Smieciuszewski.

Fasten your seatbelts, we're taking off

Travelling to Lesotho is kind of extreme. At least because of the poor transport accessibility. It is the only country in the whole world whose territory rises above 1400 metres of sea level. You can imagine what a magnificent view opens from such a height! The unbelievable beauty of the highlands is beautiful at any time of the year: both in summer - during the flowering period, and in winter - when the snow from the tops of the mountains comes closer to the settlements.

It was partly because of this inaccessibility that the territory of ancient Lesotho became inhabited. Members of the Sotho tribe, who founded the country, had once fled from the invading Bantu tribes. The Sotho settled in the inaccessible mountains and gorges, adopted a sedentary lifestyle and were generally quite happy with their new place of residence. From the seventeenth century onwards, the tribe did not leave the highlands. Even when the Boers invaded the country, the locals did not leave, but asked England for help. However, in gratitude for protection the inhabitants of Lesotho had to recognise the country as a British protectorate under a new name - Basutoland. But the British rule did not last long (compared to other colonies), and in 1966 Lesotho regained its independence.

However, the colonial policy did not affect the life of the Sotho too clearly. On the one hand, because of the tribe's adherence to old traditions, and on the other hand, again because of poor transport accessibility.

To get here, travellers have to spend time and put in a lot of effort. To begin with, mules and donkeys are still the most common means of transport. These small, stocky animals with strong legs and the ability to carry giant bales on their backs are the best way to transport people and goods. Mules have excellent coordination, even on steep mountain spurs they do not lose their balance. However, horse riding is gradually becoming a thing of the past, and donkeys are being replaced by cars. But they must be off-roaders with a reliable grip. And here's why.

The roads here rise almost at a 45° angle and descend at the same angle. The impression is strengthened by contemplating a steep cliff on one side of the path. And, of course, there are no fences: who needs them if people from the Soto tribe know the way like the back of their hands? In fact, it is not difficult to learn the local ways of communication: Lesotho is a small country, in the rating of countries in terms of vastness of territories it is on the 137th place, and the largest city - the capital Maseru - covers only 138 kilometres square. Many people in Lesotho, especially those who travel frequently from town to town, can walk through dangerous areas with their eyes closed in good weather. However, no one can cancel landslides and rockslides.

However, travelling by land is nothing compared to the peculiarities of national flights. The Moshesh Airport in Maseru is an extreme experience in its purest form. The 600-metre-long runway drops sharply downwards and simply disappears, leaving a void beneath the wings. According to the architects' plan, air resistance and gravity (and probably optimism) should do the job. In free-flight conditions, the aircraft should gain the right altitude and soar over the mountains, but modern aviators prefer not to take unnecessary risks. Patrol and emergency services use the runway, private jet owners also sometimes don't mind the thrill, but most travellers prefer to get there by land. As we remember, though, there are many nuances.

7P8EI Lesotho DX NewsLesotho. Author - Boy de Haas.

Wildlife Kingdom

The Kingdom of Lesotho is known primarily for its incredible landscapes. The Sotho people have been living in harmony with nature since ancient times and organise their life in such a way as not to disturb the ecological balance. That is why the country attracts those who need a retreat. Here all around you are only mountains, flowering mountain valleys, rivers and waterfalls. No connection with the outside world, including the internet - it is very poor and is only available in hotels.

It's hard not to catch a fish from the pond

One of the Sotho's national trades is fishing for trout in mountain rivers. This fish did not originally live here, but was introduced by the British. Nevertheless, trout do well in the highlands, because the rivers of Lesotho are famous for their purity.

Tourists can also go fishing. However, it is more interesting not to catch fish yourself, but to watch how the locals do it. Old men with wrinkled dark faces, wrapped in national brightly coloured capes, pull out fish one after another. There are so many trout here that you don't have to wait long for a bite. And the water is so clear that flocks of fish can be seen at great depths.

By the way, trout is cooked in local restaurants according to the ancient recipe of XVIII century. So even if you are not a fan of sitting with a fishing rod on the shore and are not interested in watching fishing, it still makes sense to visit the fishing festival, at least for gastronomic reasons.

Protected Far Away

Lesotho is a small country, not known for its abundance. But what is really abundant here are the reserves. In any case, for such a dwarf state there is a truly huge number of them.

  • Tsehlanyan Park. This is not so much a park as a huge region. The steppes of the highlands, scorched by the scorching African sun, are surrounded by the ribbed peaks of Maloti. Here are Lesotho's most lush Chi-Chi forests, an abundance of rare ferns and bamboo endemics. A mountain trail takes you all the way through the park and out to Bokong, the second famous nature park.
  • Sehlabatebe. Located on the very border with South Africa, in the Dragon Mountains. The sandy ledge to which the Orange River flows was formed centuries ago by a tectonic shift. In the course of daily work over the years, the streams have made something like honeycombs in the gorges. From afar it seems that there are thousands of small caves in the mountains. It looks very spectacular. River waters and extensive waterfalls carry silt into the valley. This is why the soil is so fertile and the valley is green almost all year round. In Sehlabateba you can stay overnight with your own tent, or you can book a few days' accommodation in a local village.
  • Mount Taba Bosiu and its surrounding areas. Taba Bosiu is the symbol of the country. Its name means 'night mountain' in the Sotho language, and the hill itself is honoured as a sacred place. This is why it was once the home of a Sotho king. The mountain with a flat top can be seen from afar. It is often visited by tourists, and the Soto themselves prefer to come here to admire the views and remember the events of the country's history.
  • Bokong. This nature reserve is open not only for walks, but also for accommodation. Here you can spend the night with a tent or stop by the visitor centre. However, this adventure is not for the faint-hearted: the centre is located on a hundred-metre cliff, so the location is clearly not for acrophobes. But if the height does not scare you, you can admire one of the African wonders of the world - the Katze Dam. It is this dam that distributes water across Lesotho and delivers it evenly downstream to South Africa. Thanks to the dam, the soils in the country are so fertile and feed the people of the kingdom.

All this is but a small part of Lesotho's protected areas. The entire state, except for the towns scattered in the valleys, is a highland scenic reserve.

7P8EI Lesotho Tourist attractions spotLesotho. Author - Wesley & Brandon Rosenblum.

There was a dinosaur here

Indeed there was. As evidenced by the preserved fossils in Keating. Quieting, or "Place of the Wind", is a rather large city in which, however, along with the construction of modern buildings, care has been taken to preserve antiquities. For example, traces of ancient predators and cave paintings have been preserved here.

I want to go to Lesotho! What do I need to know?

Travelling in Lesotho is possible all year round. The weather is pleasant, with 360 days of sunshine a year. However, if you expect to take long walks, you should practise with paper maps: GPS is terrible here. But locals are always happy to help guests. So arm yourself with a map, water and patience and hit the road. But remember: Lesotho is hard to get back from. Not because the airport is only for the brave, but because there is a risk of falling in love with this country forever.

7P8EI. Where is Lesotho located. Map.

7P8EI Lesotho. Sunrise 07-22-2024 at 04:56 GMT sunset at 15:30 GMT
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