16.02.2007 - 24.02.2007 0 °F
Greetings fellow blog readers. This witty entry is coming from the continent of Africa, a long haul flight away from Hong Kong.
After a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to Johanessburg, South Africa, we had officially ended our time in Asia on this remarkable trip. We had enjoyed it, but were ready for something new and refreshing. Actually before leaving, we volunteered to be on the bump list so we could enjoy a nice hotel for free along with some free food and it appeared promising, but in the end they didn't need us as they had plenty of room underneath the plane for us with the bags. Frigid ride down there.
Really cute little girl in Malealea, Lesotho
Joburg brought some immediate changes. The first was the ability to drink tap water without eyeing it suspiciously and also this odd concoction of lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, and salad dressing, the South Africans like to call it a salad. Haven't had one of those in a long time. We readily consumed both. Secondly, everywhere we have been in our travels, people have always mentioned the danger in Joburg. Don't go out after dark. Don't talk to strangers. Don't carry a camera. Don't do this or that. Joburg does give you a feeling of dread, but even worse than that is the fact that Joburg is ugly. Plus, the people we encountered there tend to be just a smidgen off. Probably the same feeling you get entering any town in New Mexico.
One redeeming quality about Joburg was their very well done Apartheid museum. This outlined the struggle that apartheid (segregation) held on South Africa from 1948 until as recently as the 1990's. Nadine and I were familiar with apartheid and that it was is in South Africa, but we never knew the complete story, and now we do.
Pregnant ladies are allowed into Lesotho
Our form of transportation around South Africa and Lesotho to this point has been mini-van taxis. Simply, and similar to Indonesia but not as crowded, it's a mini-van with 5 rows, 3 in each row, unless you are in the back seat, then there are 4 people. Instead of going from the capital of Lesotho, Maseru, to Malealea with one single van, you go a third of the distance, switch vans, jump on another van, go another a third of the way, get on another one and finally make your way there. A little more effort than one would like to spend, but it gets you there. That has been our only form of transport, other than our feet and horses.
We found people from Lesotho (Lesothians, Lesothanauts, Lests?) to be very friendly and warm. As we were crossing the border into Lesotho, a girl that we had been talking to on the mini-van from Joburg decided to help us through immigration, even though we are well versed in border crossings, and getting to Malealea, virgins to this experience, she helped us find the first van leaving. That turned out to be very helpful as we quickly passed through a parking lot of 100 mini-vans where we would have been roaming around searching for the perfect van for quite awhile.
We spent the next 3 nights in Malealea. A great place overlooking a valley with electricity from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and peacocks running around the grounds. This was the perfect place to sit back and take in the sites.
Our first order of business in the unbusy town of Malealea was to have a brie (bbq). This onslaught of beef, chicken, curry, veggies, juice, and dessert was just what we needed. I ate until my belly ressembled Nadines. Mine went down though.
Halfway on our hike to the waterfall
All of the great food from the brie gave us adequate energy for the next 3 days to take on a couple of adventures. The first was a several hour hike down a river valley and then up to a waterfall. As we made our way down the mountain on our own trail, as the trailblazers we are you know, and began following the river to the bend when a guy asked us if we wanted a guide. Being that the directions were pretty easy we really didn't need one this time. But later on this wannabe guide passed us as we stopped for a water break. As we resumed, he just kept walking in front of us on the trail, eyeing to make sure we were still following, and basically voluntarily lead us. We shared our food with him. So we followed and soon enough, we were at the feet of this 40 feet tall waterfall. We took time to swim in the foot and a half deep water. It was refreshing though!
Shallow swimming relief
Our second activity was a pony trek on horses to 400 year old Bushmen paintings down in another valley. Being the Texan I am, riding a horse was just like riding a bicycle, I didn't need my Dad's guiding hand. We rode through corn fields with mountains in the foreground without any problems. Nadine and her horse did have something unique in common. Being that Nadine is from Nebraska, she naturally has an afinity for corn, and so did her horse. Everytime we were close enough to corn, her horse Corny would crane his neck and bite the top off of stalk. I am sure Nadine felt the same way. Needless to say, Corny had a great corn meal that morning and we had a great time looking at old paintings of Bushmen and the animals they hunted from years back.
Scenic trek down to the Bushmen Paintings
Sadly we left Malealea, but we had to get moving. Our next stop was to Mt. Moorosi on the southern edge of Lesotho. After a couple of bus exchanges, we were in Quthing waiting for our bus to fill up. We ran over to some dinosaur foot prints that were reportedly supposed to be 1,800,000 years old, but I never saw the writing in the rock that you always find on a sidewalk back home in freshly drying cement, Chops was here, 1,797,093 B.C.. Interesting stuff, but the tiny office didn't give any information about the tracks. When I asked about the tracks, the lady handed me an old encyclopedia opened to the dinosaur entry. Hmmm . . .
As we returned to the mini-van taxi terminal, we waited and then waited a little bit more. To pass the time, Nadine and I began throwing rocks at a can. First one to hit the green Sprite can won, Nadine won. During the second round, as folks started to pass by, they looked at us curiously, and I took advantage of this to invite them to play with us. Soon we had a nice crowd around us, and I won the second round to my own personal jubilation. We then got to the point where this man and I were quizzing each other with math quizzes as a crowd was looking on. It was at this point, that the crowd really started forming. It was a great example of drawing in the dirt under the hot sun trying to figure out each other's puzzle with 20 other Africans and 1 American around us. We didn't figure out each other's puzzle, but it left us with a smile with the mental challenge from another country.
When our bus finally filled up and reached our Mt. Moorosi Chatlets, we were the only people there to occupy one of the 6 chatlets over the next 2 nights. So for the next two nights, we were simply entertained by three things in the area, the bright stars, a small forest fire caused by lightening, and sitting and talking on the porch while watching the tall mountains sitting there as well.
The stars shown brighter there than I have ever seen anywhere else other than the middle of Nowhere, Bolivia 6 years ago. You could easily see the outline of the Milky Way. Mmmm, Milky Way.
Tired of reading, I sat on our bed and for the next hour and a half, I gave Nadine running commentary on which flames were flaring up and which ones were dying out up on the mountain facing us.
Wide open Lesotho spaces
Finally, in our isolation, we took time to sit on the porch and just talk. Between topics we would also include, "dang, that is a big mountain," "whew, they flies won't leave me alone," and "this sure looks like the U.S." It was peaceful and perfect for belly rubbing.
The majority of our time in Lesotho was spent without one item, electricity. Because of this absence, we never had access to telephone, t.v., internet, and any other item that requires electricity, and we liked it. It was good to spend a week without the convenience of electricity. Maybe we all should do this for a day. Just head over to New Mexico for a little bit and you can experience the same thing.
Our short time in Lesotho was great, but to meet up with Nadine's friend Melissa on time, we had to spend an entire day on 5 separate buses to Durban. All were uncomfortable, but the worst one was in the back of a mini-truck with a hard shell as we were tucked in the fetal position for 50 minutes. We were so glad to be back in our hostel in Durban that night.
Back into South Africa, only two hot crappy vans left
This week's question with the first correct answer posted on the blog will win a postcard from South Africa: What's the oldest ever dinosaur footprints found and where? I could make a mother-in-law joke, but I like Clare and we are meeting up her in three weeks, so joke has been omitted.
Life is good. We are now here in Durban and will be here until we begin travelling with Melissa south down the coast of South Africa from Durban to Cape Town.
JW, NW, HDW