Our 16th Country!

Lesotho is a small country that lies within the country of South Africa.  It is the 3rd poorest country in the world. The Ampitheatre Backpackers hostel that we stayed at offered guided day trips into Lesotho, and since it was windy and rainy outside, hiking in the mountains of Drakensburg didn’t sound like much fun, so we opted for a cultural experience instead.  We crammed into a small van with 12 other people and off we went into another unplanned country added to our itinerary at the last minute. 

Packed full with people!

It was about a 2 hour drive from where we were staying into Lesotho.  I never did catch the name of the village that we went to, but it was tiny.  We went to a primary school and got to visit with the kids and take a look around their classrooms.  Imagine the barest of bare bones.  Other than a chalkboard, desks and writing tablets, the classrooms were cold and empty.  No books, no maps or posters on the walls, no clocks, no heaters and definitely no computers.  Their playground was a grass area with soccer posts. Pretty depressing.  Yet, the kids were an absolute delight.  They loved having foreign visitors and were begging to have their pictures taken so that they could look at themselves on the camera screen.  Most of them spoke very limited English, so we weren’t able to talk with them much, but it was a lot of fun meeting them and getting to see their environment. 

The schoolhouse in Lesotho.

School supplies in the classroom.

Some of the school children posing for a shot.

We left the van parked at the school and walked through the small village up into a mountain to have a picnic lunch and look at some rock art.  It was about a 45 minute hike in the pouring rain into the mountains to see this awesome rock art ~ which really wasn’t awesome at all.  Definitely not worth the effort to get there in the wind and rain. It looked like 3 red blobs on the rock.  Eric and I just stood there looking at each other thinking “seriously, we walked all this way for some red paint and scratches?”.  Certainly not the highlight of the day. 

Hiking up the trail.

We walked back down the mountain and went to a family’s house.  Again, the barest of bare bones.  Like all other families in the village, they lived in a round hut with 1 bed and a small counter for a few pots and bowls.  It was a cold day so they had a fire going in a bucket placed in the center of the room for people to gather around.  If I understood right, I believe 5 people lived in there, but since nobody had jobs several neighbors were there visiting.  I can’t imagine how they all manage in such a tiny space with absolutely no privacy.  They knew we were coming and had prepared a homemade beer for us to try.  First of all, I wasn’t super excited about drinking out of the same pitcher as about 20 other people and second of all, I wasn’t at all sure that whatever was in it was safe to drink. So, I took the tiniest of tiny sips and and was glad I didn’t take a mouth full!  Gross!  It was just really bad.  It was very grainy and tasted like flour and water mixed together.  Blah! 

Ugh!!! Disgusting!

We went back to the school where the van was parked and started to head to another village to watch some ladies making crafts.  But this detoured us: 

Anyone bring an innertube?

Yep, a washed out road.  There was no way our little African van was gonna get through that.  And, there was no way possible to turn around.  So, our driver did about the only thing he could do, which was to throw the van in reverse and drive backward up the winding dirt road of the mountain.  Now, I’m not much of a religious person, but I said some prayers.  This was perhaps one of the scariest things I’ve ever been a part of. Keep in mind that we’re in the 3rd poorest country in the world.  Their “roads” are nothing like ours.  Their’s are dirt tracks that have been shoveled out of the mountainside.  No shoulder, no safety barrier to keep you from going off the cliff, and god forbid if you should meet a car or even a donkey going the other direction cause theres no where to pull over and no way to pass.  Driving backward up this slick, wet “road” in a van that had bald tires and no seatbelts was absolutely terrifying!  A reminder of why I prefer 1st world countries to 3rd world countries! 

I do have to give kudos to our driver though, because he made it and got us back up the mountain without going over the side.  Whew!  I wasn’t about to go through something as scary as that again, so when we got to a large hill and saw another car get stuck trying to get up, I volunteered(and Eric followed) to lighten the load by getting out of the van and walking up. 

We didn’t get to watch the hand-made crafts, but we did get to sample some traditional African food.  Pap is ground corn and is a staple in the Southern countries of Africa.  It’s generally the main part of each and every meal and is mixed with some other vegetable like spinach or sweet potatoes.  It’s not bad, but it’s not tasty either and eating it 3 times a day I’m sure gets really old really quick! 

So that was about it for our Lesotho expedition.  The landscape of the country is really beautiful ~ lush green and mountainous.  The poverty of the country is really unimaginable.  Even though I saw it, I still don’t really believe it and truly can’t imagine what it would be like to live in such poverty.  Lesotho would be a wonderful place to go for volunteer work to help build homes, schools, or real roads!