With love from Lesotho
Wanda, our trusted steed, is packed to the brim and muffins at the ready for the seemingly unexpected hunger pangs, we take to the open road with glee. To avoid Maseru, the chaotic concrete jungle, my friend, Ayanda Hoho, and I enter the country at Van Rooyen’s Gate, and get our stamps without delay.
Though the border is merely 132km from Bloemfontein, and Malealea, our destination, only 74km from the border, the ways are narrow and the last 10km is a rocky rollercoaster, for a Toyota Etios anyway. This is our second visit to Malealea.
We arrive at midnight; a slight improve-ment on our first time – 3:50am. For some reason we simply can’t seem to make the road to Malealea Lodge in daylight. Yet again the two of us navigate the unchartered roads of Lesotho at night, the Maluti Mountains tempting us all the way.
Regardless of the ungodly hour, we have a warm welcome waiting; the gatekeeper smiles as we drive to our spot and a staff member happily carries our many bags into the room. The candle is lit (power is cut at 10pm to save the scarce and precious resource acquired through solar panels) and a hot shower awaits.
An immediate sense of tranquillity washes over us. We’re home.
Like family who have come to know and love you just the way you are, management has reminded the cleaning ladies not to bother us for the day, knowing full well we would arrive in the afternoon and sleep through most of our first day.
There’s a quiet that seeps into your bones, a stillness that calms that which the chaos of this world tries to smother. We allow this quiet, this stillness, to sink in and we cut ourselves off from the outside world. We are in a different country after all. Our first day is like jumping headfirst into an ice-cold pool on a blazing hot day – we have no time for the big-toe, bit-by-bit method.
At 5am we hear the Basotho musicians’ heartfelt welcome outside our window. The choir’s “Dumela” touches our spirits – the part of us that knows we are one, regardless of the colour of our skin or the language we speak. Malealea Lodge knows visiting Lesotho means being immersed in the Basotho culture, that it means connecting.
A place that celebrates the powerful simplicity that these majestic mountains offer, the lodge creates a space to simply be, regardless of who you are. Be in the moment, be quiet, be among people who are just as inquisitive and appreciative of what is as different as you are, be immersed in nature, and be overwhelmed by the purest beauty.
Visitors who seek to truly explore have their thirst quenched here, and have a variety of ways to do so. Something as simple as a walk in the village does something to you, with the smell of freshly cooked samp and beans, and the giggle of schoolchildren playing in the street, taking root in your heart.
Then you have the option of going on bike trails, hikes, or even pony treks to experience Lesotho. The chance to get on a Basotho pony, strong, resilient and feisty steeds, and wander to neighbouring villages is not only a key attraction but a wonderful way in which this lodge supports surrounding communities. Not only do you get to experience parts of the world few get to see, you are allowed into the lives of the Basotho people – a humble and friendly nation.
With a keen awareness of their place in this system, the team from Malealea Lodge has the utmost respect for the community and the environment; realising these people have much less to give than to receive. Feeding over 60 mouths a day and supporting local tourism by drawing international crowds, the staff members know they are nothing without the knowledge and hard work of the locals.
This respect and reverence make this establishment more than just a tourist destination tapping the locals and the environment for all they’re worth, it’s a place of refuge for both resident and traveller. The lodge mirrors a key characteristic unheard of by most – ubuntu. “I am who I am because of you” has no place for greed or selfish intent, and neither does Malealea Lodge. Hence, the people who come here are different.