Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Malealea to Semonkong, Lesotho . . . “Give me sweets”

We caught the 6am bus out of Sethlabathebe to the nearest border post at Qacha’s Nek, armed with elaborate excuses as to why we had been in the country illegally for 3 days. We were mentally prepared for separate interrogation, jail time, the threat of deportation, and the need for bribery (in that order). We were almost deflated when the biggest concern of the border official was where to find the tourist pamphlets to give us after she had stamped our passports- without question- despite our stammering and highly suspicious explanations.

Now legally in Lesotho we were able to relax for a night at Malealea lodge. A lovely place to stay apart from the company of one of the guests who felt the need to tell us that Africa was “going to hell” because “they were forcing the whites to leave”. This guy, visiting from South Africa, was (lucky Africa) staying put and not going to Australia "like all his friends". In South Africa he “managed people” because that was the “colonial way”. In Australia his friends “have to do all the work themselves[!] . . . they have to "milk their own f*&king cows” [accompanied by a look of horror]. We were equally horrified . . .

It seemed like an opportune moment to go for a hike to the gorge nearby. We were soon joined by a small population of children requesting that we give them sweets. When they saw they were not getting anywhere only the persistent continued. A 4 year old with an entrepreneurial spirit changed his approach and demanded: “give me money or I will beat you.” I offered myself up for a beating but he fled, equally panicked that I had called his bluff and that his appalled elder sister was going to beat him for delivering the threat.

Safely back at the lodge we decided to leave Malealea the next day for a three day pony trek to Semonkong lodge. I am not quite sure why they call it a pony trek because we were introduced by our guide to two very large horses the next morning. My first 24 hours went something like this: rode horse up and down narrow rocky mountain ridges; stifled screams while trying not to think about falling off; repeated the mantra ‘trust the horse trust the horse’ constantly; stopped at a village in the afternoon; walked to waterfall; back to village; cooked dinner; slept at village; dreamt about falling off the horse; woke at 5am; quizzed guide (again) about whether anyone had ever fallen off a horse on the trek (answer still wholly unsatisfactory- “just the Chinese”); remained unconvinced that my nationality would make me less likely to fall off the horse.

Days 2 and 3 more or less followed the pattern of the first day, but for two incidents. On day 2 during the walk to the second waterfall, I fell off a cliff. I have been known to exaggerate, but this time I really fell and it was really a cliff. Somehow I stopped myself tumbling down the cliff face by (gracefully) grabbing on to a bush on the way down. Not satisfied with one fall, on day 3 I came off the horse. [Note to self: Never trust the horse.] When it started bucking I was more panicked about my feet getting stuck in the stirrups than anything else. When the horse finally threw me I flew through the air with a strange sense of elation thinking – I’m free. I’m free. Elation over when I hit the ground. Again, no serious injuries. [Note to self: (1) Banana peel incident on the last day in London was definitely an omen, am now accident prone. (2) Cancel skydiving.]


Post a Comment

<< Home