December 2010 Edition 5


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Welcome to this edition of The Blanket Wrap

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Blanket Wrap

Welcome to the 5th edition of Blanket Wrap. The newsletter where you are kept up-to-date with all the news and views of the magnificent mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Christmas is around the corner and many families are planning holidays away, maybe even to Lesotho......? Wherever you go this festive season, travel safely and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

This month we continue with our Basotho Blanket series, only this time we show you how to wear the Basotho blanket like a real Basotho.

We explore "Lesotho's Natural Heritage" of its National Parks and Nature Reserves.

And provide some information for all those 4x4 drivers out there who have yet to "get onto the beaten track" during their explorations around Lesotho.

From the Editor

Basotho Blankets

How to wear the Basotho Blanket

  1. Hold the blanket with the correct side for your gender facing outwards. If you're male, wear the darker side out. If you're a female, the lighter side should be on the outside. Ensure that the stripes are vertical and that the tag is at the bottom.
  2. Fold the blanket over at the top so that the blanket will not be too large on you when you wear it.
  3. Keeping the correct side facing outwards, drape the blanket over yourself so that the opening of the blanket is on your right side. If you're female, however, the opening should be in front of you. Remember to keep the stripes vertical, the correct side out, and the tag at the bottom.
  4. Pin the blanket at your right shoulder or front, depending on your gender. If you're male, pin it so that the pin is not visible. This can be tricky.

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Current News - Lesotho's Natural Heritage

Lesotho Kids

The National parks and reserves of Lesotho are just as diverse that the country itself. Sehlabathebe boasts open grassland, lakes and striking rock formations. Ts’ehlanyane is awe-inspiring with its indigenous forests, wildlife and dominating mountain peaks. Bokong is perched high above Katse Dam and offers uninterrupted views of the Lepaqoa Valley, while Liphofung has unique cultural and historical significance.

All of Lesotho’s parks and reserves are part of The Maloti-Drakensberg Transfontier Conservation and Development Project (MDTP). This is a collaborative initiative between South Africa and the Kingdom of Lesotho to protect the exceptional biodiversity of the Drakensberg and Maloti mountains through conservation. This includes, Golden Gate highlands National Park, Qwa Qwa Nature reserve, Sterkfontein Dam Nature reserve, Royal Natal National Park and the Malekgonyane (Ongeluksnek) Nature Reserve.

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Village life with Juliana - American Peace Corps

Juiliana

I’ve been teaching and working at the local schools in rural Lesotho for six weeks now, walking up to seven miles a day while rotating between the schools.  Teaching has been going very well, but at first it was overwhelming. 

The first class I taught had over 120 students in it, the principal wanted grades 4 through 7 to attend the first class.  I had not prepared for that many students and had to improvise my lesson.  I talked to the principal after class and we agreed that I would just teach life skills to 6th and 7th grades, still close to 50 students, but much more manageable.  The kids are very receptive and ask a lot of questions. 

The younger students have trouble with English, but luckily at the two primary schools at least one teacher attends my class and is able to translate (while at the same time learning how to teach life skills themselves).  At the secondary school the teachers are much less involved, but the students are more advanced and have been really great.

Life skills cover topics such as HIV/AIDS, self-empowerment, gender, reproductive health, etc.  I often sound like a cliché after school special, overly simplifying everything so that the students can understand.  One of my classes was on self-esteem, for the next week kids in my village would come up to me and say “I love myself!”  I’m not sure if they understood, but it was nice to hear.

Bible in Lesotho schools

I think the most progress I’ve made is with the anonymous question box.  In it students admit to not understanding a concept from class or ask questions about AIDS.  Some of the questions are really tough and heartbreaking.  I got one this week where a girl said when she told her boyfriend/husband that she was HIV positive he beat her and asked what she should do.  I feel like I am helping these kids, but there is a big difference between teaching them to know what they should do and actually having them do it.

I’ve had mixed results with my teachers’ workshops.  Probably the most frustrating week I’ve had so far was after leading two teacher workshops where only half the teachers showed up (even though they were all on school grounds) and only one out of three or five paid any attention.  These teachers are in the best position to help the students and it was upsetting to feel like they just didn’t care. 

But I had one amazing teachers’ workshop where all but one of the teachers showed up, not only did they pay attention they actually took notes and asked questions.  This was at the school where the teachers seem to care the most, but ironically also beat the most.  While I was explaining the life skills no-beating, positive reinforcement strategies the teachers asked if it would work in all of their classes as well.  They are going to try not beating and using the life skills classroom management techniques. 

It might take a while to actually work, but it was really exciting to be a part of such a positive change.

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4x4 - Get ONTO the beaten track in Lesotho

Rainbow Trout

The Lesotho Highlands offer some of the most fantastic off road driving you will encounter anywhere in Southern Africa. It is full of beautiful mountain passes and deep river valleys with tremendous scenery where ever you look.

Since Lesotho is so mountainous, 4x4 vehicles make many parts of Lesotho far more accessible to the Lesotho traveller. Sani Pass for example, is a spectacular mountain road and well-known entry point into Lesotho from South Africa's KwaZulu Natal Drakensberg. Known as the gateway to the 'Roof of Africa' scenic route, it links the spectacular scenery of the Drakensberg with the Maluti Mountains of northern Lesotho. Once at the top, visitors can have lunch at the highest pub in Southern Africa, Sani Top Chalets.

The roads and passes themselves offer varying challenges and can test driver and vehicle alike. This is particularly true, as Lesotho can cycle through all four seasons in a single day leaving conditions varied and in places difficult. The winter season (June to August) see the greatest chance of snow in the Lesotho Highlands, so be sure to have a couple of snow chains available if you are tackling the more difficult passes, just in case.

There are a number a passes in Lesotho that the avid 4x4 driver can/must tackle, most of which are located in the central region south of Mohale Dam. They are Sani Pass, Black Mountain Pass, Mokhoabong pass, CheChe Pass, Blue Moutain Pass, God Melp Me pass, Baboon Pass, Tlaeeng Pass (highest road pass in Southern Africa), Matebeng and the Moteng pass. There are many more to explore on your 4x4 adventures in Lesotho.

Baboon's Pass

25km/h is generally considered a good guide for planning trips, if conditions are good and you can up it that speed to 50km/h. But with the views that the Mountain Kingdom presents you with around every bend, the best advice is to take your time and enjoy it.

Finding reliable sources of fuel can be patchy at best, so it is best to top up as you go and keep a full jerry-can, just in case you arrive at a petrol station only to find that its tanks are as dry as your own.

There are a number of guides and tour operators that can organise 4x4 tours into the majestic Drakensberg and Maluti mountains of the Lesotho highlands.

You just have to decide what you plan to do. Many people simply take a day trip up Sani Pass and then down again to Himeville/Underburg. While others plan a more adventurous multi-day tour, choosing to visit Katse Dam, the various National parks, or ride the native Basotho ponies before exiting Lesotho on the opposite side from which they entered (Fouriesburg/Ficksburg).

If 4x4s aren't your particular brand of motoring fun, the "Roof of Africa" challenge (End of November) may be just the ticket. Over the past 42 years, this motor biking event has transformed itself from a long distance race with trucks, motorcycles and buggies into an Extreme Enduro suited only for dirt bikes. Today, the best riders from around the world come to the Kingdom of Lesotho to battle the challenging terrain in hopes of etching their name into history.

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Picture of the Month

 

Maliba Lodge Snow

I've always heard about the wonders of a Lesotho winter with the landscape blanketed in Snow. Snow is Africa is something that's almost unheard of, so it was a surprise when we woke up to this special view.

It was unfortunate that the park was still showing signs of fire damage but this only served to create a stark contrast to the fresh snow fall that covered the mountain peaks all around the lodge. Already there are signs of new spring growth so that it somewhat resembles a peppermint crisp.

The Manager of Maliba Lodge, Andrew informed us that this was the heaviest snow they've had all year, even if it was somewhat out of season.

The five star friendly treatment, service, accomadation and chef's food is something to mention – it is a five star lodge to the fullest!

We had a wonderful time at Maliba and this late season snow fall was just that proverbial cherry on top of what was already a magical weekend.

Story and Photo by Ammie Snyman
Maliba Lodge peak cap

A big thank you to Ammie for sending us this image. Ammie has won herself a Maliba Mountain Lodge peak cap which we will be sending to her shortly.

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Upcoming Festivals and Events

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Upcoming events

December Highlights

4th Dec - High Altitude Summer Marathon

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Joke of the month

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Joke of the month

In case you didn't know... Women are like Angels.

When someone breaks our wings....

We simply continue to fly....

On a broomstick....

"We're very flexible like that"

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Ts'ehlanyane National Park Bokong Nature Reserve Sehlabathebe