November 2010 Edition 4


 
image © www.aranda.co.za

 
 

Welcome to this edition of The Blanket Wrap

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Blanket Wrap

Welcome to the 4th 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.

Making the news this month was the massive veld fire that swept through the Ts'ehlanyane National Park. Maliba Mountain Lodge narrowly escaped the blaze.

Lesotho is well known for the Highland Water Project that supplies water to Gauteng. But did you know that the Royale Highland Trout that you find in various retails stores throughout South Africa, are farmed in Lesotho as well?

Feel like a run through the mountains? The Sani Stagger is just one of the many events and festivals being held in November.

If you have any suggestions / comments or contributions, please send them through to us so that we can make this the best source of information on Lesotho for our readers.

From the Editor

Basotho Woman

The History of the Basotho Blanket

Nowadays the Basotho tribal blanket is such a common sight in Lesotho, that tourists tend to assume that it was a local invention. However, its origins can be traced back to the European traders and missionaries as far back as the 1800s. The popularity and assimilation of the blankets by the Basotho people can be traced back to one single incident.Sketch of King Moshoeshoe I by Eugène Casalis

Ablanket was presented to the then King, King Moshoeshoe I in 1860 by a man by the name of Mr. Howel. The King was by all accounts quite taken with the blanket ("a handsome railway wrapper made of light blue pilot cloth, heavy and hairy") and wore the blanket in preference to his then neglected traditional leopard skin karosses.

The blanket has become part of not only their everyday life but as a status symbol. To outsiders it became a mark of ethnicity and therefore a token of cultural identification. In fact Lesotho is the only nation south of the Sahara that illustrates the culture of an entire nation through such an individualistic item such as the tribal blanket.

Up to approximately 600 years ago furs, skins and even dried grass were used to keep out the cold during the winter months. By 1860 it was becoming more difficult to procure sufficient skins for Karosses and by 1872 many of the old sheepskin covers had been replaced by crudely made cotton or woollen blankets. Several historians and writers refer to natural disasters, such as continual droughts and the exceptionally cold winter of 1902 (the great snow), as well as the “Rinderpest” outbreak of 1897. These events depleted the wild and domestic animals of Lesotho and the disasters continued well into the twentieth century.Badges of the Brave traditional blanket

The visible stripes on the blankets are known as “pin-stripes”. According to historical records these 1cm stripes originally came about as a weavers fault. Instead of correcting this fault, the manufacturer shipped them with the “pin-stripe” which subsequently became a traditional feature.

The traditional blankets differ from most modern blankets in that they are almost entirely made of wool (88% wool and 12% cotton), hence their rougher and firmer texture.

 

You can read the entire article on our blog.

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Current News - Fire at Ts'ehlanyane National Park

HRH Prince Seeiso and his wife

A Disaster was narrowly averted in Ts’ehlanyane National Park on Saturday (26 September 2010), as a major veld fire swept through the Park, narrowly missing the Maliba Mountain Lodge. Details are unclear as to the exact origins of the fire, but it is believed to have been started by a group of local villagers wanting to use the Soccer pitch that is situated within the Park.

Veld Fire at Maliba Lodge in Ts'ehlanyane National ParkThe Park has had typical weather for August-September, with late winds and little rain fall. The very dry prevailing conditions of the park’s vegetation, together with strong winds proved the perfect mix for disaster, fanning the fire on its destructive path.

Although the burning of fire breaks forms part of the Parks yearly fire prevention activities, the fire-breaks proved ineffectual in preventing the rapid spread of the blaze. Out of control fires are rarely controllable even with a collective effort by many individuals.The Fire burning through the night at Maliba Lodge

For four straight days, staff, guests (Mr & Mrs Govender and Scott Wilson), local villagers, police and army personal from the local Khabo base, fought to save the lodge and other park facilities from the hungry flames. It was a frantic and stressful time for those involved and has caused significant damage to the parks vegetation. Locals say that this was the worst fire in living memory to have affected the area.

 

Fire burning around Maliba LodgeMaliba Lodge would also like to pay a special thank you, to both Minister Lebohang Ntsinyi (Minister of Tourism) and Stanley Damane (Director of NES), for coming out to Ts’ehlanyane to monitor and assess the devastation.

Stanley Damane in particular must be thanked for his forethought in summoning the fire brigade who greatly assisted in controlling the fires around the lodge’s infrastructure.

As you may well know, the Ts’ehlanyane National Park was home to one of the finest examples of Che-che (Ouhout), woodland, with a number of rare undergrowth plants that are unique to this woodland habitat. On the banks of the rivers and streams are stands of “berg bamboo” in addition to a very rare mountain "fynbos" that doesn’t occur anywhere else in the world. The diversity of habitat types is exceptionally high and derived from the large altitudinal range that the park has.

A Large area of the park has burnt which has affected many of the walking trails but with the fire, comes a rebirth of the landscape. With the current rains the park is experiencing it is expected that there will be a rapid rebirth of the parks flora and it should be a great time to view wild flowers and other unique features of the park that will be more accessible than ever. The park is still a great place to visit.

The lodge suffered some minor property loss as a result of the fire. Apart from three staff quarters and some damage to the water storage tank, the lodge escaped remarkably unscathed. The lodge remains open for business as usual.

If you have any queries or concerns, please Maliba Mountain Lodge and we’ll be happy to get back to you at the soonest possible time.

It is now also possible to view images directly from the Maliba Lodge webcam (updated every 5 minutes)

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The Sani Stagger Endurance Race

Prince Seeiso and Prince Harry

 

The Sani Stagger is known as 'The Ultimate Endurance Race” and is an annual event run along the famous Sani Pass in the Southern Drakensberg.  A famous entry point into Lesotho from South Africa's Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, the Sani Pass is also the location for the Sani Stagger endurance race. It comprises a tough 42km marathon and a more sedate 21km half marathon. Organised by the local Sani Athletic Club, under the rules of both Athletics South Africa and KwaZulu Natal Athletics, it has become a sought after and 'must do' race on any racers calendar.

The magnificent Sani Pass climbs through a narrow valley cut deep in the rock by the Mkhomozana River, steeply zigzagging its way up the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m above sea level. The pass was originally developed as a bridal path in 1913, where it remains an important and historic trade route into the Eastern Highlands of Lesotho. The first vehicle negotiated the path in 1948, when it was no more than a boulder littered donkey track. It is now used for the most part by 4x4 vehicles and has become a highlight for tourists visiting the Southern Drakensberg. For runners it is one of Africa’s most unique athletic experiences.Sani Pass summit at sunset

The Sani Stagger Marathon has been ranked by the Runner’s World race judges as a well organised and well presented event. Since the initiation of their ranking system, it has often voted as one of South Africa’s top ten marathons. In 2007 it was regarded as the country’s second best marathon. In 2007 it was also voted as the second best race overall.

The marathon starts from the Sani Pass Hotel at 06h00 (Full) and the half marathon starts at the Lesotho border post at 09h00. Runners competing in the half marathon will be transported to the top of the pass. The cut-off time for the marathon is 06:30 and the half marathon is 03:30.

To say the climb to the turning point is hard is an understatement. The scramble up to the Sani Pass Summit is over 1300 metres in just 21.1 kilometres. By the time you reach the halfway mark a mere 280 metres has been accomplished, with a literal mountain to go. The border post at 1968 meters above sea level may well mark the start of the real climb, hang on, things are going to get interesting.

Twin Streams comes and goes as does Suicide Bend, Ice Corner and Big Bend Corner. This may well be a race for the hardened, but if the daunting hill does not take your breath away, certainly the majesty and splendour of the Natal Drakensburg will. Going down the same road is almost a bit harder, considering the rocky and winding road surface you’re running on. All finishers receive medals.

The organising couple Clive and Trish Crawley really know what they’re doing. Being South African running icons themselves (Clive is Comrades Ultra marathon record holder with 43 finishes; Trish is the only female in South Africa who has done Marathons on all 7 continents) they are the perfect persons to organise this small but challenging race. So take a walk/run on the wild side, and go to South Africa’s Sani pass, it won’t be a disappointment!

Entry Details: On-line entries are accepted from 1st July on www.sanistagger.com.

Please be aware that runners do not require passports unless they are staying overnight in Lesotho, as they will then need to go through the South African and Lesotho Border posts.

You can read the entire article on our blog.

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Water - liquid gold

Rainbow Trout

The Drakensberg-Maloti Highlands are highly valued in southern Africa for their rivers’ excellent water quality and high water yield. These rivers provide water to large areas of South Africa. The region encompasses the whole of Lesotho, excluding the westernmost lowland areas. It also includes small parts of South Africa just south and north of Lesotho.Katse Dam Wall

The Lesotho Highlands Water Project is one of the largest and most intricate construction projects currently underway in the world. The components included in the project tend to vary from one report to another but in general the total project was originally envisaged to transfer 70 m3/s from the upper portions of the Lesotho Highlands into the Vaal River basin thus supplying Gauteng with water.

After due diligence and a careful environmental impact assessment was concluded, the modern trout farming operation was started with passion and involvement of skilled aqua- culturists, investors and the local Ha Lejone village members.

Katse Fish FarmsThe Katse Fish Farm project was born, working with nature in the pristine waters of the Kaste Lake in the Highlands of Lesotho. The Katse Fish Farm project (the only commercial fish farm in Lesotho) is currently producing 300 tons of trout per year.

Fish farming plays a very important role in the development of the fisheries sector in Lesotho. The potential for aquaculture development has increased as a result of the current and planned water development projects.

“Fishing was never part of traditional life in this landlocked country of goat and cattle herders, but the Katse Fish Farm is opening up new doors.” The Honourable Monyane Moleketi (Minister of Natural Resources)

Due to differences in altitude Lesotho has two distinct fish farming zones. These are: the lowlands, where temperatures are relatively high, and the highlands, characterized by cold climatic conditions. Trout, like their salmon cousins in the Scottish Highlands, require clean and cold, well-oxygenated, fast-moving water at a high altitude, which is exactly what Lesotho’s Katse reservoir offers. It has proved so successful that there are plans afoot to start a hatchery there and eventually to grow the capacity to 1200 tons of fish (up from the current 300 tons produced each year).

Why fish farming? Global fish consumption has increased five-fold in the last five decades, resulting in aquaculture now being the fastest growing sustainable food production sector in the world. Global sales are estimated at $80 billion. This demand for fish cannot be met by natural fisheries and therefore the expansion of aquaculture in inevitable. The Aquaculture sector has set itself apart in global food production, due to its continued innovation and the lead role it plays as major component of the future green economy. Africa has superb natural and human resources, but the participation of Africa in the global aquaculture sector is lacking. The Katse project in the Lesotho Highlands can become a regional leader in aquaculture.Rainbow trout fry

Trout eggs are hatched in the clear streams of the Franschhoek Mountains, then raised in the Lesotho Highlands, in the pure, cold, free-flowing waters of the Katse dam. These ideal conditions result in humanely farmed fish that are strong, lean, healthy and delicious.

The fry start their journey in Franschhoek at the Three Stream Salmon and Trout Farm.

"The fry will stay in the nursery cages for two to three weeks to get accustomed to the water and to grow to about 30 grams in size," Gregory Stubbs explains. "Then they are moved to the large floating pens, where they will stay for about 12 months before returning to Three Streams Smokehouse to be processed."

Packed Lesotho trout ready for transport Transporting live fish (fry) from the low altitudes of Franschhoek, to altitudes over 3000 meters above sea level in the highlands of Lesotho has proved to be difficult. A total of 360,000 fry are transported to Katse using a system of four cohorts per annum, after it was discovered to be impossible to transport the full amount of fry in a single trip. A cohort of 100,000 fry would normally result in 80,000 harvest size fish of 1.3kg (104 tons production).

The various value added products of trout originating from Katse Fish Farms are available a top retailers in Southern Africa such as Woolworths, SPAR and certain Pick n Pay stores including Maseru Pick n Pay. Katse Fish Farms in addition is also supplying Ocean Basket, Lesotho Sun, Maseru Sun, Maliba Mountain Lodge and Bensons with fresh trout.

A happy by-product of the fish farm has been a major boost for subsistence fishing in the area. This is not only from escapees that now populate the dam but also because resident fish benefit from the regular feeding. Fishermen are now almost guaranteed a regular catch.

It seems that the old adage "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for life" should be altered to include "Teach a man to farm fish and you create prosperity for all." (ALMA VIVIERS)

You can read the entire article on our blog.

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Picture of the Month

 

Guide Lucky and his brother - Malealea, Lesotho

Our last visit to Lesotho started at the beautiful Malealea lodge where we stayed 4 days.

We love hiking and usually hire guides in order to learn more about the country while discovering the country on foot. Our guide was named LUCKY...his Basotho name was very long and complicated to pronounce, thus the guides tend to use their English names. Lucky is 22 years old and has for the past 2 or 3 years been working as a guide at Malealea. He loves his work and it grants him and his family a small income. Even though Lucky is still relatively young, he is full of knowledge and wonderfully skilled as a guide.

First we headed down into the Pitseng Gorge where we met a group of young shepherd boys which included his little brother. This young boy was shy, but very charming. Lucky agreed to let me snap a quick picture of him and his little brother seated in the mountainous terrain.

After arriving in the wonderful Pitseng Gorge, we ascended the steep tail leading out onto the Pitseng tableau. Lucky gave us assistance by carrying our backpacks and setting the right pace when he felt that we got out of breath. Boy these Basotho guys are strong and in excellent physical condition. We finished the long hike by viewing some of the amazing Bushmen paintings in the area. Lucky explained the story of the san people and the story behind every painting. It was a long hike of about 7 hours, during which we learnt a lot about the country, the Basotho people and their traditions.

Back at Malealea, I promised Lucky to come back to Lesotho with a pair of proper hiking boots for him (While we were well equipped, he had very poor shoes for the job as a mountain guide). Upon our return to Germany, we've bought a good pair of hiking boots for Lucky and will be back in Lesotho later this year, where we hope to present them to him.Maliba Lodge peak cap

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

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Upcoming Festivals and Events

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Upcoming events

November Highlights

7th Nov - Fouriesburg Rose Show
14th Nov - Fouriesburg - Ventersberg Challenge
18-20th Nov - Ficksburg Cherry Festival
20th Nov - Ficksburg Cherry MTB Challenge
25th Nov - The Roof of Africa – Enduro Race
27th Nov - The Sani Stagger

December Highlights

4th Dec - High Altitude Summer Marathon

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Joke of the month

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Joke of the month

CONFUCIUS SAY. . .

A Lion will not betray his wife.... But a Tiger Wood.

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