January 2011 Edition 6

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image © www.aranda.co.za


Welcome to this edition of The Blanket Wrap

Blanket Wrap

Happy New year everyone and welcome to the 6th 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.

For many visitors, pony trekking is a fantastic way for seeing the beautiful countryside of Lesotho. So this month we take a look at the Basotho pony.

We congratulate Maliba Mountain Lodge on their award at the 2010 HICA awards.

And provide some information for all those adventurous souls out there who enjoy camping. Find out where to pitch your tent and what to take with you.

If you would like to know more about a particular subject in our future newsletters, please send the editor a quick email with your requests.

From the Editor

Basotho Blankets

The Basotho Pony

The horse is a source of pride in Lesotho and the Basotho are renowned as a nation of horsemen.

For generations, the sure-footed Basotho pony has been bred as the ideal form of transport in the rugged mountains. Even today, the pony is still the most effective means of reaching the more inaccessible mountain villages.Basotho pony treking in Lesotho

Pony trekking holidays on the hardy Basotho ponies are immensely popular and a fantastic way of exploring Lesotho's beautiful rugged terrain as the bridle paths that criss-cross Lesotho are barely wide enough for vehicles but the ponies effortlessly dodge obstacles and loose rocks.

The oldest Sesotho word for horse is “khomo-ea-haka”, which means “livestock called haka” (Hacqua is Khoi for horse). There is no original word in Sesotho for horse, and by the 1950’s the word “pere”, derived from the Dutch and Afrikaans “perd”, was common.

The ponies (only about 14 hands high) are renowned for their stamina, surefootedness and gentle nature. The hardiness of the ponies is attributed to the fact that the Basotho don’t pamper their horses. In order to survive the harsh environment, the Basotho Pony developed particular genetic characteristics such as the ability to endure extremes of temperatures and live on variable quality grazing. It developed thick-walled hooves to negotiate the mountain terrain, an ability to triple (tripling is a two-time lateral gait, slightly faster than a trot, in which fore and hind legs on the same side work together), a relatively docile temperament, intelligence and good speed.

The Basotho pony and rider

Most horses are descendants of the Cape boerperde (Javanese horses of a strong Persian and Arab strain) that King Moshoeshoe “the Great” and his Basotho subjects traded, bought and occasionally stole in the 1830’s. By the early 20th century the breed has almost disappeared due to exportation and crossbreeding.

The 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War saw 30,000 Basotho Ponies sent to war and the post-war gelding of horses belonging to the losing side. The breed rapidly deteriorated and numbers dwindled due to cross-breeding, the 1902 blizzard, illnesses, and poor management of the breed. By the 1950's the breed was facing extinction and a 1975 study show the marked effect of cross-breeding on the Basotho Pony. 8 May 1973 was when Ireland decided to establish the Basotho Pony Project and with cooperation with Lesotho developed the National Stud (Thaba-Tseka) in 1978.

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Current News - Maliba wins Gold at HICA

Lesotho Kids

The fourth instalment of the Hospitality Investment Conference Africa (HICA) ended on a high note on 2nd November 2010, with a sleek lunch event held at the Sandton Sun Hotel, Johannesburg.

Stephen Phakisi at HICA awards

Previously called the Tourism Business Awards, the HICA Awards have become synonymous with the celebration of excellence in Hospitality. They recognise and reward companies and individuals who have made an extraordinary contribution in lifting the profile of the Travel and Tourism sector as well as the Hospitality as a sub-sector, through promoting growth, investment, innovation.

Maliba Mountain Lodge is proud to accept the award in the “Best New Non-Hotel Tourism Investment” during the 2010 HICA Awards ceremony.

“This is indeed a great honour and privilege for us to be considered fit to even be nominated let alone being the finalist.” Mr. Stephen Phakisi (Maliba Lodge Director)
Stephen Phakisi accepting HICA award

Finalists in the category Best New Non-Hotel Tourism Investment are Maliba Lodge in Lesotho, the East London International Convention Centre and the new 6th floor of the Sandton Sun Hotel.

The Best New Non-Hotel Tourism Investment Award is a new category for the HICA Awards and has been introduced in recognition of the many high quality submissions of accommodation establishments made in previous years that could not be considered under the ‘New Hotel Investment’ category. Nominees for this award will include quality accommodation establishments such as lodges which have contributed to increased local and international investment into these types of products. The criteria used to assess nominations will include size of the project, functionality and fit with target markets, responsible tourism practice an impact on the wider community.

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Village life with Juliana - American Peace Corps


Settling in: Salads and a radio

I’ve now been in Lesotho for almost six months, and in my village for three and a half.  It’s taken a while, but I finally feel at home.  My work has developed, so that I have two tasks to do everyday.  Being busy and productive has made a big difference on how content I feel.

Juliana Fulton - Lesotho

On an average day I’m woken up by my host family calling to each other and getting ready as early as 6am, but I don’t get up till 7.  I then spend a little time cleaning and then an hour or two working in the garden.  Usually I get dirty enough that I have to take a bucket bath.  But since it’s hot it is a lot more pleasant than it was in the winter.  I then read a bit and review my lesson plan for the day before walking for an hour or so to school.  I teach life skills for one period and then meet with the agriculture group.  Lately we’ve been planting, but before that we spent most meetings planning, writing needs assessments, and developing a seasonal calendar.

I believe I am making a difference in my life skills classes, most of the kids had a very limited knowledge of HIV/AIDS.  But in the agriculture clubs, I can actually see the difference, and see the plants grow, it has been very rewarding.

As I settle into a routine with work I’ve also become much better at filling my free time.  Without electricity, TV and computers I used to spend a lot of time just sitting and looking at the mountains, which was pleasant but pretty boring.  Now I’ve taken up knitting and have started a garden, which has been a lot of fun.  I’m trying to grow greens that you can’t get in Lesotho, they don’t have uncooked salads here.  I can’t wait to have a nice green salad!

One of my favorite parts about my village are the children, they come and visit me almost every day. I have gotten some colored pencils and now they sit outside my door and color, much nicer than just standing there and staring at me.  And the rains have started, so everything is green.  The peaches on the peach trees have started to ripen.  And a waterfall that wasn’t there in the winter, started up a couple of weeks ago.  I woke up to the sound of new waterfalls and a very full river, at first I thought my fan was one, then I realized I have no fan, and no electricity to run a fan.Lesotho Children Colouring books

And it’s gotten hot here, my house is on a hillside and gets a nice breeze, but the walk to the schools is very sweaty.  The weather here in summer is very dramatic, it hails on a weekly basis and I have twice seen lightening strike a nearby mountain and set it on fire.

While I still have my frustrating moments, I’m very happy here and feel settled.  Two years still sounds like a long time, but not as frighteningly long as it did before.  One of my frustrating moments happened two weeks ago when was trying to handle two six-week old puppies in my purse on a bus.  They were being a handful and a woman who I’d never seen before came up to me and told me to give her my puppy.  I said no, not unless she gave me one of her cattle.  She was quiet for a while after that, then saw that I had two puppies, and said that I needed to give her one since I had two.

My patience in Lesotho has been surprisingly good, a lot better than at home, I think it’s because I get so much sleep.  But I ran out of patience at that moment and just ignored her.  It’s a cultural difference, here you don’t say “please can you lend me,” you say “I’m asking for” or “give me,” I’m still getting used to it.  I think politeness is a cultural subtlety that is very difficult to grasp.  I probably have been impolite myself without realizing it.

Last week I got a radio!  Its screen might not work and it only gets a few stations, but it has been wonderful. I spent a very pleasant evening last week sitting watching the sunset behind the mountains with my host sister listening to old American R&B.

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4x4 - Get ONTO the beaten track in Lesotho

Rainbow Trout

The mountain kingdom of Lesotho offers some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes anywhere in Southern Africa. Lesotho is a fascinating country to travel around by vehicle, with the mountainous terrain offering 4x4 enthusiasts hundreds of exciting rugged routes through the countryside.

Katse Dam

There are no fences in Lesotho and the wildlife have the freedom to roam about where they wish, the most common are mountain reedbuck, rhebok, eland, baboon, jackals, meerkat and mongooses.Lesotho is definitely a place to let go and feel free, breathe in the pure air and enjoy the local people and their culture.

You “should” have no problem sleeping outdoors in designated camping areas or remote places (bush camping) along the way, but get into the habit of locking things away before you go to sleep. Tourists may camp or caravan almost anywhere in Lesotho, provided they first obtain permission from the local chief. It is often possible also to overnight in a spare village rondavel/hut, again with the permission of the village chief.

sunrise at Sehlabathebe NP

Although most people have very little problems, it still pays to take precautions. When in towns and villages not to leave your vehicle open and unattended, this goes for your campsites as well.

Being Prepared!

There are no big-brand supermarkets along most of the camping routes, but you can usually get basic supplies in the towns / villages along the way. Meat is not always available in the more remote areas so bring substitutes. Most village shops will sell onions, tomatoes, potatoes, bread, sugar, salt and oil. Most travellers from South Africa tend to buy everything before they arrive in Lesotho but you can buy just about anything you need for your journey in the Captial Maseru or some of the larger towns.

Lesotho Village shops

Take lots of drinking water. Always have at least twenty litres of drinking water in the vehicle at all times as well as spare jerry cans of petrol. It is best to boil all water before drinking it.

Be fully equipped for spending the night with no facilities at all except perhaps a nearby river. Have a bucket for washing pots and clothes, all cooking gear and all the food you need for the whole journey.

Take a good cooler box or 12V fridge. (You can buy cold beers along the way at almost any village tavern.)

Don't forget good torches and lanterns, plus batteries.

Wood is scarce, so bring your own and be aware of the environment when making campfires.


Pack gear for all weather conditions, including snow. Lesotho is well known for being able to throw four seasons at travellers in a single day. If travelling in winter (June/July), snow chains would be invaluable. January/February are arguably the best months to go as the summer rains have past and the weather is calmer.

Camping sites and co-ordinates in Lesotho!

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Picture of the Month

This was my first time visiting Southern Africa, and what a trip to turned out to be.

Maliba Lodge Snow

Maliba Lodge was the finale of a trip that saw me visiting Cape Town and Hluhluwe. At the end of the lunch on my last day, the Besotho staff filed out onto the deck under the veranda and performed 4 traditional songs for their guests, to the background accompaniment of an early afternoon thunderstorm. After their performance they were kind enough to pose as a group for me to snap a few photos.

Maliba Lodge peak cap

What an amazing country, I can't wait to come back!

A big thank you to Rohan for sending us this image. Rohan 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


Upcoming events

January Highlights

28th Jan - Crocs Rock Race

February Highlights

4th-11th Feb - Bells Yellowfish Challenge

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Joke of the month


Joke of the month

A calorie-conscious woman drove past a bakery and saw some gorgeous Christmas cookies.

She decided to pray about it:  "Lord, if you want me to have some of those delicious cookies, let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery."

And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!

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