MARCH 2011 Edition 8

Aranda Basotho Blankets

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Welcome The "Lesotho" Blanket Wrap

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Blanket Wrap

Welcome to the 8th edition of the Blanket Wrap, The newsletter where you are kept up-to-date with all the news and views of the magnificent mountain kingdom of Lesotho. In this edition:

The Sani Pass has become synonymous with Lesotho but do you know how the pass came to be?

The 11th of March marks the 141st anniversary of King Moshoeshoe's death. Find out more about this remarkable leader and his story.

Katse dam is more than just a fantastic monument to man's engineering achievements. For tourists there is also a tour of the structure and botanical gardens to keep the whole family entertained.

Have something to add? Get involved and send a quick email with your thoughts and requests to the editor.

From the Editor

History of Sani Pass

History of the Sani Pass

As most Lesotho adventure travelers are aware the Sani Pass is a must do on their travels around this little known country. Sani Pass is the only access from KwaZulu Natal to the Lesotho Highlands, the domain of the endangered Bearded Vulture, Basotho shepherds and their animals.

This steep zigzagging pass climbs the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m. It’s generally not a difficult drive in any modern 4x4 vehicle and is a wonderfully scenic drive, if the weather plays its part.

Approaching Sani Top

Early days

The Sani Pass was originally developed as a bridal path in 1913 which was primarily used as a trade route between South Africa and Mokhotlong. All goods were carried by pack mule.

The drivers usually had spare beasts on hand to replace any laggards that they’d push over the edge after shifting their loads to the reserves. In those early days Sani was easily identifiable from afar because of the vultures and Lammergeiers that circled above awaiting their next meal.

The Sani Pass was opened in 1948 by an ex Spitfire pilot called Godfrey Edmonds, who On the 26 October 1948, aided by labourers armed with ropes and assorted blocks and tackle, manhandled a war-surplus Jeep up the path in an exercise that took about six hours.

For those ardent Land Rover fans out there, Alwyn Bisschoff drove the first Land Rover up Sani Pass in 1952. “Alwyn had no doubts that if a Jeep could do it, so could a Land Rover.”

In 1955, David Alexander and friends began constructing a road for their Land Rovers, so they could create a trade route between Himeville in KwaZulu-Natal and Mokhotlong in Lesotho. So the Mokhotlong Mountain Transport Company was created, and the Pass which it made famous. Sani Pass had at last been conquered by the wheel, and five years later the Mokhotlong Mountain Transport Company began running eight-ton 4x4 freight trucks up and down the pass, which was nowhere near as user-friendly as it is today........

Read the full article on our blog

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Current News - Moshoeshoe's Day

MoshoeshoeI

On this day The 11 of March, the Basotho’s long lived heritage comes back life as we honour the former life of king Moshoeshoe I, the great leader and founder of our beautiful Basotho nation.  “Moshoeshoe’s Day” brings the whole nation together in all ten districts of Lesotho for a commemoration of our king on the day of his death (11-03-1870).

Statue of Moshoeshoe I, Maseru


During my primary school days, we would dress in our school uniforms and march as a group to the statue of Moshoeshoe I, which is mounted on a hill in down town, Maseru.  There we would listen to a number of speeches by the current King Letsie III, the Prime Minister Phakalitha Mosisili and other government officials. We would learn about our history and how the Basotho nation came to be through the wisdom of our late founder.Moshoeshoe Day celebrations

The King, the Prime Minister, other high ranking officials and army officers pay their respects to Moshoeshoe at a large statue on the top of the hill.

When I got to high School, things were done a bit differently. Instead of visiting king Moshoeshoe’s statue, Moshoeshoe’s Day was more of a “sports day”. Secondary schools would compete in athletics at the Setsoto Stadium and we were of course, all there to cheer for our schools.

However from the interviews I had with some of the staff member here at Maliba Lodge I gathered that this was how they also celebrated this day in the schools outside of Maseru.

Daniel and Peter explain that it differs from the type of school one went to. For example Daniel said at the Angelical schools participated in athletics just like many other government schools. But Roman Catholic schools, which Peter attended, would go to a public hall with other Roman Catholic Schools and sing choir songs in alternation with educational speeches about king Moshoeshoe I.

The tradition still lives on and “his” legacy still lives on through the lives of the Basotho nation and the present day generations are proud to have had such a wise ruler.

Text by : Rose Mpoetsi Lehlaha

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Village life with Juliana - American Peace Corps

Juiliana Fulton

Getting Away in Lesotho

My parents came to visit me in Lesotho a week ago. I tried to talk them into staying in my hut without electricity or running water with me, to see what my life was like. But when they heard I had bedbugs they decided the local five star lodge sounded a bit better.

I go to the lodge for work twice a month, where I get internet access and to see my friends that work there. Even though I only go twice a month I have gotten close to many of the staff. It’s much easier to form close friendships when people can speak English and understand me. I am still learning Sesotho, but can’t have deep or meaningful conversations yet. My lodge days are always very happy days. But getting to be “a guest” while my parents were staying there was a real treat.

I not only got to see my friends for four days straight, I also got to take long hot showers and eat maybe the most delicious food I’ve ever had. Maliba Lodge is only an hour walk from my village hut but the contrast between the two is very dramatic. Only five kilometers from my village and I had gotten completely away to a beautiful mountain sanctuary.

The contents of this article are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. Government or the Peace Corps.

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Activity Focus - Katse Dam Wall Tour

Katse Dam

One of the many highlights of Lesotho is a visit to Katse Dam, centrepiece of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which channels the water of the Lesotho Highlands via an incredible series of dams and tunnels through the mountains eventually coming out of the Ash River Outfall near the town of Clarens in South Africa's Free State province. Here it gravity feeds to supply Johannesburg and Pretoria with water.

It was touted as the greatest engineering project in the southern hemisphere in the 1990's when it was under construction. Nowadays the sight of the massive dam hemmed in by the mountain valley is well worth beholding!Ash River Outfall monument

For visitors, there is an information centre, which features a model of the whole project, showing all the phases. You can also go on a tour of the dam wall which is arranged by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority Visitor Centre. The Katse Botanical Gardens is an added attraction.

The road from Leribe (Hlotse) to the Katse Dam (121 km) is an impressive feat of engineering in itself and takes about three to four hours to navigate, but allow more time for stops at the top of the mountain passes to take in the sweeping views and snap a few photos. What used to be the roughest track in the country is now smooth tar, though there are some very steep ascents and sheer drops to the side of the road.Sloggett's Ice rat (Myotomys sloggetti)

The highest point is the Mafika-Lisiu Pass (3090 m), where there is a car park and viewpoint for the Bokong Nature Reserve, which is also home to the ice rat (Myotomys sloggetti), a rodent that is endemic to Lesotho and only lives above 2000m. Bearded vultures and other rare mountain birds can often be seen nearby.

As you enter Katse you will see the large double story building with a blue roof of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project visitor centre, from where popular free tours into the dam wall take place at 0900 and 1400.

Katse Dam Wall Tour

The centre also has displays on the dam’s construction, with a video and models of how water will be moved around when all five dams are completed in the 2020s. Nearby is the Katse Alpine Botanical Gardens which was created to replant some of the indigenous flora that was displaced in the construction of the dam, especially orchids and the Spiral Aloe, Lesotho’s national flower.

There are 2 tours per day 9am and 11 am. No bookings, you just show up. The 11 am tour tends to be very busy on long weekends. Depending on where you are staying and the distance from Katse, the 9 am might be a better bet.

Katse Information Centre
(+266 229 10808/9)
Mon-Fri 0800-1200, 1300- 1600,
Sat-Sun 0800-1200,

Katse Botanical Gardens (+266 229 10311)

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Photo of the Month

Photo of the month

Africa never ceases to amaze me. Over thirty years of living on this continent and there are still surprises to be had and many roads to be more travelled. And so it was when my husband and I travelled to Lesotho for the first time for a weekend at Maliba Mountain Lodge.

Sand Stone cliffs of Golden Gate NP

The landscape after leaving Bergville, still pretty enough in itself, transformed.  Suddenly we were higher, the light changed to pastel shades and the scenery so different that at times it felt like we were on a different planet. As a photographer on a journey I can be annoying - there I've said it - as photographs have to be taken all the time and on this trip I was even worse. After the tenth stop or so I had to resort to taking pictures out the window to avoid infuriating the driver. For the snapper in the family, at least four stops must be made along the Sterkfontein dam and that's a conservative estimate, while for me eventually the mountains and rolling hills just whistled by and I had to console myself with a promise of a few stops on the return trip.

And then we came to the Golden Gate National Park. It was difficult to believe that in all the travels that had been made around the country we had never been this way before. The warm afternoon light was catching the rugged, yellow, sandstone cliffs, and more, many more photos had to be taken and we still had to get to Clarens for the night - a place that had been on the bucket list for a while. Clarens, of course was charming with its craft shops, restaurants and art galleries centred on the village square. More pictures had to be taken the next morning before leaving for Lesotho.

Once again the landscape changes, even more so after crossing the border at Buthe Butha (Caledonspoort), and despite being landlocked by South Africa, there is a definite feeling of being in a different country. The Basothos do wear blankets, even on the warmest day as they herd their goats, and donkeys plod along the roads carrying their heavy loads. The mountains here are almost a luminous green colour and bordered by crystal clear rivers and fields of mielies. The road gently winds - thankfully, for speed limit is only 50 km per hour - through the mountains, into the Ts'ehlanyane National Park. And there, about 45 minutes from the border and nestled in amongst the mountains, is Maliba Mountain Lodge. Like a thatched set of pots at the end of a rainbow drive of shapes and colours.

Looking directly onto the mountains, the lodge is the ideal place to relax, chill and admire the scenery while the more energetic can hike along one of the many trails, swim in the naturals pools or go pony trekking through the mountians. My husband and I, were happy to just sit on the deck of the lodge or the verandah of our suite, sip wine and just watch the light and the view as it changed endlessly throughout the day. And take a few photographs of course!Maliba Lodge peak cap

Story and Photo by Sharon Bishop

A big thank you to Sharon for sending us this image. Sharon 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 Lesotho Events

March Highlights

3rh March - Vintage Tractor Fair
5th March - Surrender Hill Marathon
11th March - Moshoeshoe Day
17th March - Rhodes Fly Fishing Festival
19th March - Garmin Wartrail Tri-Challenge
24th March - Lesotho Wild Run

April Highlights

21st April - Splashy Fen Festival
26th March - Lady Grey Fonduro
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