Sunday, November 13, 2016

Birthday Adventure

Messy and me.  A week ago I had a birthday.  I like birthdays.  The more I have, the more I enjoy them.  I think they should be an adventure and an opportunity to do something one has wished for.  I always wanted to explore Lesotho on horseback.  
This is why you weren't able to reach me while I was gone. Lesotho is a largely unblemished part of the world.  No roads, no electricity, no phone network. 
The Valley of a Thousand Horses high in the mountain kingdom. Our herd of horses grazing while we take a break on foot to enjoy the scenery.

For days we travelled over mountains, through passes and valleys, hearing only the sound of wind, splashing water, and the distant bells of sheep grazing on the slopes.  (The animal in the foreground is the guide's dog, who ran with us all the way).
After a long period of drought, it started raining while we were in the mountains.  Riding in a rain suit is uncomfortable, but the scenery more than made up for it.  Waterfalls spouting  between the rocks, and an abundance of green all around.
We crossed streams several times every day.  Messy was sure footed and steady.  I laughed at the way she would lower her nose to the water and snort at the submerged rocks as she walked over them.
Riding along the edge of a cliff was certainly no laughing matter.  I snapped this picture with my knee in the foreground.  It doesn't do justice to the dizzying drop to the stream in the valley far below.  Often the terrain was downright treacherous and I had no free hand for the camera.
Thousands of years of wind and rain have hollowed the base of many sandstone cliffs into caves.  The caves offer shelter to sheperds and their animals.  We came across the ruins of several dwellings.  Henning looks like a real explorer!
There are Bushman paintings on the walls of many of the caves.  These are about 2 000 years old.  The paint is made of a mixture of red and yellow clay, charcoal, animal fat and blood.  Although badly weathered, one can clearly see human figures and eland in the pictures, a hunting scene.
Standing in the mouth of a cave.
Finding a trickle at the back of a cave meant time to refill our drinking bottles.  Water filtered by tons of rock, very pure and sweet!
Passing through a Basutho village.  Most of Lesotho's 2.2 million citizens live in the north of the country.  In the south where we were, villages are scarce and inhabitants few.  People survive by planting crops and tending small herds of sheep.
Charles, our Basutho guide.  He was born in these mountains and knows the country like the back of his hand.  
 A week on a horse, in the rain, in the mountains, sleeping and eating in the most basic way.  This was an adventure to remember, and to talk about for a long time. 
On our return to the South African side of the border, there was a hot shower and a warm bed waiting for us at the lodge.  But only after an evening of birthday cake, and reminiscences around the fireplace while rain drummed down on the tin roof.