Across the Middle of Lesotho to Mokhotlong Village
I decided to check out of the village Roma and get deeper into Lesotho to get as real as possible. I feel like I sort of cheated Swaziland by only seeing just a small corner of a small country. So, this morning, looking at a map, I noticed a fine line that represented a road that went right across Lesotho to the other side. It was not a thick line so I knew it was not much of a road. But, that probably meant for a pretty interesting drive.
I caught a 6 rand ($0.39) from Roma to a junction called St. Michaels. The mini-van sped off again and I walked up to a group of men standing beside a mini-van that was broken down. Obviously, I was out of place and one of the men recognized so and curiously asked me where I was going. I told him I was on my way to Mokhotlong, which was directly on the other side of the country. He told me that I was much better off to take the road that went north (the thick line on the map) and to go all the way around. He said that would be much easier. I told him easy is boring. He told me that it was going to take me, “Three or four days,” on the road I wanted to take. It might not be much of a road, but I knew it would not take three or four days. I have become keen to the fact that Africans have no concept of distance versus time…ever…
A bus came along that said “Thaba Teska” in the front window. Thaba Tseka was more than half way across. I stopped the bus and climbed on. 80 rand ($5.17) for the journey. I asked the conductor when we would arrive. He told me at 13:00. We would get there at 15:00…
When travelling, everything everywhere is interesting, but what has truly come to light in Africa is that if you want to see truly fascinating life, you need to get off the main roads when you travel. Off of the main road and on the rough trails connecting villages is where you will find:
– donkeys pulling carts
– villages of round huts that say “Africa” to you
– men on horseback wrapped in traditional blankets, wearing balaclavas to stay warm
– restaurant businesses in campers with no wheels on them, set up in a circle around a makeshift bus station
– beautiful mountains with terraces cut into them where people have planted crops of maize or sorghum
– collapsed bridges with people having picnics at one of the ends
– men on horseback transporting crates of beer
– stopping the mini-van-taxi on the side of the road to hand a huge bag of flour to a man on horseback who throws it over his lap and carries it home
In Thaba Tseka, I got off the bus and squeezed into a small yellow mini-van-taxi that the driver said would take me to Mokhotlong for 54 rand ($3.50). I asked him how long that would take. He said it was a three hour journey. Four hours later we stopped at a fork in a dirt road where the driver told me to get out and I would catch another taxi to take me to Mokhotlong as my driver was going another way. We were in the middle of the countryside, cattle around, a stream nearby and a small concrete bridge that allowed vehicles to pass was the only indication that other humans had ever been there before. This was where I was supposed to wait for a taxi? Wow… I knew there was a village a couple of kilometers back that we had passed through, so if worst came to worst, I could walk back there and try to find a place to sleep. My mini-van-taxi man said that he would wait until a ride came for me. Oh! Good!
I had been sharing my pipe and tobacco with a man who had also been riding in the mini-van-taxi when a semi-truck came along about 10 minutes later. I could see the two men inside smiling. My taxi driver went to talk to them and came back to tell me that I could get into the semi with the two men, and for 50 rand ($3.25), they would take me the rest of the way to Mokhotlong. Good enough for me. I climbed into the semi and introduced myself.
Well, the semi guys turned out to be really cool. I remembered that I had a couple of beers in my bag, so I got them out, and the semi passenger and I drank them while smoking my pipe. The guys in the semi were grinning and laughing at their luck of this hitchhiker they had picked up.
The road was one of the worst I have been on in my life. For 15 kilometers, we drove at a speed less than walking because the road was so bad. Once we made it through that mountain pass, we got to a smooth section again where we could make up time.
At 21:00, we were only a few kilometers outside of Mokhotlong when the passenger told me that he knew of a guesthouse. So, we stopped on the side of the road, I put on my backpack and we walked in the dark for about a half of a kilometer through some pasture. I am not even kidding. I wondered where we were going. There were no lights anywhere to represent that there might be a home for me to sleep anywhere. We had come quite a distance down from the road where I could see the truck parked far above us. Eventually, some buildings appeared, but there was no light coming from them. It did not look like a guesthouse to me. We made our way to the front door and knocked. A white man opened the door in his underwear. Where was I?
It turned out that the man who had opened the door was also a guest staying with his family. He said that the people who rent out the place were in bed, but that there was one vacant room left. I shook hands with my friend who had brought me to this point and he headed off into the night to get back to his truck. I followed the white man to a room.
A big bed covered in a nice blanket with fluffy pillows at the headboard and there was an attached bathroom. The room was incredibly nice. The man pointed to the lantern on a small stove in the corner of the room and asked me if I had matches. At that point, I realized there was no electricity where we were. Well, that made sense… I told him I had a lighter, thanked him and he left me to go back to his room. I washed my face, undressed and crawled into a bed that was so perfect and so soft that I am not sure how it managed to get to this country.