Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Journey to the Highlands with Fat Cakes

I woke up so excited today! Samuel, his brother Sello and sister Lineo are picking me up and they are going to show me “real Lesotho”. They picked me up this morning, and we drove to a grocery store to get snacks for the road trip. We picked up some bananas, apples, water and chips. Then Sello said he was going to get some “fat cakes”. He came back with two bags of these tiny little balls of dough that were deep friend. They call them fat cakes because when you eat them, they make you fat! They are delicious, and I can absolutely understand why you would want to eat a whole bag!

As we drove, we told stories about our childhood, our families, our interests and laughed from deep down in our bellies. It felt like we had been good friends for many years. We began driving into the stunning highlands. Massive mountains covered in greenery, so tall they touch the sky. I was told we were over 3500M up. We drove through the beautiful mountains, we stopped to take photos near a natural waterfall and continue to drive up, up, up. 





Twisting and turning through the vast green mountains, we tried to keep track of the turns but stopped counting as we were quickly enamoured by the beauty around us. We passed by herds of sheep on the side of the mountain, rondavels, all through a cloudless sky. In my visits to Lesotho I have yet to see a cloud any day here.

We drove by small thatched roof huts that housed herd boys during the winter. They told me that during the cold times, they stay inside and have a Thokolosi outside to protect them. A Thokolosi is an evil, nasty spirit which stays outside the hut and protects the boys and the herd from predators and people trying to harm or steal their cattle. The legend is that the Thokolosi is a domestic spirit, usually small, who can be summoned by witches to bewitch you, inflict illness or even death if you cross paths. Most adults have never seen one, but they have shown themselves to children. We discussed different beliefs of witches, fairies and demons and how different people believe in different entities depending on their traditions and upbringing.  

We drove all the way up the Maloti mountains to visit the Kapoko Snow & Bike park, which hosts the Sky Restaurant, the highest restaurant in Africa at 3010M. We wandered the beautiful grounds, looking at the cabins, the ponds and beautiful sky. 



We then went inside the restaurant and had some cappuccino and great conversation. As we were leaving, a DJ was setting up their equipment because the resort was going to host a party that night. It was neat to see the DJ equipment for this resort, as at home I DJ. They were very shocked to hear that I DJ, which began a wonderful ongoing conversation throughout the day of us sharing music back and forth. 

I learned about Black Coffee, 340ML and Kommander Obbs. I also learned that Sello is a very talented musician and poet. He played us two of his songs and he has a beautiful voice, and lovely lyrics. I played them some of my favourite songs as well, including some Alanis Morissette, Rage Against the Machine, Jimi Hendrix, Florence and the Machine and others. They had also never heard of the King of Rock & Roll, Elvis Presley! It was so amazing! I played them Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock. We discussed playing instruments, talked about drums and I thought I should play some Rush for them as well. They also like house music so I played some White Panda and Zeds Dead for them, which they enjoyed. I loved hearing the Lesotho music and sharing different tastes. Music tells so much about a culture and it truly brings people together. Sharing songs in the car was a great way to pass the time and get to know one another.

I also finally saw my first Lesotho cloud. It was small, but it was there!


On our way down the mountain we stopped at the Malibamatso River, a beautiful little river where we washed our hands, admired the clear river and skipped some stones across it. We stopped to see another natural waterfall along the way and took photos like we were drinking from it. I stood on top of the guard rail to take a photo with it. We then posed like we were all in a clothing magazine ad and had a good laugh. The sun was shining so bright and it was truly good for the soul. Fresh air, sunshine, mountains, waterfalls, we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful trip.







We continued our way down the mountain until we reached the Liphofung Historical Centre and caves. It was truly stunning. I don’t know if I’ve used the words “wow” “beautiful” and “stunning” more in one day trip!

The Liphofung Centre was incredible. There were tiny roundeval huts as we walked through, and in each one of them we got to learn about their traditional ways of cooking, grinding maize, see musical instruments, see their traditional weapons, the spears, hatchets and shields.







We wandered into another hut that had the traditional sleeping spaces of Basotho culture. The mothers would wear cow hide, and use sheep pillows with cow skin or goat blankets. The fathers would wear the cow hide to cover their bodies as well.

We continued down long flight of rocks, across a bridge and over a deep trench. In the trench there was another natural waterfall that went deep down. As we walked further and further, we made our way into the caves where King Moshoeshoe lived for over six months. He left because of a war between some of his tribes. The caves were beautiful. They had fresh water, birds nesting, large trees, openings that looked onto the mountains and plants growing from the ceilings. It was its own natural ecosystem.








As we walked through the beautiful caves we stopped upon some amazing cave drawings from long ago. We continued to wander until the sun began to set and we had to leave the breath-taking caves. We made our way back up to the Historical Site reception and I purchased some famous dried Lesotho peaches and we made our way back to the car.

 


We continued to drive down the mountains to the ‘Muela Dam. The dam is situated in the middle of several large mountains, with a massive amount of fresh water. This dam is part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. The goal of the project is to grow the fish farming, create hydro and sell the fresh water to South Africa. The Khatzi and ‘Muela Dams are phase one of the project.

We had hopped out of the car and walked down to the edge of the hill to look over the dam. We learned that the dam produces a ton of water and when it rains it sometimes overflows so high it begins to creep up the side of the mountains. It was truly beautiful. As the sun was setting we looked over the ‘Muela Dam and across the way there were children playing soccer on a small part of the flat land, unaware that anyone could see them, excited for the play and friends.






We left the dam as it was getting very dark and began driving back to Hlotse. As we drove, they taught me the full greeting in Sesotho:

Lumela ‘Me or Ntate (Hello Mam. or Sir)
[Doo-mella May or En-da-tee]

U Phela Joang? (How are you?)
[O Pay-La Juong]

Ke Phela Hantle, oena? (I am fine, you?)
[Kay Pay-La Hant-lay, When-a?]

Ke Phela Hantle (I am fine)
[Kay Pay-La Haunt-lay]

Sala Hantle (Stay Well)
[Sa-la Haunt-lay]



On the dark drive back I kept looking out the window admiring the stars. In Lesotho, there are few lights from the houses or street lights, so the sky is crystal clear to see the stars. It is magical. As a child, and now as an adult, I love to lay on my back on the grass up North near the cottage and try to find the big dipper, the North star, and any constellations I can recognize. The unique thing about being in Lesotho is that I get to see a whole new version of the night sky. You cannot see the North Star but you can see the Southern Cross here.


Our constellations, our languages, our seasons, our traditions and our lives may be different but there are many things that Basotho and Canadians share. I have learned that we are both very polite and generous nations. We put others first, say thank you and please and are always willing to lend a helping hand. We smile and laugh whole heartily with our bellies. We love our babies deeply and we hope for the best future for the next generations. We have big eyes and big hearts, and we see the world as a place of opportunity that is ours for the discovering. As I drove back with Samuel, Sello and Lineo looking at the stars and sharing stories and song after song with one another, I was so grateful to have such wonderful new friends on the other side of the poles.

From the North Star to the Southern Cross, from Rush to Kommander Obbs, Lowlands to Highlands, and of course- fat cakes… I will never forget this day.






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