Now we are besotted with Lesotho!

The McDougalls visit Polihali Lodge

The McDougalls had a very happy visit to Polihali Lodge over Easter 2018. For most of us, it was our first trip deep into Lesotho and we absolutely loved the Mountain Kingdom. The long, winding drive in to Polihali (which should not be underestimated – five hours from Fouriesberg) was breath-taking, with towering peaks in various shades of blue in the distance and tranquil villages and green fields close to the road. The cosmos was out in full splendour, and even though we knew at the back of our minds this was in fact a weed, we were still mesmerised by its beauty.

We arrived at Polihali eventually with ominous skies above and a smatter of rain. We hastily pitched camp, and the rain mercifully held out. We took in our surroundings. Facilities at Polihali were basic but adequate. Full use of a kitchen and bathroom facilities gave the female members of our party peace of mind, but we all roared with laughter, when at the end of the second day the 20-something single male asked casually what the bathroom was like. He will not hear the end of that!!

The good rainy season had turned our campsite a beautiful green and the trappings and stress of city life melted, as the peace and timeless rhythm of the remote nearby Molumong village Village took over. We settled around the fire and cherished the rare privilege of having all three of our adult children plus the spouse of one together in the same place at the same time. Having to light the gas to make a cup of tea worked its magic spell on me, confirming that I was indeed getting ‘away from it all’.

While most of the weekend in Gauteng was rainy, the Lesotho skies withheld their moisture in the form of the most beautiful clouds, constantly changing and causing us to catch our breath at periodic intervals throughout the weekend. Friday morning meant a bicycle ride for six, another special moment in our family, as we are all keen cyclists. We kept to the roads, passing donkeys and donkey carts, endless stone huts, dignified men in Basotho blankets on horseback, and of course, excited children with their gleaming smiles, shouting, “Bye bye, bye bye!!”

The idea of a pony ride was irresistible, especially for our keen horse-riding daughter. The sure-footedness and responsiveness of the horses, combined with the beauty of the surroundings made the 2-hour ride a most memorable afternoon. We wound up a steep path, through a neighbouring village and onto a plateau overlooking Polihali and the surrounding valleys. We felt in full control whilst enjoying the individuality of the ponies. This is not to be missed!

Sunday was the day to trek to Sani Pass. We marvelled at the engineering of the road, as it climbed higher and higher, past the highest point in Lesotho and on to the legendary Highest Pub in Africa. It was cold…and we realised we were about 1000m 800m higher than our campsite and chastised ourselves for not packing warm clothing for the day. The mist was just rising up the valley as we looked down at the magnificent view down the pass. A variety of vehicles inched up the steep and rocky road. Three of our party decided this had to be ridden on a bicycle and off they went: Down part of the way and then up again. Two others went for a run to a nearby hill and yet another took their bicycle and just enjoyed the tar road inside Lesotho. A good meal and, a delicious Maluti beer of course, finished the trip off perfectly. DO NOT MISS THIS OUTING.

A few tips for the trip: Driving anywhere takes time, with the hilly, windy roads, so allow for that. Secondly, although our host, Daniel, generously supplied the firewood that we needed, if you would like to have an ample supply, bring your own, since it is hard to come by, even in the nearby town of Mokhotlong, from which I returned empty-handed after a fairly extensive search. Next, make sure you have a large-ish water container for your campsite, since it is quite a walk to the tap supplying beautiful spring water for drinking. 

Ian and Judy McDougall and family.