We interrupt this South Africa trip to bring you… Lesotho! A small country completely encircled by South Africa, Lesotho is the world’s largest enclave. It’s also the world’s highest country – with no point falling below 1,000 metres. Despite the spelling, the name is actually pronounced like “li-soo-too”. Crossing the border from South Africa, it was instantly noticeable: Lesotho is substantially poorer than its big neighbour. With a low Human Development Index ranking, large proportion of the population living below the poverty line, massive problems with HIV and rape, and a history of political instability, all looks a bit sad for Lesotho. Lesotho’s economy is closely tied in with the South African economy due to it being completely surrounded by its big neighbour, which hinders diversification and makes Lesotho suffer when South Africa is on the decline (you know, like now, with South Africa’s ridiculously idiotic leader doing his best to fuck every aspect of the country up). But they have been making strides and soldiering on the best they can. Primary education is now free up until seventh grade and growth in the mining and textile sectors have given the economy a boost. The country’s literacy rate is now one of the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Lesotho is now the region’s leader in textile exports to the USA.
We only had one full day in Lesotho, but I don’t think we needed much more. We stayed at a lodge in an area called Malealea which is a collection of fourteen villages.
A few highlights of my time in Lesotho:
We rented mountain bikes for the morning and rode around the (very dusty) hills (and rocks) that surround the lodge. It was actually quite enjoyable until the very end when we came to realize that very long last stretch was mostly uphill. As the country is quite dusty, we were all well-covered in a lovely orange glaze after the ride. We could have played the Oompa Loompas in the next Wonka film.
We took a tour of the local government primary school during the kids’ lunch period. The kids were extremely excited to see us, but visiting was definitely a bit of a shock. The school cafeteria was stocked with big bags of maize from the UN World Food Programme – they must eat the same corn porridge every day. Classrooms had broken windows and holes in the doors which surely would make it very cold in the winter season. Because of a lack of classrooms, fourth and fifth grades were sharing one large one. We were also told by the school administrator that there are a lot of orphans at the school. Despite all this, the kids looked happy. It’s unfortunate that the majority of them won’t be able to continue on to high school because of financial reasons.
We took a tour of the local village which didn’t really have much in it. We saw where the village chief lives, visited a local home brewery (which was disgusting), and had a home-cooked local lunch in the tiny, one-room home of one of the villagers.
And that was pretty much it… how much do you think we can squeeze into one day? We headed back into South Africa for a few days before checking out another little African country: Swaziland. I was curious to see how it would compare to Lesotho, but that’s a story for another blog. But first, let me take a selfie.
To see more photos of my time in Lesotho, follow this link: