Farmers unloading their goods at the trading post.
We get up at 7.15 am, I was already awake at 5.30, when Trudy was up and about. A large insect (a grasshopper or something) of about 8 cm long was wriggling over her and it startled her so much that she hasn’t slept well since.
At eight the local farmers come to the trading post with their donkeys and ox carts to deliver grain and maize. In the shop of the trading post they can pick the goods they need, up to the value of the products they brought in. Even though it is still early, the sun is blazing and we are doing our best to stay in the shadows. The locals however are wearing hats and thick blankets to keep them warm.
A farmer wearing a blanket against the cold, and the red medicine against acne.
Some of them have orange faces, this is not make up but some kind of medicine against acne.
At 8.30 am breakfast is ready and at 9.30 today’s walk starts. Two guides join us, one for the short walk and one for the long walk. Due to the heat, Trudy and I are the only ones that want to do the long walk. The long walk consists of the whole short walk with a few kilometres after that. First we go to a house where the local beer is sold, what is sold where is made clear to everyone by the colours of the plastic bags that are tied to a pole outside. During our walk through the village Jos and the Ratten family give toys to the little children, who’s responses are heart warming. In the next house, a very neat little rondavel, lives an old woman and next door to her lives her grand daughter with her little boy.
The joy a cheap toy brings.
They welcome us with the high pitched cheering that you can normally only hear in documentaries on National Geographic. Here we have the opportunity to taste the food of the Basotho. A firm porridge made of corn, something made of pumpkins and leaves, and corn-on-the-cob. It’s not bad, but personally I prefer a juicy steak. Almost everyone has tried something, but no one ate the corn-on-the-cob. When Trudy is the last to leave the house, the old lady asks her what is wrong with corn, because nobody touched them. Trudy explains that everyone has had breakfast just before we came here. That partially satisfies the woman, but Trudy really must try her delicious corn. When Trudy says that it tastes very good, she is urged to take some with her for along the way. Politely she refuses and takes only the one she has already started eating. A little later, safely out of sight, she feeds the remains of her corn to a hungry looking cow.
From here we walk to the local primary school, where we first are taken to the principal’s office to meet the head mistress.
The children in the seventh grade of a Lesotho grammar school are giving us a warm welcome by singing a song for us.
We get all the information we want, but the most important point made is that there is a constant lack of money (5 Rand per child per year), and who ever wants to do so, is more than welcome to make a donation. Later we get to visit every single class and in every class we get some additional information. Once again we meet the very cute little girl we saw yesterday on our first short walk in Roma, she recognizes us as well, she waves fanatically when we say hello to her. Class seven is pleased to sing for us, and the sheer beauty of the song gives me goose bumps.
At 10.45 am the group split up, Trudy and I continue on the long walk, everyone else returns to the trading post. We are going to the mission post of Roma and on the way there our guide tells quite a bit about himself.
The cathedral of Roma.
He is 20 years old and is HIV positive, his girlfriend is also infected, but still they go to school and work on a better future. The boy has been abandoned by most of his friends but, so he says, the best he can do is look on the bright side of life. In Lesotho, like in Swaziland, Aids is a major problem. Expectation of life in Lesotho is 34 years.
It is very hot now, but in no time we can see the university of Lesotho on the other side of the road, as was to be expected, it is not opened to tourists. We walk on to the mission post that was founded by a French priest. It has got a primary school, a secondary school for girls and a cathedral (in Holland it would probably be called a church). Many panels in the ceiling show stains of leakage and the staircase to where the choir sits during masses has seen better times as well.
The little chapel near the cathedral.
Inside the cathedral is the grave of the founder, Father Joseph Gerard. Locals deposit little notes, on which they ask for advice, support or protection, in a box next to the grave. Many of them take home a handful of sand from the grave and scatter it in their homes, for good luck. The coffin has been taken from the grave and put on display in a building some 100 metres away. Upon entering the building we see a stately nun, the dark skin of her face and hands in sharp contrast to the white of her garments. We have to sign a guestbook and are then allowed to go and see the father’s coffin and the few belongings that he had. On the back side of the building stands a small but lovely chapel, fitting seamlessly in the surrounding landscape.
At noon we are back at the trading post, lunch is at 1.
Roma from a hilltop.
30 pm outside in the shade of the trees. Until 4.15 pm we have time to relax, then we go up the next door mountain for sundowners. It’s a relatively short walk, but it’s rocky, rather steep and still very hot. Some folks don’t want to walk and Ashley (the owner of the trading post) drives them up the hill in his 4x4. The walkers arrive first, since Ashley left later, and we can see the ones that were driven get off the car all shook up and bruised. Our walk wasn’t exactly relaxing either, we were followed by a parade of children that all wanted to hold hands and talk some money out of our pockets. On this mountain we can see the footsteps of the Lesothosaurus, a species that only lived in this small area.
While we wait for the sun to set we are entertained by a group of local girls who sing and dance for us.
The setting sun sets the sky ablaze.
They are wearing some kind of skirt made of bottle lids, which they are also using as a musical instrument. In the end some spectators have to join the dance and Annette, Barbara and Trudy sacrifice themselves. The skirts they get to wear are, let’s say, a bit on the tiny side, and one of the members of our group comments that the ladies look like dancing ostriches.
The sunset is stunning and soon after the light starts fading everyone in our party start the walk down. Apart from Trudy and I who linger a little longer indulging in this humbling landscape that seems not to have changed since the Cretaceous period. Ashley stays as well, telling us how much he loves Lesotho and how he hopes to grow old here. When we walk down it is completely dark and Ashley lights our way by driving behind us with his Toyota.
When we have finished eating our dinner we go to our rooms and get some well deserved sleep.