A drive from Swaziland to Lesotho and visits to the main sights of the Maseru and the Kome Cave Dwellings on The South of Africa Tour.
Lesotho is another landlocked state in South Africa that happens to be a kingdom like Swaziland. Previously known as Basutoland, the country was a British protectorate and later achieved independence in 1966. Today with a population of around 2 million, it is a poor country with an economy mostly based on agriculture. Valuable sectors include the water from its mountains exported to South Africa and diamond mining around the country.
Coming from Swaziland, I had an eight hour drive to reach the capital Maseru. To avoid poor roads and unexpected surprises I avoided the smaller roads and used the highways taking me passed Joburg. Besides a police checkpoint where I was stopped and asked to provide the officer a “present” because it was apparently Christmas for him and some construction on the road, the drive was uneventful.
Soon after I arrived at the Maseru Bridge border. The crossing was empty and simple. A friendly immigration officer stamped my passport and waved me through. Country 111 complete!
I drove down the dark highway road and luckily my hotel, the Lesotho Sun, was easy to find.
The next morning I set out to tour a bit of Lesotho.
The capital is quite busy during the day. Of the tourist sites, I went to the main souvenir store which is named for its shape, the Basotho Hat. As I parked a random guy came up to say that they would wash or keep an eye on my car. I told him no need. I picked up my tourist shirt from the government-run store which was not very well stocked and returned to the car. I paid an attendant for parking then the guy came up shaking a can of spray-paint and holding it threateningly at my car. Our eyes met, then I just drove off and he didn’t spray his can.
I also had a look at a memorial park with an old post office section, a WWI Memorial and a WWII Memorial with a crocodile sculpture both commemorating the Basotho soldiers that died.
There wasn’t too much to see in the small capital so I headed into the mountains. The drive was very scenic with sweeping valley views of the farmlands and countryside. I only passed one police checkpoint where an officer with a shotgun stood in the middle of the road, but he wasn’t interested in stopping me.
The roads were well paved until the turn off for the Kome Caves. Then it turns into a poorly maintained dirt road with huge sections washed away. My little Datsun was off-roading again.
The cave dwellings are a small group of mud huts that have recently been refinished. They are still inhabited apparently by the descendants that built the huts in the 1800s.
On arrival, there is a small office where you register and get a guide to take you to the dwellings. Tourists are provided walking sticks for an easy stroll passed herders and their animals down to the site.
The informative guide is from a nearby village. She gave a detailed explanation of the history of the dwellings and the area.
The family living there stared at me, but they were friendly and allowed us to take pictures. We entered a couple of the houses to see how they lived and cooked. These primitive huts were quite advanced on the interior with TVs and mattress beds.
Further down the overhang of rock are some deteriorated cave paintings. A few stick figures of people and cows are all that remain on the rock that is eroded by water.
Back at the office I filled out their registry and left comments. Then the guide asked me if could give her sister a ride to the next town. I obliged and this lady with a very colorful outfit joined me on the off-roading adventure to the main road. Though her English was poor she made an effort to communicate and never stopped smiling. I drove her to a store that I found was run by a Chinese lady! I had a quick conversation in mandarin to hear her story. Originally from Shanxi, this is her second store in Lesotho and has been running it for two years. The world is a very small place.
From there I took a leisurely drive back to the border and soaked up the landscape.
Crossing the border I was headed to Johannesburg for an overnight at Ten Bompas Design Hotel before my flight to Madagascar.