HORSES, COW WHISPERERS AND FAREWELL TO LESOTHO
"Nobody is flying today," comes the message from the military base in Maseru. It's so bloody cold, they can't even start the helicopter's engines. Huddled around the Landies in gloves, beanies, scarves and thermal undies, we discuss logistics. There's an entire community waiting for us near the Katse Dam and we can't let them down. We decide to make the twelve-hour, turn-around dash in the two faster Land Rover Discoveries, and meet the rest of the team at the historic Liphofung Caves. Twists and turns, iced roads and frozen, stalactite waterfalls bring us to the almost 60-kilometre-long Katse Dam. Colourful horsemen and 'cow whisperers' with their cattle draped in bells and plastic bags, lead us into one of the most exciting community days yet.
Mashozi distributes spectacles to the poor-sighted. In return, we are presented with traditional conical Basotho hats and heaped plates of wild spinach, fatty stew and pap. We turn the Landies around and in the dark with spotlights glaring we reach base camp. Smiling Mamohlakala, a lovely Basotho lady, allows us to roll out our bedrolls on the cow-dung floors of her typical Basotho village just above the historic Liphofung Caves.
Next morning, warmed by the winter sun, we peel off layers of protective clothing. It's time to move on again, zigzagging across southern Africa. A line of men on horseback escort our Landies into the settlement of Mafika de Sio. Girls in loincloths take each expedition member by the hand and lead us to a long table under a tent on the side of a soccer field, surrounded by yellow sandstone cliffs. Dressed in white hats, red blankets and white gumboots, the team of horsemen - their leader carrying a red and blue flag fluttering from a white stick - trot in a faultless circle, man and horse in perfect harmony. On command, they all stop - each rider stands next to his horse. Another command - the horses roll onto their sides and the riders chant praise poetry to their horses. Basotho tradition is alive and well in the Mountain Kingdom and later, the team of horsemen escort us to a little stream that marks our exit from Lesotho. Our journey by Landy, bicycle and Basotho pony across Lesotho has been an unforgettable experience - a great adventure right on South Africa's doorstep.