Kingdom in the Sky
Today marked our first full day in South Africa. Well, oddly enough, we didn't even spend it in South Africa. Instead, we ventured into the insular world of Lesotho, a country landlocked in the middle of South Africa and seemingly lost in time. We spent time with the Basotho people and learned about their traditions high in the Drakensberg mountains. In fact, Lesotho has been given the nickname "the kingdom in the sky" because of its standing monarchy and high altitude: Lesotho has the highest low point of any country in the world.
The high country of the Drakensberg Mountains. Drakensberg means "dragon mountains" in Afrikaans, a Dutch language spoken throughout South Africa where the mountain range extends.
The entire day passed without seeing or hearing one car - a luxury not common these days. Instead, farmers plowed their fields with oxen and rode their horses and mules into the highlands. We walked past children selling bush rats skewered on sticks and their hard-working parents harvesting firewood from branches of the few surrounding Podocarpus trees.
A child attempts to sell us bush rats on sticks outside of a small village in rural Lesotho
We spent some time with the children of the village, who were not shy about asking for handouts
We were led on a hike up into the steep hillsides where we encountered ancient San cave paintings and the picturesque views of the mountains across the valley - a long stretch of rock known as the amphitheater.
The seemingly barren grasslands of rural Lesotho
We finished the day with a visit to a local healer's hut and a drop-in on a dwelling that served us the ubiquitous mashed maize known as "pap" and fermented sorghum beer.
The group accompanied by our guide Andres (bald head in the middle)