Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ponies with superpowers

We took a small detour from our South African coastal tour to satisfy Helen’s one advance request:  pony trekking in Lesotho.  Nestled islandlike in the middle of South Africa, Lesotho is a mountainous country with stunning landscapes.  The people are proud despite being poor, which makes sense when you realize that they withstood the Zulu warrior army during the difaqane (forced migration) that displaced numerous other ethnic groups in South Africa.

We got an early start from Aliwal North (where we spent a lovely night at Conville Farm watching the most patient dog ever put up with a puppy hanging all over him), and arrived in Lesotho just after one.  We spent the afternoon looking at crafts in Teyateyaneng, where Helen finally found something worth buying – tapestries woven by hand on huge looms by Basotho women.  Good choice.  Next we were off to the Malealea Lodge for pony trekking.  After driving on heavily-potholed roads that the Hot Dog barely handled, into the middle of nowhere, we did not expect to find an expansive lodge with a fully-stocked bar, hot showers and impeccably clean and well-sized rooms.  Our first night around the fire was dominated by an incredibly drunk professional photographer from Jersey who considered himself an expert in, well, just about everything.  Near the end of the night, said man also threw a beer can across the fire which hit a Dutch girl in the face.  As he stammered that he hadn’t meant to hit her (I still can’t figure out where the can was meant for, though, if not her), her friends didn’t hesitate to say with disgust, “Go get a drink of water” and “It’s time for you to leave.”  Awkward.

Pony trekking the next day was amazing.  We went to a waterfall where a local man was playing a handmade instrument while wearing a fluorescent orange construction outfit (?!) and to see some San rock art (a little faded but still pretty cool).  Most impressive, however, was the sure-footedness of the horses as they climbed up and down pathways covered in rocks.  Luckily we were warned ahead of time that as long as we didn’t look down and panic but trusted our horse, we’d be fine.  Too true.

On our way out of the country we were stopped by the traffic police who pointed at our backpacks in the back seat and said they weren’t allowed.

Juan:  it is clothes.  We must have clothes.

Traffic police: Come with me. [Points to a sticker on the front windshield].  Five passengers only.

Juan: We are only three passengers.

Traffic police: You have bags as passengers.  This is not allowed.  You can only have luggage in the trunk.

Juan (while eyeing the incredibly small Hot Dog): We are sorry.

Traffic police: You may go.

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