The Highlands Water Project, which has constructed massive dams and tunnels in remote areas, has made Lesotho almost self-sufficient in hydro-electricity. The project also generates millions of dollars annually by exporting water to South Africa.
Lesotho – Been There

En route to Ts’ehlanyane National Park

Photo by Friedrich Stark

Lesotho – Been There En route to Ts’ehlanyane National Park

Passing through Lesotho’s bustling frontier town of Butha Buthe, I feel as though I’ve stepped into a parallel world; a time warp in which there were no mechanized vehicles, no satellite dishes, no teashops.

Sue Bryant
Sue Bryant Travel Writer

The road to Lesotho’s Ts'ehlanyane National Park climbs through steeply terraced valleys, high above rivers carving channels through the red earth. Weeping willows hang over the rushing water, knee-deep in meadows of pink, white and magenta cosmos flowers. Mud brick rondavels with thatched roofs cling to the hillsides. Ladies in their Sunday best walk to church, gossiping. Young boys draped in colorful wool blankets ride ponies along the dirt roads, herding sheep, cattle, donkeys and snooty-looking angora goats.

Most strikingly, there are horses everywhere. Horses graze on the hillsides, are tethered outside huts or ridden by locals on the way to market, or neighboring villages.

Lesotho is famous for its sure-footed mountain pony, bred from Arab stock in the early nineteenth-century, and the Basotho (as its people are known) are fast and fearless riders. Absolutely everybody rides; the horse is the main and usually the only form of transport. The standard horseman’s garb is a brightly colored wool blanket, a conical straw hat, white rubber boots and, in winter, a balaclava.

Lesotho has only a smattering of tourist lodges (not forgetting one ski resort), mostly dedicated to pony trekking, fishing and walking. Some offer the kind of seclusion that, in other countries, money just cannot buy.

At the swanky Maliba Lodge in the Ts'ehlanyane National Park, I rise at dawn and stand on my wooden deck, clutching a mug of steaming tea and watching the rising sun striking the tops of the hazy mountains. It is a scene of incredible beauty and peace; not one sign of human development the entire length of the valley.

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