After the first joy of reunion had abated and we had sorted out all necessary preparations (getting the car ready, buying groceries, packing up all gear, …) we set off to the first half of our road trip on day 3. For the next week, we would be travelling Lesotho and the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa.
Our trip first took us to the Malealea area around Christmas. A lovely lodge awaited us, as well as a – long time overdue – horse ride. When it comes to horses and me, all girly prejudices become true: I love them. I’ve been horse-riding for about 5years as a teenager and I’ve been missing it ever since. And by horse-riding I don’t mean dressage or longeing but western-style trail riding. One day, I’d love to do a horse trek over a few weeks (gotta put that on my never-ending bucket list, now that I think about it…).
So you can tell that I was excited as a 10year old when we went horse-riding in Malealea. For Sebastian, however, it was only the 2nd time on horseback but he seemed to be a natural (as he always is when it comes to sporty activities…). I mean, he was unable to make clear to Brown Sugar, his pretty gelding, who the boss was but come on, at least he never fell off and was comfortable enough to trot which is more than you can expect from a beginner. Speaking of beginners – our route was definitely NOT for beginners but led us through the deepest valleys, up the steepest mountains and along the most precipitous hillsides. One false step of our wiry horses and we would have tumbled down some canyon into our deaths. Luckily, our mounts were sure-footed enough to always find the right way – pew!
Our guide is leading the way, we would have gotten lost without him
Entering Ha Machakela Village
But why did we do this?? Well, as I said before, we were on a mission: Michael had asked us to deliver some solar lamps to a remote village and we figured that we preferred to reach it by horse rather than carry everything ourselves. What an adventure! With a sore butt and stiff legs, but very much alive, we reached the settlement after a few hours and were greeted warmly. The families of Ha Machakela village are also part of the Save80 project (see the last article in the archive to learn more about it) and already knew Sebastian. To whoever completes the repayment of the stove, Michael offers the purchase of a solar lamp (again through microfinancing); this is how the selling of the stove and the lamps is connected. Here are some of the technical details of the SunKing (also see http://www.greenlightplanet.com):
- 36h of light
- 2 USB ports for cell phone charging
- 3 different light intensities
So all in all, a pretty cool lamp and very useful for people who live without electricity. It took longer than expected for all the new owners to show up (some were on their fields and had to be called first) but then, the handover went smoothly and Sebastian explained the technical details to the proud owners while I took some photographs and played the clown for some of the kids. I just love how you can make people laugh without speaking the same language: pulling funny faces just works with children all over the world. Please note that all pictures were taken with the permission of the locals. In addition, we want to encourage you to pay attention to the fact that the huts (as poor as they may look) often offer unexpected comfort inside. Yes, many people here are poor compared to the Global North, but we really don’t want to deepen prejudices (e.g. the one of the starving children and families sleeping on clay soil in rudimental huts – it’s not like that everywhere!).
Handing out the lamps to their owners
Sebastian explains the use of the lamp
some of the people of Ha Machakela
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Two local girls posing for my camera
Playing with the little ones
The chief’s wife
The chief’s representative
One of the women who bought a solar lamp
The most honest smile I have seen in a while
Check! Mission completed! We hauled ourselves back on our horses and took a less dangerous route back, stopping shortly at a waterfall. I would have loved to stop for a swim (FYI, our long-sleeved clothes on the pictures have two reasons: 1) the sun burns with a crazy intensity on this altitude and 2) it’s simply not appropriate to run around half-naked in the villages, especially not when you are working). My favourite game on the way back was to lead my skinny gelding Blue close to Brown Sugar who didn’t seem to like my horse at all. As soon as I was next to them, Brown Sugar would immediately fall into a trot and determinately move away (a cursing and swaying Sebastian on its back) – I never got tired of that view 😀 However, I stopped this mischief when dark clouds began to gather in our backs. Rumbling thunder made us spur our horses into a trot while we kept glancing back nervously. My parents told me from an early age on: If there’s a storm coming, get down that bloody mountain quick and look for shelter ASAP. And that principle is even more important here because Lesotho is the country with the most lightning strikes in the world! Electrical thunderstorms here are craaazy and often appear out of nowhere. Sadly enough, it’s not uncommon that people die (remember, there are barely any trees on these rough tablelands and Lesotho’s altitude is an impressive 1400-3482m above sea-level). Fortunately, our timing was absolutely flawless: 5min after we had reached the lodge, the sky opened up and a heavy downpour started, followed by hammering hail. Lucky us! I would not fancy getting stuck in that Armageddon scenario with a nervous horse beneath and a deep gorge next to me…
All in all, a very fantastic day! However, we would be sore for a couple of days after this 😀 Did that stop us? Hell no. But read about our next trail-running and hiking sessions in the next posts…