Thursday

Map of Lesotho

Open the Map of Lesotho on the side, if you'd like, in order to better see what I'm talking about. Let me tell you about my country, Lesotho.

The capital city is Maseru, on the western border. That river running by it is Mohokare, or as the English re-named it, The Caledon River. Mohokare is also the border between Lesotho and the Orange Free State, one of South Africa's provinces. To the right of Maseru, the capital city, is Thaba Bosiu, literally, Night Mountain. Thaba-Bosiu is a bit of a tourist attraction because it was the stronghold of Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Basotho nation. Legend has it that the mountain grew at night and in so doing thwarted many-an-attack by Zulus, Boers, or other enemies. There were always enemies lurking around in those days. Moshoeshoe's village and burial grounds can still be seen at the top of the mountain.

To the right of Thaba-Bosiu is Katse, where the now-famous Katse dam is located. Katse Dam is one of several that comprise one of the biggest hydraulic projects in the world. It is big. And it is taking a long time to complete. We are hoping that revenues from the sale of water and electricity, as well as diamonds and tourism, will feed us and take us out of our sick misery. Far to the right of Katse you'll find Mokhotlong. That's where the Let'seng-la-Terai diamond mine is located. South-east of the town of Mokhotlong is Thabana-ntlenyana, the tallest mountain in Africa, south of the equator. It rises to a respectable 3482 metres. By comparison, Kilimanjaro (Africa) is 5895 metres high, Mont Blanc (Europe) is 4807 metres high, Aconcagua (South America) is 6960 metres high, Mt McKinley (North America) is 6194 metres high, and Everest is 8848 metres high [My head is spinning!].

Having Thabana-Ntlenyana, which literally means "beautiful, little mountain," is a gift from God. In fact, the gift goes beyond the peak: no part of Lesotho is below 1000 metres! That's a virtual slap in the face of Tibet. Think of what we could do with such a gift, on a continent whose reputation is built on heat and safaris.
~ Tired of yawning lions? Go fishing in Lesotho at 3000 metres.
~ Lesotho, Africa's coolest country. Literally.
~ Be one of the few to ski in Africa, visit Lesotho.
~ Switzerland, the Lesotho of Europe.
~ Lesotho: fishing and skiing and pony-trekking and backpacking all rolled into one.
~ Mmaletsunyane Falls, Lesotho's 190-metre natural shower.
The possibilities are endless. Let the other guys fight about who has the fiercest lions. That's old hat. And what have we been doing? We've been trying to outdo Kenya and Tanzania and Botswana on the lion-and-heat angle. Dumb, dumb, dumb. There is no way we'll ever win that contest. We are us, they are them.

Zoom down from Thabana-Ntlenyana and stop at the Sehlabathebe National Park. It is the only one in the country and I'm glad it is. We don't need another one. It houses the flora and fauna of Lesotho. Full-stop. Wanna see a lion? Go to Kenya. Wanna see the Aloe polyphylla, a.k.a. Spiral Aloe (English), Kroonaalwyn (Afrikaans), Lekhala kharatsa (Sesotho)? Go to Lesotho. If you don't go to Lesotho you will probably never see this amazing plant, because it doesn't grow anywhere else in the solar system! Come to think of it, why not go on an Aloe safari? Here are other angles of Lesotho's lekhala: from the top, and from the top again.

But we're veering off the subject, I think. I was talking to you about the map of Lesotho, wasn't I? Do you still have it open? Good. Go to the southern tip of the country, the area around Quthing. That was the playground for the herbivorous, Lower Jurassic Lesothosaurus. You can see its footprints and see its bones. And I don't think we've dug up all of them. Go north to Mohale's Hoek and head for Morija, a little ways south of Maseru, the capital.

Morija is world-famous for many reasons. The Morija Arts and Cultural Festival, Its history [ missionaries, museum, printing works, Thomas Mofolo, education (country's historical educational hub), protestant church (oldest house of worship in Lesotho) ]. It's a small town that is packed with history and emotion. If you enjoy whodunits, well then, read Tim Couzens' "Murder at Morija," a true story. Another advantage Morija has is its close proximity to Maseru, the capital, and the airport. One doesn't need to take a Cessna to go to Morija.

We have both the God-given and earned means to bring tourists flocking to Lesotho, but we've been concentrating on the wrong angles. And the political unrest of 1970 and 1998 haven't helped any. One of the things I've been trying to convince myself to accept, however, is the fact that all that is history, finished, never to come back and tarnish our name again. Never to come back and kill our children again. I'd like the whole world, especially the Basotho, to believe that and do everything in their power to bring it about. Each one of us--yes, you too--has a moral obligation to register to vote, to vote, to invest in Lesotho, to speak about Lesotho to those who don't know it, to help those who are worse off, to desist from having un-protected sex. It'll take all of us, plus our foreign friends, to turn the situation around.

You can close the map now. That is Lesotho, Land of our fathers, small, proud, unique and unspoilt. But that's not all of Lesotho, and there are things that I hope we will be able to talk about in the future. Lesotho is understandably overshadowed by its immense neighbour, South-Africa. But I consider that an advantage. They already have a flourishing tourist activity, and all we have to do is convince a good percentage of that activity that we are worth a visit, too. Go to South Africa to see the sharks, but come see us for the cleanest, most natural fishing this side of the continent.