In my prior post about Lesotho (pronounced Le-SOO-too), I showed you just a preview of this magnificient country and now I want to tell you more about the place where we stayed, Malealea Lodge. The lodge is located in a remote part of western Lesotho and when arriving, you will feel like you have been transported back in time, way back. The people live mostly as they always have here. They grow their own food, raise their own livestock and live in traditional Basotho huts without running water or electricity. These people are do not have much in terms of material possessions however the smiles and greetings you receive from everyone you pass are bountiful.
View from Malealea Lodge
The really great thing about Malealea is their ongoing support for the local community. They provide many jobs to the local villagers as well as fund various community projects and businesses. Malealea has been instrumental in developing education and sponsorship funds for the local children. You can read more about the wonderful things Malealea is doing on their website.
One of the beautiful murals at Malealea
Malealea offers a variety of accomodations including Basotho huts, farmhouses, forest huts (shared ablutions) and camping facilities. Electricity only runs from 6pm until 10pm so don’t forget to bring your torch. If you are looking for luxury and pampering, you should look elsewhere because this is absolutely not what Malealea is about. What it is though is a comfortable and friendly place to have a really great time. The lodge organises different activities such as hiking, pony trekking, mountain biking and visits to the local villages. Meals are also available at the lodge for an additional cost or you can self-cater if you prefer.
Rondavels and Farmhouses
As our budget is quite tight these days we decided to go the camping route, despite the fact that winter was well on its way to Lesotho. We had been warned that the nights would be cold but we could not be deterred and packed our ski jackets though these went unworn. Days were quite pleasant with highs around 20C but as the sun set the temperature dropped quickly with nightly lows down around 7C. We were warm enough in the tent once we were in the bed but changing into sleepwear before bedtime was rough (lesson learned: put sleepwear under clothes before dinner and then you only have to peel off the outer layers and hop into bed).
The camping area isn’t huge however we only had to share with one other tent each night so we had plenty of space. There are 2 shared ablution blocks (for the camping and forest tents) and they were always clean with an ample supply of hot water. The kitchen area is a bit worn but functional.
For meals we decided to self-cater for breakfast and lunch but join in for the communal dinners. This worked out great for us as the dinners were convivial, tasty and filling. Being veg was not at all an issue, there were always plenty of veg sides to make a meal. I was also told if it wasn’t to my liking to speak with the ladies in the kitchen and they would make something special but this wasn’t at all necessary (they also give a discount for vegetarians so be sure to tell them if you are one).
Outside of the Restaurant
Each evening before dinner there are special performances by a choir followed by a band. Both groups are wonderful and should not be missed. All of the instruments used by the band are home-made out of various items and quite impressive.
Band with home-made instruments
As I mentioned earlier in this post, Malealea organizes a variety of activities in order for you to get out and explore the area. They are well-known for their multi-day pony treks and everyone we spoke with who had done one had only wonderful things to say about it. As we only had 2 full days at the lodge, we decided to do a full day hike the first day and a short pony trek the following day.
Heading off Towards the Waterfall
For our hike we chose to combine the hike to the waterfall with the hike to the Bushman paintings. This is a minimum of 6 hours total but it took us at least 7. It was fortunate that we chose to do the waterfall hike first as this was a bit less strenuous. The Bushman hike was tough as far as inclines and I would have probably skipped the waterfall if we had done the Bushman hike first. Guides are available for hire for 10 ZAR per person per hour and in my opinion it is essential to hire one. I am positive we would have been lost in the first 5 minutes had we not done so. Our guide Emmanuel was exceptional. He speaks excellent English and he shared much knowledge regarding the culture and traditions of the area with us. He was also always there to lend a hand getting us safely across a few of the trickier river crossings which was very much appreciated.
Walking Through the Valley
Lots of Crabs in the River
Kids Dancing at the Waterfall
Cows with Big Horns have the Right of Way
Sheep Grazing Outside a Small Village
Village with Both Traditional Basotho Huts and More Modern Dwellings
Mountains as far as the eye can see
On our way to the Bushman Paintings
The hike was a bit tougher than we expected but it was beautiful and well worth it. We were able to complete it (I admit I had some doubts towards the end) even though it has been quite awhile since we have done any mountain hiking but if you have more time splitting this hike into 2 days may better. By the evening I was so sore that I could barely walk, seems I definitely need to get out hiking more often.
For our 2nd day we decided on a bit lighter program and chose to go on a pony trek to the top of the Pitseng Canyon Ridge. This ride of 2 hours suited us perfectly as our muscles were still suffering from our hike but it gave us a chance to try out this popular activity. It had been a long time since either one of us had ridden but the ponies seem quite used to us novices and we we really enjoyed our trek.
Getting our Ponies Ready
Off We Go
Pitseng Canyon Ridge
We really loved our (too short) stay at Malealea Lodge and we were very glad we went, I really can’t recommend it highly enough. Everyone we met was so friendly and accommodating, even helping to change a flat on the Jeep was not too much trouble for the people at Malealea. So go, just go to Malealea for a glimpse of the fascinating culture and people of Lesotho, I promise you won’t regret it.
Malealea Pup. I bet I looked like this by the time we got home.
Goodbye Lesotho. Until we meet again…