Sunday, 9 March 2014


This is an amazing place. It feels like a little bit of heaven on earth. The peace is extraordinary, and the occasional screaming of birds or the curious sounds made by the frogs (?) does nothing to disturb it. An extraordinary variety of people from all over the world pass through a place like this and are fascinating to talk with. 

It had a weird history, started as a trading post early last century by Merwyn Bosworth Smith, the son of a master at Harrow School. One of those remarkable men who trekked across Africa and did his thing. We cannot imagine what life was like for such people. But he loved the people in Bazutoland (now Lesotho), settled here and eventually died here in 1950. 

His home was bought as a trading station and modest lodge in 1986 by Mick and Di Jones and it remains in the hands of them and their family. The whole story is on the lodge website. It is hard to encapsulate the experience the place offers: blissful informality, delightfully unpretentious cooking, a scattering of quite basic but perfectly adequate accommodation scattered through lovely gardens, and rewarding company. Plus an extraordinary integration into the local Basutho villages by paying local people to take visitors on guided walks and treks, or show them round the village of Malealea. And the lodge has set up a Trust that provides health and other support services locally. 

Being here brings joy to the heart in a country so blighted by social and economic problems. To come across such good news on this trip is quite something. Please, if you ever come within a hundred miles of this place, do visit. 

I learnt today that riding a pony is not my thing. I prefer a closer and more curious relationship with the passing landscape, to have time to browse the plant life or pause in silence to observe birds or stalk butterflies; or merely record the passing moments on the camera. All this the horse or pony denies me. And at home it would also deny me the pleasure of passing through a kissing gate or crossing a stile. 

We also had a third visit to San rock paintings. Another scramble up and down a vertical cliff face, following tiny paths and tracks. I now have heard two accounts from young local Basutho of why the San had to go. I am looking forward to watching the rest of the material on the DVD 'Tracks in the Sand' made by Hugh Brody, all about the few San surviving today and their history (and extermination), and to doing more reading myself. My intention is to try and distil some of this knowledge into a page or pages on my website. We shall see. 

I read that the facial features of the San can still be seen in some of the people here as rather oriental in their appearance. Certainly the local Basutho face is very characteristic and unmistakable, while one of the members of a local men's band who entertain us nightly has a totally different and slightly Mongolian or Chinese appearance. I have some excellent photographs and this also calls for more research. 

The quality of the dancing I just mentioned is very high, in a village and traditional way. We are also entertained by a choir. This is in another league. Ten women and seven men with very impressive voices sing songs in Sotho 'to make you welcome and happy'. Knocks spots off virtually anything I have heard in Charlbury. Yes, we've bought the CD and Angela also recorded some of their songs on her iPhone. We've got the band's CD too. It's hard to believe that a tiny village and its surrounding hamlets 6000 feet up in the mountains of Lesotho a good half hour from the end of the tarred road can be so creative and even get it on CD!!

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