The Kingdom of Lesotho is “The Kingdom in the Sky” because the land area is above an altitude of 1,000 m, around 80% of which is even above an altitude of 1,800 m above sea level. In the eastern part of the country, which is completely enclosed by the Republic of South Africa, the Drakensberg rise, which lower to the west to a landscape with rolling hills and finally to a plain. Most of the country’s population lives in the so-called Lowlands, as this region, unlike the Highlands, can be used for agriculture. However, both regions have natural beauty that is worth exploring. In the mountainous east of Lesotho one encounters the Thabana Ntlenyana with an altitude of almost 3,500 m and deep canyons along the rivers of Orange and Caledon, and on the edge of the basalt rock of the Drakensberg there are a number of waterfalls worth seeing, of which the Maletsunyane near Semonkong is the most impressive with a little over 190 m. The waterfall can also be reached with a slightly different form of transport: pony trekking, which the Basotho Pony Trekking Center offers in different variants and which is an unusual (and probably just as unforgettable) experience. Ha Ramabanta and the Thaba-Putsoa Pass can also be reached in this way, for example. Other destinations in Lesotho are the petrified forest on the Taaba-Ts’oeu mountain, the Sehlabathebe and Mont-aux-Sources national parks or the Ha-Khotso rock carvings. The latter are not far from the capital Maseru – a modern metropolis that is also worth a visit. So has Lesotho.
Basotho pony trekking in Lesotho
Lesotho is the “roof of South Africa”, shaped by the mighty Drakensberg Mountains, which have always formed a weather divide in the south of the Black Continent. If you come from Durban, you have to overcome the difficult Sani-Pass, which can only be mastered with good nerves and a strong all-rounder. Much more convenient is the ascent to the capital Maseru, which has two landmarks: a historic cemetery and the king’s palace. The “Switzerland of Africa” has made a special name for itself, because it offers interesting pony trekking through the Basotho mountain people.
“Enter in peace…”
They are wild mountain streams that rush through valleys in southwest Lesotho and flow into huge waterfalls. “Kena Ka Thotso” is what the inhabitants of this unusual African highland say when they meet their friends or guests. “Enter in Peace”. This is what the organizers of the Basotho Pony Trekking say. A few years ago the residents of the village were encouraged to set up an association and rent their horses to tourists. That turned into a success story.
Mixture of ponies and horses
Today, the Malealea Lodge and the Semonkong Lodge offer day or multi-day excursions on horses. These are not completely normal four-legged friends, but resilient transport animals. It is a mix of ponies with breeding horses from Arabia, England and Persia. They are ideally suited to lead their riders through impassable and impressive terrain without paths.
Riding experience is not a requirement
Those who only want to spend a day on the back of the ponies have to be content with a three to four hour ride. The destination could be the idyllic Quiloane waterfalls, for example. But if you want to understand the culture of the Basotho and their belief in unearthly things, you should decide on a tour over three to four days. You will spend the night in simple huts or rondavels. An intensive riding experience is not necessary. Participating children should be at least twelve years old.
The Drakensberg is one of the most impressive hiking areas in South Africa. They rise to heights of over three thousand meters and are the natural border with Lesotho. One of the optical highlights is the so-called crescent-shaped “amphitheater”, a gigantic five-kilometer rock face with the Tugela Fall and thus a river, the water of which plunges almost five hundred meters into the Mont-aux-Sources just seven kilometers after the source. It is the second largest waterfall in the world.
A flat peak and many springs
The 3,282 meter high Mont-aux-Sources was named after a French missionary who was apparently an avid hiker and explored the flat summit in 1836. It is right on the border with Lesotho. Some of the most important rivers in South Africa have their source at the impressive edge of the mountain. Among other things, the Orange River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in Namibia, and the Tugela, which makes its way into the Indian Ocean. Because of the large number of these rivers, the region at Mont-aux-Sources is called “Quellenberg”.
Climbing ladders at the end of the path
If you want to climb Mont-aux-Sources in the Drakensberg National Park of the same name, you can reach it via a relatively easy hiking trail through extensive grasslands from the Sentinel Car Park not far from Witsieshoek. A challenge, however, are several steep climbing ladders, at the end of which the hikers are rewarded with a view of the “amphitheater” and the waterfalls. The wobbly rungs are not for the faint of heart. However, there is an alternative to the ladders in the form of a steep hiking trail.
Drakensberg as a weather divide
Since the Drakensberg is one of the most important weather divisions in southern Africa, changeable weather can be expected in the region at all times of the year. Mont-aux-Sources is part of the Royal Natal National Park, which has been named since the then British Crown Princess Elizabeth visited the area in 1947. Thanks to the different climatic zones, a rich variety of plants has developed here. But this is also the home of elands, baboons, zebras and eagles. Travelers can find overnight accommodation in campsites and lodges. There are no hotels on site.