PSALM 24:1-2 reads: “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters”. In the Book of Genesis it is said that after creating the earth and heavens, day and night, and sea and land, n 1:25 it is said: “… And God saw it was good”. God finished all this majestic work called the universe in exactly six days and on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. He then called the seventh day holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
I am quoting all these verses from the Bible because I believe they apply in equal measure to Lesotho, my beautiful motherland. The only country one will always proudly call home, sweet beautiful home. I choose to write on Lesotho’s natural beauty because despite all the negative recent publicity and developments that beset our beautiful country, most of them self-created, Lesotho is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. I challenge and dare anyone who disputes my assessment to disprove it.
For a country of just over two million inhabitants with a total land area of just over 30 000 square kilometres, it is generally considered a country of abundant and unrivalled pristine beauty.
A cannot in one article praise all that Lesotho boasts but will attempt to highlight a few natural attractions of this land-locked mountainous country. Further, I am neither claiming to know the whole of Lesotho, (it is impossible despite its relatively small size), nor do I carry the mandate of the tourism authorities. Lesotho is a natural beauty, with its highest bar in Mokhotlong’s Sani Top to Qacha’s Nek snake park, the only one in Lesotho.
Here are a few of our unrivalled attractions:
- Hilltop parliament building
Anyone who has been to or has read about the American capital, Washington, will realize that despite their penchant for tall skyscraper buildings, the Americans made sure, and it is a rule to this day, that no other building or structure should be taller than that impressive but small lady above the Capitol Building, Americas parliament. Legend has it that because this is where the entire nation’s laws are made no structure in metropolitan Washington should be taller than the lady of freedom statute, if I recall it well, atop the Capitol Building. Figuratively, it means no one is above the law in the United States, and indeed this building is situated on the only hill in Washington D.C (District of Columbia).
In a similar vein, Lesotho’s legislative chambers are situated atop the only hill in Maseru, the capital, because figuratively speaking again, no one is above the law. My suspicions is that people who chose the site of this august house unwittingly chose it unaware of tis significance.
The Houses of Parliament are a massive white structure that overlooks the capital and are visible from virtually all angles of the capital. They are at a vantage point. A causal walk to the hill, Hilton Hill, next to the Parliament gives one a bird’s eye unhindered view of the capital. Absolutely stunning!
- Kome and Khotso (bushmen) paintings
Our ancestors as Basotho are the Khoisan peoples, otherwise known as Bushmen, who inhabited present day Lesotho, parts of Southern Namibia, Botswana and northern South Africa centuries ago before being driven to near-extinction by forefathers of inhabitants of modern Lesotho and the white settlers.
To this day as testament for the Khoisan peoples natural gift and penchant for rock paintings and drawings, the relics of their impressive immaculate drawings are a tourist attraction at the Kome caves and Ha Khotso. These attractions are just about 40 kilometres from Maseru. What a sight to behold!
- Thaba-Bosiu Mountain
History has it that during the 1800’s King Moshoeshoe I, founder of the Basotho nation, to protect his small nation from the marauding Zulus during the Mfecane wars and the all-conquering white tribes coming from the north, trekked with his people from Menkhoaneng to Thaba-Bosiu, so called because legend has it that this flat-topped mountain that has only about three (3) access routes, was an ideal fortress to repeal attacks and conquer by enemy forces. This is the spiritual home of the Basotho nation, where the modern-day Basotho originated from or rather had their headquarters. This is where our kings including Moshoeshoe I, our founder, have been buried.
- Majestic ‘Maletsunyane and Bots’oela Waterfalls
As you drive into the hinterland of our country owing to tis abundance of water and a network of rivers, that meander through our rugged mountains peaks, the tourist will visit the world famous ‘Maletsunyane, formerly Lebihan Falls, for their incredible height. It is arguably one of the highest falling sheet of water, (in my approximation, about twenty (20) storeys high), on earth. A serious tourist will notice that in terms of height this natural wonder of the world surpasses both the world-famous Victoria Falls and Niagara Falls. These two surpasses ‘Matsunyane only in terms of the, with of the falling natural sheet of water.
Owing to the deep gorges coupled with the numerous high mountains around ‘Maletsunyane, the echoes and natural thunder of the falling water, echo around a very large area the size of major city. It echoes in the huge valley deep below. The deep thunders and echoes, accompanied by fog that clothes the high mountains make you fell a sense of curiosity to know what lies deep in the inner recesses of those unreachable gorges astoundingly beautiful! The thunder that reverberates from far and beyond, triggered by the force of the water and the singing of rare and unique birds hovering high above, make for a unique sight to behold forever. Perhaps, no blasphemy intended, this is where God must have stopped for a while to marvel at the eternal beauty He created for mankind. This is however, God’s eternal secret that we, mere mortals, will never know, until we reach our Maker. That is God’s eternal secret how He achieved such majestic beauty. A serious tourist would ask the Lesotho government to ask UNESCO to declare these falls a world Heritage site.
The Bots’oela Falls in Southern Lesotho are reachable through the tarred rood that meanders through tough mountainous terrain to Malea-lea. From Malea-lea the tourist then ride on horseback to the awe-inspiring Falls, though they are not as high as ‘Maletsunyane, they are equally impressive, particularly in winter, when the water’s multiple icy structures that appear like time stops just there. Unrivalled majestic beauty! This begs the question. “Isn’t these one of the seven wonders of the ancient world”? The answer lies deep in the belly of these majestic falls.
- Thaba-Putsoa mountain range
Most of the lowlands of Lesotho that are ideal for agricultural production comprise only about 20 percent of the country. Otherwise the rest of the country is composed of rugged unrelenting beautiful mountain scenery where only livestock herders and their prized four-legged assets can survive due to the bitingly cold winter that reach below freezing temperature. Hence here it snows of a couple of months in the year.
The natural defining line between the lowlands and highlands that cut across the entire breath of the country. There are four major roads that link the highlands and the lowlands and all of them go through the Thaba-Putsoa range. To my imaginary eye therefore the Thaba-Putsoa range are like a spine that separates the two. The meandering roads with hairpin bends up these passes are absolutely breathtaking. Once you arrive at the highest points of these ranges, then dismount your four by four vehicle to feel the pristine fresh air of the mountains. When you look backwards where you come from, from the aptly-named numerous viewpoints, that is when you notice how high you have climbed the rugged terrain because all the major towns and other human settlements are very far below, followed by the undulating mountains. When you look further north where you are still to drive, it is like you are literally going to touch the sky with several snow-capped mountains in full view, just about the small wonder same level you are standing. We are referred to “as the Kingdom in the sky”, small wonder then.
It is mostly at these ranges that the sources of the major rivers of Lesotho lie. These rivers are the lifeblood of the Gauteng province in the economic hub of South Africa and on their waters survive literally millions of thirsty South Africans.
- Abundant water reserves
Realizing the huge potential of the abundant water reserves that Lesotho is endowed with, the water cascade down virtually every mountain and hill in Lesotho, South Africa invested billions of rands (maloti, if you like) in building the joint Lesotho-South Africa Highlands Water Project (More than M30 billion to be precise). At the time it was signed in 1986, this civil engineering binational project was the largest of its kind in Africa, and it is still to run its full course, coming in phases.
Its main purpose as earlier stated, is to provide water and hydro electricity to the millions of South Africans in the Gauteng province, the economic hub of that country. Interestingly, the equally arid Botswana, further north also want to join the fray in harnessing Lesotho’s abundant water resources.
This massive binational project build high quality tarred roads that meander the length and breath of our beautiful country to the giant dams that are Katse and Mohale. A drive through these roads gives one a lasting impression for the visitor to treasure for the rest of his life because of its sheer beautiful scenery and unique fauna and flora. Small wonder, one former Prime Minister called Lesotho’s water “our white gold”.
- Mohale and Katse dams
The major dams that form part of the Highlands project that also generates electricity at the ‘Muela Hydro-power plant are the Katse and Mohale Dams. A visitor will drive through magnificently tarred roads for kilometres while at the same time viewing these huge dams that have walls that are the highest in the world for dams of their type. These dams stretch for kilometres through the high unforgiving mountains some of which are dwarfed by the huge depth of the dams with the result that some of these mountains are now like tiny islands in the middle of these huge dams. To think these were previously mountains that have now been immersed in dams leaves one awe-inspired.
The Mohale dam has a tunnel that runs literally tens of meters underneath this huge dam so does Katse. A mere thought of how deep you are below the dam sends shivers down your spine. Yet the huge dams are so placid. Go harvesting for the best world famous trout fish in the Katse and enjoy a bit of Basotho dishes.
This for me, is my tiny “kingdom in the sky”. The beautiful kingdom that has all the seven wonders of the ancient world in one tiny country. A sight to behold!