Gently swinging in a hammock with a 180 degree view of the Maluti Mountains and the sounds of a Basotho choir drifting across the open lawns, it was easy to see why everyone talks so highly about Malealea (Ma-lay-a-lay-a). Nestled in a quiet lowlands valley about two hours from Maseru, this peaceful hodge podge lodge was the perfect place for a short weekend escape with a group of expats.
We arrived just before the daily musical show and settled into the shared common area and commenced on the cocktails and relaxing inherent in the weekend plans. Within a short time a Basotho choir started up, singing religious songs mostly in Sesotho. It was lovely background music echoing off the rondavels and cascading out towards the mountains.
After the choir came Sotho Sounds, a Basotho music group that has performed all over Southern Africa and just this past year also at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. This group of locals plays handmade instruments like three string guitars and sings in Sesotho, all while doing coordinated dances.
The sounds were hypnotic and made you immediately tap your foot and swing your hips in rhythm. As the sun drifted down behind the hills and the chilly winter mountain air began to set in, we were all perfectly content sitting on logs and plastic chairs, listening to this wonderful local music.
One of the big draws at Malealea is pony trekking. The land is perfect for wandering up and down the valley or taking the several hour trek up to the Gates of Paradise Pass. This 2000m high location offers fantastic views of the Maluti range and the countryside below. It still being winter meant that the fields and hillsides were various shades of brown and tan, but in just a few months it will all be a glorious green!
Instead of letting the horses do all the work, we chose to hike down into the river gorge. Being the dry season, the river was virtually non-existent, though a couple of the deeper pools did require removal of shoes and in one instance even our trousers.
The river gorge offered great opportunities to scramble over boulders, shoulder through thickets and firmly get lost. Well lost is inaccurate, we knew where we were and how to get out, but unfortunately we went a bit too far and didn’t know the way out of the gorge except the way we had come in. After a lengthy exploration up the side of the gorge, we fortuitously ran into a local herd boy who led us up out of the gorge and back towards the lodge. Despite our small detour, it was a great hike with really enjoyable company throughout.
That night we enjoyed another evening of music, relaxation and copious amounts of wonderfully grilled meat. A few of us hearty souls roused early the following morning to attempt to photograph the sunrise to varying degrees of success. The biggest benefit of this early start was the unilateral access we then had to the hammock for a lazy Sunday morning before heading back to Maseru!
A big thank you to Emma for initiating such a wonderful weekend surrounded by beautiful scenery and good friends.