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Lesotho (pronounced Leh-soo-too) sounds more dreamt-up than real. When I arrived, its flawless sky confirmed that I had come somewhere wholly unique, much more than just a beauty mark on the face of the South African map.
Lesotho is a mountainous and landlocked kingdom with a population of about two million. It is the only country in the world to be fully surrounded by just one other country.
A prime minister and parliament run the government, despite the presence of a king. Prior to the kingdom’s independence in 1966, the people of Lesotho defended themselves by throwing rocks from higher altitudes. By the looks of the road leading up to Lesotho, it’s easy to imagine how this method of resistance was possible.
The Sani Path, the winding stretch of road from Drakensberg, South Africa and into Lesotho, is a rugged trail that seems to climb into the sky. The road felt even more impressive and exotic once my passport had been stamped while leaving South Africa for a no man’s land full of jutting terrain, incredible views and occasional baboon and jackal sightings. It took about 30 minutes to drive through this “Neverland” of gravelly pathways before getting to Lesotho’s wind-eaten flag and border/immigration hovel.
Agents with clients looking for something different may love Lesotho’s remoteness, stillness and distinct beauty. Altitudes in Lesotho often run high and range from 5,000 to 11,000 feet. As a result, the small country hosts some of Southern Africa’s most inspiring views. Bring a sweater and a camera; both will come in handy.
Tiny villages of round huts dot the terrain at the Sani Pass area in Lesotho, a mountainous and landlocked kingdom in South Africa. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
Sani Pass border crossing at Lesotho emerges after a series of snaking roads; an off-roading vehicle is recommended for visitors who would rather drive on their own. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
A traditional house with a mud and thatched roof in Sani Pass. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
Local shepherds wear blankets as they mill about the area. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
Sani Mountain Lodge soars at 9,400 feet, which likely makes the supposed title of "highest pub in Africa" well-deserved. // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
Inside Sani Mountain Lodge, which offers visitors good food and even alcoholic refreshments // © 2014 Devin Galaudet
Upon arrival, I noticed how Lesotho’s other-worldly terrain is dotted with tiny villages of round huts, made with mud and thatched roofs. Blanket-wearing shepherds mill about with small herds of sheep, and the region’s traditional bread is cooked in a pot over dung (that burns like coal) — both adding to the authentic village experience.
A visit to Lesotho would not be complete without a stop at the border-hugging Sani Mountain Lodge. The lodge boasts refreshingly good food and a variety of alcoholic delights. It also claims to be the highest pub in Africa, and at over 9,400 feet — it probably is.
Though it is conceivable for clients to drive to Lesotho from South Africa, drivers would need an off-road vehicle as well as nerves of steel for the switchback portion of Sani Pass. It zigs and zags to dizzying heights right before the border checkpoint at Lesotho.
Basic package tours start in Underberg, South Africa, and last around 7 to 8 hours for about $60. Agent commission starts at 15 percent through operators such as Beach Bush Berg – Travel & Tours.
Beach Bush Berg – Travel & Tourswww.beachbushberg.com