Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vacationing from South Africa: Lesotho and Swaziland

Entering Lesotho from South Africa is sort of like a dream where you start walking from a location you know well only to find out that there is a magical fantasy land just down the road that you never knew was there. It has none of the wealth of South Africa, but also none of the pretensions. We spent a couple of days there, and all the people we met were really great. The landscapes were even better. My on criticism is that people in Lesotho have no understanding of roads. They walk right down the middle of them and make absolutely no attempt to move for cars. Just like the cows and goats they are watching.

They raise a lot of sheep and goats in Lesotho. It took Tara a year of travel to be able to tell the difference, but some of them in Lesotho are so tough that I have a tough time with identification. So, your test for the day is whether this is a goat or a sheep.

Time is up. It is a goat. The views in Malealea, where we spent the day hiking, were nearly all like this one. Lots of mountain rivers make for nice valleys. And also nice waterfalls.

The locals are almost all sheep or goat or cow herders. Often, they wear traditional outfits like these. The traditions are very much alive--our guide had spent six months at "initiation school" in the mountains. This involves being circumcised and then being taught how to be a man. Everything from hunting to how to treat women apparently.
Look at that wonderful couple. They look dirty like they had slept in the car the night before or something.
This area has a lot of rock art that is about 500 years old from the San hunter gatherers who lived in the area before the current people. Apparently this depicts the shooting of a kudu, but the person who shoots it isn't allowed to move until the animal is finished off or the animal will regain its strength and run away. Many other animals were also shown, all of which are no longer found in the area and have been replaced with domesticated animals. Sort of sad.
This is the rondavel where we spent the second night in Lesotho. Not bad, but definitely not heated.
Then again, neither was our first night in Lesotho when we decided to sleep in the car. We actually slept in the car many times, but Lesotho was the coldest. Here is Tara in her mummy sleeping bag looking like a mummy. She said she stayed warm. I didn't make mine look like this, and I got cold, so maybe there is something to the mummy thing.
Jump forward a week and we are in Swaziland. Swaziland is far more developed than Lesotho, but slightly less so than South Africa. Tara had been warning me that she thought there was nothing to do in Swaziland, and she turned out to be right. Royal palace is closed to visitors, the national museum is closed for renovation, they have a cultural village tourist trap, but it costs a lot. It was my birthday, so we decided that we would blow a lot of money on the best private game reserve in Swaziland. That is mostly because they have a lot of black rhinos, which we have not seen. Have not in the present tense because we still have not seen them in the wild.
The reserve also breeds a couple types of rare cattle. Here are some baby cows with a baby nyala antelope. Cute, eh?
This hippo let us know that we could stay in our car and probably shouldn't come any closer.
A male nyala. They are really neat looking and their horns are so sharp that they try to put pvc pipe over them during breeding season so that they can't injure each other.
These elephants tore this big tree to bits. They play with trees like a child plays with sticks. It is understandable why they cause such problems for farmers, though I side with the elephants since I would rather see elephants than farmers.
During the winter when nutrients are less available, giraffes will apparently chew on bones that they find to get calcium. The guide said that they will stand there for hours like this trying to chew off tiny pieces and will eventually spit it out when they think they have enough.
The coolest part about the Mkhaya Reserve was the rooms, which weren't really rooms since they had no walls. Very isolated from everything by the woods, lit by kerosene lamps, and entirely open. You could watch antelope while you sit on the toilet. Very nice.
They also had crested guinea fowl, which all look like little Elvis impersonators.
On our way out, this mother and baby charged our car, getting to just a few feet away. They can't see very well, so once they start charging they just keep running straight. Our car had to speed away.
That does it for these two. Very different countries that are only in the same post because of their proximity to South Africa. Both have very friendly people who don't get much tourism, but Lesotho is a bit like stepping into a storybook mountain land while Swaziland is a bit like stepping into, well, somewhere not quite as exciting.

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