This amazing country looks very similar to places Austria, Switzerland, or even Colorado in the USA. It is full of mountains and valleys and, unlike some of the other countries that I have visited, I actually see lots of lakes and rivers below. I could not believe the beauty that my eyes were seeing. I never would have imagined that this country would look so magnificent. It is all very nature and wild looking with beautiful sunshine (which makes it better for me to take lots of pictures).
Like Botswana, Lesotho is one of the rare countries that do not require a crazy flight permit in order to land, which gives me even greater joy to be landing here soon. During approach to this beautiful nation I was actually able to take pictures of both Lesotho and South Africa at the same time, since the capital city of Maseru (where I landed) is right on the border.
In no time at all after landing I cleared customs and was out the door. This facility seemed fairly calm and empty to me for being an international airport. One thing that I noticed right away was that the taxis are not lined up outside and waiting for passengers. I couldn’t find one anywhere. I was later told that this is because they don’t come around until they know that there will be an arrival of a plane full of passengers so that they don’t waste their time waiting.
I ask a gentleman outside if he knew about how to contact them or when the next big flight arrival would be and the distance from here to the city center so that I could get an idea of how much the trip would cost me. Without hesitation he offered his help to me right away. Without asking for or taking any compensation, he drove me the nearly 20km into the city. I can see right away here that the great people of Lesotho take hospitality very seriously.
I am reminded of traveling in the past few countries where the people have been very friendly and willing to help out in any way. After traveling to so many countries so far, I have learned to look closely at the little details of each nation. I pay close attention to things like the infrastructure, cleanliness, the beauty of the surroundings and most importantly, the friendliness and courtesy of the local people. To me, those details are very important and serve to demonstrate just how much that country wants you to visit. Personally, I think that there is nothing better than to have a nation really pay attention to its foreign visitors because those visitors will keep the perception of their experience in their memory for a long time to come and share it with the people that they know back home.
Both Lesotho and Botswana gave me the impression that providing a service meant more to them than just seeing you as a walking dollar sign screaming at their ears to come and get me. Then there is the other end of the spectrum where there are certain countries where the mentality is purely that of ‘give me all your money’ (even if they just come to greet you). In some countries, local people try to come and help you even if you do not ask for it. They impose themselves on you in order to get you to give them money. It makes your life miserable when they do that. Its important to remember folks that I’m not talking about the truly needy people that you can see struggling, but rather some people in general who provide a service to you whether you ask for it or not and think that because you look different that you must have a bank account with money that flows out of it like a stream. At least with people who you can see as genuine and truly needing to work, you sometimes want to give them more because they aren’t asking for it. But many times people are just trying to take your money and treat you like you are a dollar sign.
After my gracious ride into town, I arrived at a hotel near city center suggested to me by some locals. Price wise, The Victoria was fairly reasonable for the quality that they provided, especially since they gave you a nice breakfast buffet each morning. The only bad thing about staying here was that I found it slightly annoying that the cab drivers would honk all throughout the day. I am not talking here about a few of them honking a couple of times a day, but hundreds of them honking all day long. I guess that the people here are accustomed to it and expect to be alerted to their taxi pick-up via the honking. Usually when checking into a hotel, I try to request the highest floor possible to reduce the amount of noise that I hear (and mosquitoes and encounters with rowdy hotel guests, etc.) and to get a good view of the local scenery, but I guess you can’t have everything perfect all the time.
After checking in it was still daylight, so I took advantage of the small opportunity for a nice walk. It was such an invigorating experience to enjoy a walk around town while I explored and took pictures of this brilliant setting. The view is absolutely stunning with the cooler temperatures (due to the higher elevation), the beautiful mountains the distance and approaching peach sunset. I could not stop taking pictures the whole time. After that refreshing experience I head back to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow’s working day in which I hope will be successful.
For the next two days I work to finish a bunch of media interviews, all of which were excellent and very comprehensive. I first owe the biggest thank you to the amazing team at Lesotho Television, the national government station. They did an excellent job in transmitting the important details of our mission. Thanks to Mr. Dyke Sehloho, the Operations Director, who after a brief few minutes of discussion authorized and organized a team of journalists to visit the airport with me so that we could do some live footage in front of our baby plane. Mr. Sehloho sent Ms. Mamotseki Paanya to cover the story. She was an amazing journalist and news producer with a very charming personality and very sharp and focused leadership style. Along with her and the cameraman, we rode out to the airport together and filmed some coverage for the interview. The best part of this experience my friends, was that I was able to take them up in our plane to fly for a few minutes. This was exciting to me for a couple of reasons. One, the cameraman had never before been on an airplane, which I always enjoy. Two, this country gave me no problems whatsoever about authorizing a television crew to visit airport, which is rarely the case and oftentimes requires a lot of bureaucratic nonsense. And three, the best part was that this was the first time in the African continent where they authorized me to take a local flight without having to prepare flight plans or have a permit in order to take off and land. So far, in all of the countries that I have visited, this would have been impossible, except for maybe South Africa, Botswana and here. The interview was excellent and we were able to get some great live footage in addition to the brief, unexpected flight.
Thanks to the Public Eye newspaper team and Mr. Lloyd Mutungamiri who authorized an interview with his journalist Ms. Tsisti Matope. Thanks to Mr. Khutliso Sekoat, an excellent gentleman from the native language newspaper Moeletsi Oa Basotho (Bathoso Advisor). Since the main language in this country is Sesotho (or Sotho), the local people (known as ‘Basotho’) will be able to read about our plea for recognition as well. It is estimated that nearly 40% of people here live below the international poverty line of $1.25/day. Yet Lesotho has one of the highest literacy rates in the region, with 85% of the adults being able to read. Females actually have a higher literacy rate than men here, which is highly unusual for this area of the world.
Thank you to Mr. Mapamela Khanyela with the newspaper Informative for his interview and to Ms. Lerato Matheka with thenewspaper Lesotho Times/Sunday Express, who was a sharp young lady with a lot of knowledge about the history of our country. Thank you to the awesome team at Radio Moafrika FM (99.3, 90.7, 89.7 and 94.6), Mr. John Ramane and Mr. Selebalo Mathebekoane, who gave me the best 45-minute live interview. In that short time we had over 30 people that called into the show to ask some great questions. Had we been able to continue the interview I’m sure that the phones would have kept reading off the hook, but the radio station had other programs to cover for the day instead of only talking about Kosovo. Interviews like that will stay in my memory for a long time to come.
The meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was also very productive thanks to Mr. J.T. Metsing, Principal Secretary to the Minister who graciously took some time to talk with me and share his knowledge about Kosovo’s situation. Mr. Metsing stated that his government and the Ministry totally agree that we should be an independent country and that they had advised Serbia many times of their position and stance on our independence. The only concern that they have is that they want it done right and to make sure that we maintain peace and stability in our neighborhood. I should note here that Lesotho has a long history of supporting just causes. Though they are sometimes vulnerable to the political and economic decisions that are made by South Africa, Lesotho was one of the original supporters of the end of Apartheid and at one time offered a number of South African refugees political asylum during that time. Additionally, they are one of the minority of countries that officially recognize Palestine as its own state.
Mr. Metsing was very personable, friendly and down to earth and our interview was very comprehensive. A day or so later I called him back in order to update him on the status of my media interviews. He was happily surprised to see that my interviews were broadcast on the national television station of his country and of the things that I had to say during my interview.
Finally, I can’t forget to thank my taxi driver, a very young man by the name of Mr. Moeketsi Sekeleoane who drove me around during my entire stay in Maseru.
Lesotho is one of the nations that will always have a place in my heart and I hope to visit this nation again in the future just to enjoy the beauty and splendor that exists here. The people are very friendly and for the first time in Africa I even saw some fruit trees growing. Seeing the peach trees, grapes and other fruits brought me comfort and gave me a brief reminder of home.
Another thing that I noticed is that I could feel a sense of isolation and sadness in some of the voices and eyes of the local people. For one, this country is completely surrounded by another (South Africa), but more than that, there are some other problems here as well. Many local people have to travel into South Africa for work and so are gone for three to nine months out of the year. The work that they find there is difficult too, mostly finding employment at diamond or mineral mines. Most households here subsist on farming and it has been reported that there is somewhat of an issue here in regards to child labor. Finally, this country has been devastated by the horrible AIDS epidemic, which is rumored to infect up to a third of the countries population. It is so serious that the government now offers free screening to anyone who wants it.
During my next trip here I would definitely like to explore some of the natural wonders found here. In addition to the beautiful mountains, many local people have talked to me about visiting the dams that exist in this country. Apparently they are part of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which was put into place in order to provide an ongoing water supply to this country and to South Africa and to allow for hydropower to exist. The locals say that this is quite a large system of several dams and tunnels that have been put in place and tell me that it has positively impacted their local infrastructure. Because of all of the additional new roads that needed to be built in order to maintain the system, rural villages in the mountainous areas have had increased access to communication with the outside world.
One thing is for sure my dear friends, I could definitely see myself living in a country like this, Zambia, Botswana or Namibia with absolutely no problem at all, especially when it comes to being surrounded by the very friendly locals.
May higher powers bless this beautiful nation and its people.