One of the best parts of getting to study abroad is that it opens you up to exploring completely new terrains and trying new things. When you stay in one place its easy enough to fall into a basic routine and rarely venture out. Sometimes it even seems difficult to find new things to try. In Toronto, I definitely sometimes felt myself slide easily enough into the basic study-work-workout (I’m in Phys. Ed. after all)- sleep kind of days. I’d go out to bars or movies or to coffee with friends occasionally, and sometimes we’d try a new bar, but rarely was there that feeling of ‘newness’ or any sense of adventure.
While I can’t say I ever felt quite like that in Cape Town — the city is constantly moving and changing, and being there such a short time, it was impossible to run out of things to do —
I’ve been very lucky to get a chance to leave Cape Town and explore a bit. After researching South Africa, I finally settled on the place I wanted to spend the brief period of time I had before my flight home.
The Drakensbergs are a range of mountains that include the world’s second highest waterfall, and some of what must be the most beautiful hiking areas in the world. For those of you not familiar with South African geography, the Drakensbergs are located between Johannesburg and Durban in the state of Kwa-zul Natal. They make up the dividing border between Lesotho and South Africa. And I was lucky enough to get to visit Lesotho as well (more on that later).
The Drakensbergs are split into three regions; Northern, Central, and Southern. Each region has a slightly different feel to it and there are various hikes in each area with a range of difficulties and lengths. And the space between the areas is large. It takes approximately 3-4 hours to drive from one end to the other (if not longer). The highest mountain in the range is actually located in Lesotho in the Southern Drakensberg. It stands at over 3,100 meters.
Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world, and as such it has some of the worst roads I’ve ever seen and is really only accessible by a four wheel vehicle, and frankly that seemed very unlikely to work at several points, so personally I’d suggest going in by pony which is what you frequently see people ride in on. Apparently there’s even a type of horse that has adapted to the area and you’ll see people riding or leading them around throughout the country. They have adapted to the altitude and to eating the scrubby grasses in the area.
Some cool things to know:
If you see a white or yellow flag it means that they’ve brewed some beer and you can go to the house to have some. Since most of the towns don’t have pubs and the people are very poor, its really common for them to brew beer alcohol in their house and then sell it to others. A yellow flag is for pineapple beer, and a white flag is for sorghum beer. If you’d like to try some ‘better’ beer, there is a brewery in Lesotho! And their beer was a really nice surprise.
Lesotho is known for a many things–one of them is their weaving. The people of Lesotho walk around wearing blankets which is a tradition based on one of their past kings who was gifted a blanket by the British and wore it as a status symbol. Blankets are still a symbol of wealth in the country.
The blankets and the tapestries can come in all kinds of colours and they often have symbols or stories on them. Common pictures are of women cooking, or carrying things on their heads, patterns involving corn or other plants to indicate wealth or fertility.
Lesotho is also considered the highest country in the world because it has the highest low point of any other country.