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Malealea Lodge and Pony Trek Centre
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Stay in a Basutu Hut in Lesotho
ashbourne, United Kingdom
May 15, 2010
Best of IgoUgo
Malealea Mountain Lodge -- Lesotho,Lesotho is a land-locked country completely surrounded by South Africa. We entered through the Van Rooyen’s Gate and drove to our home for the night in Malealea Lodge mostly on tarred rounds but the last 7 km were ...
Malealea Mountain Lodge -- Lesotho,
Lesotho is a land-locked country completely surrounded by South Africa. We entered through the Van Rooyen’s Gate and drove to our home for the night in Malealea Lodge mostly on tarred rounds but the last 7 km were a pretty rough ride on mud roads with large holes and a lot of water damage but we made it after a 5 hour drive from Colesberg.
Malealea was originally established as a trading station in 1905 by a British adventurer Mervyn Bosworth. He is responsible for the sign on the gateway as you reach a crest of a hill before entering the final stretch of the journey to the lodge. The inscription reads "Wayfarer pause, and look upon the gateway to paradise". Indeed it is a most magnificent view the like of which is hard to compare to many places in the world.
The present owners of the lodge are Di and Mick Jones both of whom are Lesotho born and they have created an excellent example of eco tourism while helping the local community benefit too. Whilst at the lodge all guests have the opportunity to experience amazing scenery, the Lesotho culture, pony trekking or guided treks of varying length and difficulty. This lodge was the winner of the Southern African Awards for responsible Tourism in 2003.
Tourists are entertained in the evening by a local choir and band from the nearby village. They are not paid by the lodge but by donations from the tourists-the amount suggested is about 10R or 15R per person for the choir and band respectively. The entertainment lasted an hour and was so natural and obviously just local villagers as they were not dressed up at all so we felt it was great entertainment for the price. Most of the members of the band and choir are students and this donation helps them to pay their school fees. The instruments of the band were all home made out of scraps of tin and wood but they sounded amazing.
One of the main reasons people come to the lodge is for pony trekking but the lodge owns no ponies. They work with the local community who have formed a Pony Owner’s Association and take it in turns to hire their mounts to the visitors. Some treks are longer, some can be up to 6 days and overnight stays are in basic Basoto huts which provide income for the hut owner. Young people from the village who can speak English are able to act as guides and for this service they charge a daily fee.
We stayed in the more luxurious accommodation which was in rondavels or round thatched huts with ensuite shower and toilet. These cost 250 R per person per night (At the time we were there it was 11R to the £1). Other accommodation ranged from Basotho huts using shared bathroom facilities down to basic tents sharing bathing and toilet facilities.
There was a very pleasant bar with TV showing an English Premier League match via satellite but we sat outside and enjoyed the view instead. The evening meal was canteen style offering local food including pap (a sort of maize gloop) cabbage, bean stew, potato salad and the biggest T bone steak we had ever seen. This was followed by a coconut pie which was delicious. The price for the meal was 60R per person
As we only booked this as an overnight stop in Lesotho to go and revisit my husband’s former haunts from when he lived her for 6 years with his previous wife, we didn’t really have time to take up any of the activities bar the singing and band session, the scenery and the food before collapsing exhausted into our very comfortable beds.
The electricity is only on in the huts and compound from 5pm till 10pm and after that it is torches or candles or sleep. It does make for an excellent chance to view the southern night sky free of light pollution. Careful use of water is encouraged and the products used and supplied for washing are biodegradable and not harmful to the environment.
Visitors are encouraged to buy local crafts and visit the local village where children will proudly show you their home and school. You are not encouraged to just hand out sweets or money but if a service is offered and accepted them a donation is fine and welcome. Money donated by visitors has helped to build a local school and supply books etc. These donations are managed by the Malealea Development Trust. Another way that you can help the local area and the environment is to donate 5 R and this will plant a tree in the area. Trees are fairly scarce in Lesotho so this will help provide a carbon offset and provide much needed shade as well as helping to stabilise the soil from erosion too.
Although we were only there for one night we had a thoroughly wonderful experience and were able to appreciate the fantastic mountain scenery as well as enjoy local people singing and dancing and an excellent local meal in the evening and a satisfying breakfast of cereal, fruit juice, tea/coffee and cooked eggs, bacon and tomatoes for those who wanted it. The staff are all local people and so once again the Lodge owners are supporting the local community. Everyone was very friendly and helpful and we also noticed that the prices of drinks were reasonable too despite the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere.
If you are interested in seeing a different African country while visiting South Africa then I would suggest a trip into Lesotho where you will find very friendly people and if you are in to scenery, mountains, hiking and horse riding then I really recommend a trip into Lesotho and to stay at Malealea Mountain Lodge.
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