From Bonnie's Journal:
The next morning we went to the minibus stand for Malealea, a little village with a Lodge that was the original Trading Post for the area, and happened to get there at the perfect time: they just needed 2 more people! We were off - jammed in along with the others like sardines, our packs on our laps. It's about a 2 hour ride, 50M. After about an hour people started getting off and it was much more comfortable. Lesotho is a tiny little country circled by high mountains, and the intereior is no less than 1000 m elevation, higher than the South African elevation on the "other" side of the mountains. It's mostly a rocky plateau with hardy, low lying, sparse vegetation on the hills and hardy grasses, some flowers and the occasional tree on the floor of the valleys. Deep crevasses and gorges have been carved by the rivers. It all adds up to a very scenic, beautiful place.
Of course we are now in late spring / early summer there, so things are green and at their most beautiful I think. In full summer we heard it gets mostly brown - like most dry climate areas - and in winter it is covered in snow. Other than the main city of Maseru, towns are small, and life is primarily rural. The people are friendly and helpful, and though most have a place to live and food, they are anything but wealthy, not even the middle class by western standards. The traditional rural, subsistence way of life is alive and well, though most would like to have more of the comforts and, for many of the younger people we met, a good job.
Malealea is a small, rural town, though a bit better off than some I think simply because the Lodge is there. Originally - in 1905 - the Lodge was the first Trading Post in the area. Some of the original buildings are still there. It is really a very nice facility, beautiful grounds, nice accommodations from basic beds and shared baths in round huts like we had (140M/bed), to full units with ensuite bath, kitchen and sitting rooms. There is a bar, restaurant, cafe for afternoon tea and desserts, horses to ride, bikes to rent, guided walks, a small gift shop, and an outdoor "theatre" where some of the staff and locals come and sing in the early evening. Really very good! In other words, a real tourist Lodge. Mari and I aren't used to being in accommodations that are - by their very nature - rather cut off from the village at large. Each of us went out - seperately - to just walk around and see the village a bit. Both of us returned very quickly.
As soon as you step out of the gate there's a line of about 5 - 7 young men waiting to "show you around"; i.e. just wandering and looking on your own and at your leisure is not an option. I finally, late in the afternoon after things had shut down for the day (about 5:45 pm) went out the back way and was able to walk down a road perhaps 2 km (?) before I spotted too much help in the distance and turned around. It was stunningly beautiful rural, farmed, countryside with mountains as a backdrop no matter which direction you looked. I only saw two young boys. The first, maybe 5-6 years old said to me "give me cheese", the second, maybe 10-12 yrs old said "give me money". Clearly, well meaning but misguided tourists are teaching them bad habits, as well meaning but ignorant and shortsighted tourists do all around the world. So, nice as it was inside the fence of the Lodge, we both agreed one day was enough.
We decided to go to Semonkong - over one valley and a bit further south, though higher in elevations. The highest waterfall in Lesotho is just outside of the town there. We had met and talked at some length with a British family during the afternoon at the Lodge. Jim & Lesley and their son and daughter-in-law who are both physicians doing their residency in Pietermaritzburg, So. Africa. They had their own car and had driven from Sani Pass to Malealea so had seen quite a bit of Lesotho. They highly recommended Semonkong. The problem was, it takes quite a bit of time (4-6 hrs) to get there from Maseru, and 2 hrs for us to get to Maseru (the bus hub). Nonetheless, we decided to try. If we got to Roma (about 1/3 of the way to Semonkong) and it was too late, we could change our minds. It would be just down one day and back the next since that's all the time I had before leaving, but if we got there early enough it should be ok.