When I was invited to the Lesotho trip by Sanne, I had absolutely no idea what it would be like. Neither about the country, which I had hardly heard of before, let alone knew anything about, nor about the horses, the culture or anything else. All I knew came from Sanne and was something like this: "It's incredibly beautiful, you'll love it, we'll be in the middle of the mountains, the horses are amazing, just come with me!". So I came along. What can I say, I was not disappointed.
When I landed at Durban airport, I still had no idea what to expect. I met Sanne and our guest the next morning and off we went towards the Drakensberg, which is still in South Africa. On the way there I got my first taste of what to expect and what I had no idea of beforehand. It was a rainy day and the further we went into the mountains, the more mythical it became. It was foggy and the clouds were very low, so you could only guess what the mountains would look like on the horizon.
Also read: Equestrian meet-up Lesotho 2023
We arrived at the farm around midday and went for a short sunset ride to get to know our horses. I got Ali, a very sweet bay mare who reminded me a lot of a mountain goat. Not because of her looks (she was very pretty), but because she is the most sure-footed horse I have ever met. I was to find out later how sure-footed she really was. The next morning we finally set off on our adventure! The horses were loaded onto the truck, we piled into the driver's cab and off we went towards the Lesotho border. Once there, we had to deal with the typical border stuff and then we were finally ready to go!
We had everything we needed for the next 7 days, apart from food, in our saddlebags. So off we went on our horses and into no man's land. I didn't know this beforehand either, but between South Africa and Lesotho there is a very wide strip of no man's land that is neither cultivated nor inhabited. Accordingly, it is probably the most beautiful land you can find out there.
Also read: Horse riding in Lesotho
We rode into a bright green landscape of shallow hills, lush grasslands and endless expanses. A river with absolutely clear water meandered through this paradise, which we had to cross several times, and in the distance we could see the mountains for which Lesotho was so famous. They are up to 4000 meters high and were even covered in snow that day. It really was a dreamlike sight and I was already completely overwhelmed. I never thought it would be that beautiful. Slowly but surely our horses climbed up the first steep pass and here Ali proved for the first time how sure-footed she was. She climbed up slopes and cliffs that I wouldn't have walked up myself and she didn't slip once. I was to be fascinated by this to the end.
I actually had two of my highlights of this trip on the very first day. One was the ascent and then our break at the picnic spot. We let the horses run free, had taken our packed lunches out of the saddlebags beforehand and sat on a little grassy plateau, in the middle of nowhere, with my soul far and wide and nothing but silence. Here and there we heard a bird or the snorting of the horses, but not even a hint of unnatural or man-made noises. Almost unimaginable nowadays. We had a breathtaking view of the snow-covered mountains and while we ate our sandwiches, our guide showed us the route we still had ahead of us. A narrow pass between the two largest mountains. The way to this pass was actually my second highlight. There was a huge flat area between our picnic spot and the pass and it was clear what we were going to use it for: full speed gallops.
We started off very relaxed, galloped for a while until one of us could no longer pull themselves together and let go of their horse and the others naturally joined in. Unfortunately, my pony wasn't the fastest, which is why I was overtaken after 5 seconds of glorious leading. And that at an already outrageous pace. But it was still a lot of fun. And it wasn't to be our last race. A few days later, we picked a perfect race track to find out once and for all who had the fastest horse. Spoiler: I always came last. I still love Ali more than anything and she did her best! But I think the distant Shire genes didn't help. Sanne on Shadow won by a distance every race.... But again, it really wasn't fair conditions. Her horse was part thoroughbred, it has to be said!
Also read: Horse riding in the mountains of Lesotho
We spent the first three nights in a small, very cute village in the middle of nowhere. There were no signs of roads or cars here either. If people wanted to get to the next bigger village, they would walk about 3 hours to the South African border and from there take a cab, bus or get a lift from someone. From here we went on rides to explore the area a little and one of the rides took us into a deep gorge through which a beautiful river flowed. The landscape was like something out of a fairy tale. The water was turquoise blue, an eagle circled above us from time to time, flowers grew at the edge of the paths and a few horses could be seen grazing here and there on the rock faces.
We looked for a peaceful little spot where we took a break and ate our lunch. The spot was perfect for swimming, so we made sure our guide took a short walk and we (of course we didn't have bikinis with us) went for a quick swim in our underwear. The water was freezing cold, but it was definitely worth it.
The following days were simply breathtaking. We rode through absolutely unreal landscapes that all looked like something out of Lord of the Rings. We climbed up and down steep mountain passes while watching dramatic thunderstorms in the background. We rode through waist-high grasslands with small streams running through them, while seeing antelopes and vultures in the distance. We had a picnic at a gorgeous waterfall that looked like something out of a fairy tale, had the best and longest gallops of our lives and rode with herds of horses that lived wild on the slopes of Lesotho virtually all year round. The view of the mountains was just absolutely stunning and really beyond words - I just couldn't get enough of the sight of them. And then there was the peace and seclusion. It may sound trivial, but it was one of the best parts of the whole ride. I've never experienced such isolation from civilisation and peacefulness in my entire life, and I've been to some really lonely places. If anywhere you feel at one with nature, it's in the mountains of Lesotho, on the back of a small Basotho pony with mesmerising views and not a soul around, let alone infrastructure far and wide.
Now that I've been to the impressive mountains of Africa once, I cannot wait to ride here again. Fortunately, that will come sooner than I initially thought. From 30 September to 8 October 2024 I will be hosting the next meet-up in Lesotho and I can hardly describe how much I am looking forward to it!
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