This journey was conceived more that two years ago, while riding with friends from Malealea Lodge to Semonkong and back over a more northerly part of the same range. After five days it was decided. I would do a longer journey but on my own. You can’t submit good friends to the whims of a photographer. So plans where drawn up over the previous year and here it was, day one and we are already high up through the first part of the range. At this point the narrow bridal path is near the 2000m contour and is just a scratch on the side of the precipice. Half a kilometre below our hooves is the fabulous ́Masemouse River and our first waterfall is in the shadows of a looming nimbus. Lunch intervenes co-operatively and the horses begin what is to be an orgy of grazing. The grasses are diverse and the quality is apparently to their great satisfaction.
It is for this reason that the villagers from far below send their herd boys up into the mountains at this time of the year, when grazing has become depleted in the lowlands. Everywhere we are to pass small thatched round huts built as temporary shelters for the shepherds. These ‘motebò’ are always perched on the highest point and command extraordinary views of the mountains and the valleys. It is from there that the boys watch over their herds and there they sleep with a threadbare blanket on grass beds. The boys and young men from the higher parts are tough and close to nature. They live on very little food and are barely clothed. A blanket and wellington boots is all between them and the snow sometimes. Later we will meet herd boys in the lowlands in Reeboks and designer shirts and wearing headphones attached to their mobile ‘phone. It’s that difference again.
For now the clouds have moved along their path and we can find ours. The first waterfall pictures in the can, we head for Lekhalo-la-Tlama (The Pass of Obligation) and the hard climb to Ha Jobo Nthoana, where the charming young chieftainess ́Me Masekhobe Nthoana greets us and shows us a flat spot with good grass and water. What else would three weary horses and two tired trekkers need. Well, tea would be good. My guide and friend, Phakané tends to the mounts and tack and I put on the kettle. (to be continued……)