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Malutis on a Horse 4

The last two hours of the passage of this mountain range is downhill and end with the infamous ‘Slide-your-ass-pass’ – known to the Basotho as Lekhalo-la-Seli (The pass of Wisdom) and it is wise to heed this name. The decent is long and tiring and mistakes come easily, especially at the end of the day. The last part of the pass is steep and winding, every corner presents a new challenge for the horse and rider. But Oh the reward is great for those who make this effort; The Ribaneng River and its’ winding and well treed valley greet the weary traveller with promises of lush camp sites and sweet water. The horses smell the grass and water and hurry on to a large copse of giant white poplars, tightly planted to shield from the sun but carefully arranging themselves around a small clearing, prompted by the trek gods to make space for a dozen campers. Tea is required.

The days work is not done ‘though. It needs a 45 minute hike with all the camera gear on my back, (the horses are out to graze), to see the Ribaneng River flying over the escarpment in it four high steps down to the valley floor. The herders have blocked the path nearer to the falls, on this side of the river, but the views here from 300 meters are good. Too close to the cliffs and you cannot see the full extent of the fall. Even from here only one drop is visible. To get closer would require returning to camp and starting another hour long walk on the other side of the river or bashing madly about in the cheche bush and the sun is about to set.

We are camped ‘tlase’ again, the lowest since we last crossed water at Ha Joelle and the mosquitoes make an appearance.

The next morning is as dry as a bone and the valley is the same. The closer we get to crossing our path at the Makhaleng River, the more dust and dry grass we see. There has been a break in the rainy season and the herds will have to up to the mountain grazing soon. Our animals on the contrary are keen to go the other way. Smelling the oats at 20 kilometres, they pick up the pace. I want Phakané to shoot a few frames from the far side of the river but Matla does not want to wait. The stables are close and Matla shows off with a fast triple through the villages and up to the lodge. Just for fun we race back out of the main gate and down the road again, full of beans, then triple quickly back through the gates.

René Paul Gosselin – Fouriesburg January 2010

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