When the small aeroplane curls to land at Moshoeshoe Airport in Maseru, Lesotho, you wonder why South Africans make a big deal of the Table Mountain in Cape Town.
The airport is framed on one side by a long flat table mountain, not as flat as the Table Mountain but just as beautiful.
It’s only when you land you realise why the Table Mountain is all the rage: because of the Ocean, which Lesotho lacks because it’s tucked in the armpit of South Africa.
It had just rained and the mountains were as wet as the tarmac. In the taxi to the hotel, I asked the driver what he would highly recommend to a visitor to see in their country of roughly 2.1 million people.
Sunlight at dawn
He mentioned everything on Lonely Planet. “But what else,” I insisted, “Something out of the beaten path.” He said, “We export a lot of wool, so it would be nice to go see our sheep.” Baa!
I checked into the Avani Lesotho Hotel which is cast upon a hill overlooking a magnificent city below and South Africa yonder. (Their capital is a border city). I checked in and took the lifts to the fourth floor suite with a small balcony hanging over the adjacent swimming pool.
The hotel is a four-star, one of the best in the city a haven of business types, wheeler dealers, gamblers and the political elite who often hold their meetings there.
After walking around the hotel, then ending up at the bar to have dinner then later chatted the barman and pelted overglorified lies about my country, I retired in my room and slept with the curtains open because I like to see sunlight at dawn.
The next morning as I waited to be picked from the hotel lobby, it started raining. My contact and I took dawas at the lounge as we waited for the rains to abate to no avail. My story was waiting for me at The Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village about an hour’s drive away.
“We can’t go down in this weather,” my guide told me. “The hills are slippery and wet now, not a nice time to visit.”
The rains finally abated at 3pm but by this time it was too late to leave, so I spent another afternoon, sleeping, watching BBC, standing at the balcony and staring at the distant mountains ranges in South Africa, ordering for unhealthy rooms service, trying to write at the lounge downstairs, roaming around the hotel asking staff to teach me Sotho and napping with my socks on.
At night I took a cab to a nearby Maseru Mall to an empty bar called Capello. I had fried liver and drunk a dawa and went back to the hotel. It rained at night and when I woke up it was still raining. It rained again the whole morning the next day which happened to be my last night.
“Is there anything we can do in this rain”? I asked my guide who shrugged apologetically. At 12pm I walked down the hill for an hour to Pioneer Mall where I bought socks at a sports shop.
I wandered downtown and then walked back a steep hill to the hotel. I was good to go back home the next day.
My story never happened and I saw much of the city from the balcony of my room and from Google Earth. It’s a small budding city that seems to depend on South Africa for raw materials.
Avani Hotel, my “hideout” was warm in the rain and bright in the meek sun that peeked once a while.
People were friendly, even guests said hello. It’s a Lesotho thing, I guess.
My last evening I heard a group of young Kenyan corporate suits speak Kiswahili at the bar while drinking their official beer Maluti Beer.
The next morning I missed my flight and realised also that their airport doesn’t have Wi-Fi.