Basotho’s top travel tips
By Phindiwe Nkosi
Passport? Check! GPS? Check! A bottle of water to dampen vocal chords for five hours of singing to accompany my road-trip? Check – and so the adventure to Maseru, Lesotho from Pretoria, South Africa began.
I wanted to blog about my stay at Sun International’s Maseru Sun – from the fulfilling continental breakfast to the broken escalator and noisy neighbors – but then something nudged me to step into the heart of Lesotho as narrated by Basotho.
While walking down the friendly streets of Lesotho, I recall acknowledging that I was having more conversations with strangers in a neighboring country than in my native land of South Africa. Random strangers greeted me to ask where I was coming from – inspired by my accent.
It was not just a location that they were after, but my roots. In this culturally inclined nation, your name was not enough identity. One would be required to give your name, those of your parents, where you lived along with where your grandparents and other predecessors.
It seemed as though people had a connection that was instigated by the need to connect on a higher level as human beings. I was not just a stranger, but locals identified me as “ ’me” (mother/woman) or “neso” (short for sibling / child of my mother). Even though I have yet to have my own biological children, this form of greeting was respectful and said something about the Mountain Kingdom at large.
At the risk of oversharing my experiences, I went around to ask random Basotho what their top travelling tips to guests were. In these informal questions to ordinary laymen – which included, but were not limited to – a herds boy, granny dressed in a warm blanket and young professionals who were kind enough to direct me and lead me to various destinations.
Some of these tips were received from unofficial tour guides who took time out to show me around Lesotho, others were scribbled down at the back of petrol slips along with directions and yet some tips were whispered to me in the midnight hours while staring at the majestic night sky.
Here are the top five travel tips from local Basotho to travelers visiting the Mountain Kingdom:
- Tradition is an integral part of who we are – so don’t just pursue destinations, seek wisdom.
While looking at various maps, the Basotho pointed out that these were not just places to be seen. There were pools of wisdom embedded in destination names, tribal crests and totems.
- It is an enchanted kingdom full of mysteries you may never understand – treat all sacred ground as sacred.
I was told about the different stories, epic battles and tales that took place there. One was about an enchanted mountain called Thaba-Bosiu (“Mountain at Night”). It is said that it can only be navigated by the Basotho, particularly at night. During epic wars of old, the mountain was said to “grow” to the advantage of the Sotho.
- Don’t take the literal too literal, you will miss the revelation.
Basotho are known to speak in riddles, figures of speech and other unique ways. I would often ask for the translation, but I was told that there’s always more to things than what was heard. So rather than what does that translate to, one should ask for the underlying meaning.
- Take some time to get to know our heritage.
I came across a lot of people dressed in clothes containing his majesty the king, the Lesotho flag and other cultural artefacts. They were not tourists, but fellow Basotho. I was then told that Lesotho is a small nation that takes great pride in its heritage – something that fellow tourists should find out more about.
- If you want to see “mohlolo” (a wonder / phenomenon), speak to some of our Chinese!
I didn’t understand what so many Basotho were raving about until I spoke to a few Chinese tradesmen for myself! Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise. They spoke fluent Sotho along with the accent and mannerisms! – This is said to be something that only happens in Lesotho.
Have you been to a new place or country recently? Share your experiences and top tips by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you!
Image by: Phindiwe Nkosi