Monday, March 8, 2010


Butha-Buthe, pronounced "boo-tuh boo-tay", was our first serious road trip "up country". Kathy, two of her colleagues and I, made the two-hour trip - with Kathy at the wheel, of course - along Lesotho's northern border two weekends ago. Up until then, I had been commenting on how beautiful Lesotho was, based on what I had seen; and the regular response I received to those comments was that I had not even seen the pretty parts of the country yet. Our trip to Butha-Buthe gave me my first glimpse of what they meant.

We drove through rural towns, small and large, like Teyateyaneng (known as "TY") and Leribe, where roadside produce stands competed with more modern strip malls for our attention and hard-earned Moloti. Little of the parking was paved, and there were more pedestrians than cars, but while tin-walled "public phone" stalls were definitely a novelty, the ubiquitous Coca-Cola signs were not - nor was the KFC we saw in the town of Butha-Buthe itself.

These thatched roof houses are quite common, though tin roofs are even more numerous, and most of the homes are made of brick or stone.

The boundary between rural and urban is not nearly as firm as it is in the States, as we had cows grazing outside our window one morning, and we live in the capital city, and I saw goats, sheep, chickens, mules, horses and cows in many of the towns through which we passed. Nonetheless, Lesotho is best understood in terms of pastoral splendor rather than urban unrest.

Indeed, the countryside, the countryside... breathtaking! brilliant! beautiful! This trip set my pattern for road trips in Lesotho, insofar as I took approximately 300 photographs during the trip. A few of the pictures are posted below, just to provide a glimpse of what might cause me to take picture after picture - not one of which really does justice to the sheer scope of the splendor we saw. All of the pictures can be found in a Picasa web album I created for them here.

The landscape is covered with amazing rock formations:

And laced with 'dongas', where eroded sections of the earth have simply opened up:

And everywhere I looked, the landscape seemed almost imaginary:

The reason for the trip was not to test my camera's capacity, though. At a training center in Butha-Buthe, three of Peace Corps' Lesotho volunteers had helped to organize a youth health camp with training on HIV/AIDS, including a session on the social stigma of HIV status conducted by one of the women who rode up with us. I wish I'd understood more of what was said, but my Sesotho is still not that good - nor is it likely to be for some time yet. Nonetheless, I could get the gist of some of what was said; and there was no missing how dynamic some of the session participation was. In a nation where the HIV/AIDS prevalence is about 23%, there can be little doubt regarding the necessity of the work that Peace Corps and its counterparts are doing here.

The Country Director with her volunteers, and one of the trainers engaging the students in demonstrative activities:

One of the Peace Corps trainers, a volunteer, and the students, discussing weighty matters:

And the training facility:

And have I mentioned the sky? I swear its scope is somehow more striking in Lesotho, its artistry more dynamic. We drove into a storm on our way back from Butha-Buthe, complete with lightning and flash floods. At one point, Kathy could not even see the road for the water flying up from the flood washing across it; but apart from the pure power of the storm, what I remember most is the sky...

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