Friday, August 13, 2010

Kathy's 44th Birthday, Part I: Liphofung

After a three month hiatus, I am turning my attention to catching you all up on our doings here in Lesotho and elsewhere. I will be sharing with you tales of great joy and great sorrow. Without further ado, I return to the Fourth of July, or - as it is more properly known - my wife's birthday...

In order to celebrate Kathy's birthday, we decided to take a long weekend and explore some sections of Lesotho and South Africa we had not yet seen. We began by heading north, with plans for winter adventure - including one I had promised myself before we left the U.S. But more on that later.

On the way, we encountered one of the many reminders of how the AIDS epidemic permeates the Mountain Kingdom, affecting almost all aspects of the lives of the Basotho.

We passed through yet more of the beautiful countryside, this time wrapped in winter, which tends to run from June through August here. The sky here is tremendous and so, so clear.

Even though the fields are brown in winter, they are starkly beautiful and at times simply mesmerizing.

The reds and browns of the Lesotho winter at times recall to my mind autumn in the eastern U.S. - my favorite season.

And if anything, through the crisp winter air, we can see even further than the usual forvever of the vistas here.

And we were struck (perhaps again) by how well the traditional villages blend into the Lesotho landscape.

Having the right travel tunes on a trip like that helps, of course. Kathy indulged me, and I was able to play Europe 72 that day, with all the poignant coming-of-age memories it stirred laid across this new journey...

As we were moving northward, we passed signs for Liphofung (pronounced "dee-POH- fuhng"), a site with substantial historical significance for Lesotho. Back in Washington, D.C., any place that can claim "George Washington slept here" gets its place in the local history tours. Here, a similar phenomenon exists, but instead of old George, it is "King Moshoeshoe I slept here". Liphofung is such a place. At Kathy's urging, we decided to explore it. After the cows had passed, of course:

They have several modern structures there, including some newly developed lodging and small meeting facilities that looked quite comfortable - some of the newer lodgings seemed quite luxurious, in fact.

The caves that are the central geological feature at Liphofung are at the end of a picturesque valley.

A tour guide took us down, sharing the details of Liphofung's place in history as we went.

Apparently, two of Moshoeshoe's lieutenants fell in here (bummer!):

The cave is actually more of a series of overhangs:

The cave walls were striated and quite striking (I have no idea what causes the pattern and wish now I had thought to ask):

Even before Moshoeshoe made his camp at Liphofung, the San people had dwelt there. Their cave paintings are fairly well preserved and gave me a strong sense of being quite small within the scope of human history:

Here is one of the guides who works there, dressed for more winter than we were actually experiencing that day. ( I have since had several Peace Corps volunteers explain to me that the Basotho like to be warm - really like it - and that seems evident!)

Here I am, in the same cave, dressed as someone accustomed to Upstate New York winters:

This is a spiral aloe plant. I had never before seen the like, but it most definitely brings Escher to mind.

The village on the other side of the valley from the aforementioned lodging and meeting facilities seemed to belong there in a special way, contributing to the continuity of the history tied to that place.

The historical Liphofung site features a museum of sorts, where visitors may try on traditional clothing:

Explore traditional crafts:

See food produced as it once was:

And hear traditional music:

This mosotho is playing an instrument which I believe is called a lesiba ("lay-SEE-buh"):

Very cool. And we had not even planned on visiting Liphofung! Just a happy random addition to the beginning of our adventure, attributable mostly to Kathy's penchant for exploring anything of historical value as we move about in this world. She is just like that: She wants to see all the monuments, read all the plaques and signs, learn about all the places. So I am learning much more about the world than I other wise know just because I like to follow her around...

No comments:

Post a Comment