Monday, August 16, 2010

Kathy's 44th Birthday, Part III: Mokhotlong

Upon leaving Oxbow, we drove east toward Mokhotlong (pronounced "moh-HOHT-long", though the kh is properly pronounced much like the ch in achtung - thus pronounced "moh-CHOHT-long"). That road out of Oxbow is one of the routes that makes me feel as if we are literally driving along the top of the world. The light dusting of snow merely exaggerated that effect.

Even in places where the landscape appears flat, in the distance are mountain peaks, and they are at eye level...

At times, we were actually driving in the clouds...

There were moments when I felt as if we were exploring a different planet...

Then lo and behold, here, on top of the world, human structures - industry. As it turns out, we had encountered a Letseng Diamond Mine, the sheer vastness of which these pictures barely capture.

Then we were moving out of snow-topped Lesotho but still high up in the mountains, and other structures - homes and farms - began to appear.

The living here cannot be easy, yet mountainside crops and herds of cows, goats and sheep abounded.

Almost everyone, including the children, was wearing the traditional Basotho blanket - Lesotho's alternative to the winter coat.

And almost everyone was on foot, regardless of their mission or load.

We passed through one or two more sizable towns, with a mix of older and newer structures.

That so many of the roads up in those mountains are so well paved is remarkable, but relatively few who use them need the paving...

Almost wish I had sent a letter from this place, just because:

Fashion here is a strange mix of tradition and modernity, resulting in a look that strikes me as contemporary yet still uniquely Basotho.

We got stuck at a construction-induced road block here. Not a bad spot to stop, eh?

These boys were taking a break from rolling their tires (spelled "tyres" here) around to check us out:

While the view was remarkably beautiful, the local housing seemed to me to be remarkably inadequate for what are, I suspect, sometimes brutal winter conditions.

Back on the road, we continued to encounter Basotho and their blankets.

And the occasional children asking passers-by for sweets. This is actually quite common, and they do specifically ask for "sweets", or alternatively, "liphonphon" (pronounced "dee-POHN-pohn"). In fact, this scenario is so prevalent that one of Kathy's co-workers has a shirt that says "Ha ke na liphonphon" (I have no sweets). Seriously.

At this point, we were driving along the sides of mountains, and thus cliff edges, more than along the top of some strange, new planet; yet that merely gave us a different perspective on a strikingly sensational countryside and the living that is done there.

At another road block, I tried to capture the scope of the place a bit better with some video - still not really doing it justice.

At times, the unending stream of jaw-dropping vistas can almost become too much, even exhausting (though that may in part be due to the altitude, as well).

Even in the most seemingly remote locations, though, we occasionally encountered roadside vendors. This cannot be an easy way to make a living...

But what a place to live...

And maybe even relax with a few friends...

Mokhotlong itself is a rather bussling and relatively sizable "camp town":

While in Mokhotlong, we stopped to assess a potential new site for placing a Peace Corps volunteer. The site was at 10 Riverside, a small, family-run B&B where the owners hope to get some help improving their business. The family's children greeted us with curiosity (the father and daughter who run the place were incredibly friendly).

The location itself seemed a wonderful place to spend as a volunteer...

... though we were told you needed to climb this hill before you could get cell phone reception. (I must say, though, that it is incredible to me that cell reception exists in as many of Lesotho's more remote locations as it does. You could not get a landline in these places, but a few strategically located towers, and presto - connectivity!)

I am really not much inclined to consider becoming a Peace Corps volunteer myself, as I just do not think I have that in me. This is part of why I admire Peace Corps volunteers so much. But I could almost see myself working at 10 Riverside...

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