In the early 19th century, tribal groups fleeing from the violent Zulu King Shaka found refuge in the high Maluti Mountains. One group under Moshoeshoe I successfully defended the flat-topped sandstone plateau of Butha-Buthe Mountain 7 for two years before relocating to Thaba Bosiu.
The highlands of Lesotho are the watershed for most of the large rivers flowing through South Africa. A huge Highlands Water Project, i.e. Katse Dam 8 is concerned with building a series of dams along the mighty Orange River to export water and hydroelectricity to South Africa. The view of this massive dam from Mafika Lisiu Pass is incredible as the flooded valleys go on for 45 km. The centrepiece of the whole project is the dam wall - at 185 metres, it is the highest in Africa.
Hlotse is one of Lesotho’s larger towns. The town has a busy marketplace and quite a few shops, including the Leribe Craft Centre.Hlotse was a British administrative centre during the period of the Basotholand Protectorate (1869-1966). Decaying colonial buildings are some of the town’s few reminders of that era.A sealed road leads inland from Hlotse over the Maluti Mountains to the shores of the Katse Dam and its enormous lake.
Mafeteng is a busy town close to the Van Rooyensnek border post. The main street has a scattering of shops that carry limited supplies, while road-side stalls sell fruit and vegetables. The council office has the carved animal heads adorning its front walls.
Malealea is the home of Malealea Lodge and Pony Trekking Centre 10. The people of Malealea village are doing well with the help of the lodge and the many visitors that come for pony trekking and hiking in the beautiful mountains. The locals have established a Riding Association to ensure that the trekking guides and horses work in rotation, and that the trekking horses are in good physical condition.
At King Moshoeshoe I’s declaration (the Founder of the Basotho Nation) , in 1869 Maseru changed from being a small trading town on the western border of Lesotho to being the capital of the Basotho nation. The capital, Maseru is only 1 hour by air or 4 hours by road from Johannesburg, fast becoming Africa’s business hub, 600 km from Durban South Africa’s busiest harbour, and 1-hour drive from Bloemfontein; the latter two of which are host cities for the upcoming 2010 World Cup Soccer.
Named after Moshoeshoe I’s younger brother (Chief Mohale), who gave this land over to British administration in 1884, Mohale’s Hoek is a pleasant town. You can walk or drive around the Mokhele Mountains that surround Mohale’s Hoek; the views are beautiful. You can also find some well–preserved dinosaur footprints near the Maphutseng mission 7 km east of Mesitsaneng.
Mokhotlong sits atop the cold and wind–blown Drakensberg Ridge. Mokhotlong means ‘Place of the Bald Ibis’, and the streaks of guano that stain the cliffs testify to the name’s relevance. Reminescent of Tibet or Mongolia, the stoical bleakness of Mokhotlong will either charm or scare you.
A gem of local history and culture 45 kilometres south of Maseru, Morija was the site of Lesotho’s first European mission. Today it is a pleasant little town that houses Lesotho’s National Museum, as well as the country’s oldest building, church, and printing press.
Oxbow is a tiny village just beyond the Moteng Pass, and the site of some gorgeous mountain scenery. One of the few places in Africa to boast a ski slope (of 1.5 kilometres). Oxbow is also popular with trout anglers and bird–watchers. Its an ideal place to retreat from tourist flurry without sacrificing comfort or amenities.