High up on Black Mountain in Lesotho a Basotho herdsman and his two hounds join us for lunch. Here, at over 3000 meters-above-sea-level, life for the Basotho herdsmen is tough. Anywhere else and I would have been adamant that we not throw our leftover food such as chicken bones and scraps out but rather take them with us to be disposed of properly. Here however it’s only right to throw them onto the ground, where a dog or even a Bearded Vulture can get a meal out of them. Even a single thigh bone is a bonus for this dog. The herdsman in the background received some of our leftover food. We are sure he was grateful, but there was almost no way to communicate with him. He spoke some dialect of Sotho, and even our guide, Malcolm Gemmel, who is fluent in Xhosa, could not understand a word he said. These men (there are almost no women up here) live under very basic conditions. Their attire comprises several blankets draped over the body, a balaclava, long socks and rubber gumboots, and that’s about it. How they survive the freezing winters up here is a mystery to me. They live in low stone houses with earth sod roofs – anything else will just get blown off in the gales that tear across the open ground. They make a living by tending herds of sheep and goats, which are usually owned by a ‘big boss’ from Mokhotlong, the nearest town some distance to the west. All in all it’s a very interesting trip up into the mountains of Lesotho. The birds are great (Drakensberg Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Bearded Vulture etc), the scenery is unbelievable and the cultural aspect is extremely interesting. Definitely worth a trip! Malcolm Gemmel of Button Birding (www.buttonbirding.com) does day trips up Sani Pass, while for extended birding trips which include Sani Pass contact Lawson’s (www.lawsons-africa.co.za).
See more photos on Flickr to the right.