Riding to the edge of heaven

pony trekking in Lesotho

In Lesotho, the tiny mountain kingdom in the mighty Drakensberg mountains, you can experience nature and a way of life that has not changed much in the last 100 years. The sturdy Basotho pony is the best way to explore the remote and untouched villages that nestle deep in the mountains, accessible only on foot or by horse.

Your adventure starts at Malealea Lodge, located a day’s drive from Johannesburg (about 500km). This small lodge offers rustic but comfortable rondavels with electricity and hot water, with both self-catering and simple restaurant options. The meals are prepared by local women, using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and come highly recommended! Stay one night at Malealea before you head out into the mountains on horseback, and then another night on your way back.

The next morning you and your group (only the people you have booked together with, even if that is just two people) will be assigned a local guide, a Basotho pony that matches your riding ability and a pack horse. You need to take everything with you, except water (but do bring purifying tablets), and there is no refrigerating facilities so it must be dry and non-perishable food. Eggs, tuna and rye bread is a good lunch, and dehydrated dishes such as pasta with sauce a suitable dinner option. Don’t forget salt, pepper and tabasco! The lodge will also provide you with a gas bottle for use with the simple stoves that are available in the rondavels.

Pony trekking in Lesotho

From here, you head into the mountains led by your local guide. You will pass through small villages, and climb mountain passes that look rather treacherous but are expertly negotiated by the surefooted Basotho ponies. Each day is between 6-8 hours ride, with short stops for lunch and snacks. At the end of the day, you will arrive in a village where you will feel like time has stood still. The women are tending the small fields, the boys are herding cows and goats and the men sit under a tree sipping homemade beer. Apart from a few excited children, there is little fuss made over the arrival and most people just continue with their day-to-day activities. This is a refreshing feeling, especially if you have experienced some of the artificial “cultural villages” where the locals are dressed up and do a show for you when you arrive. The villages that participate in Malealea’s pony trekking routes have set aside a rondavel for tourists, equipped with a very basic stove and mattresses on the dung floors. They will also fetch a bucket of water for you to wash and cook in. Remember to boil drinking water for at least 10 minutes and use purifying tablets.

Pony trekking in Lesotho

You can chose between one, two and three night routes, and I strongly recommend the 3 night alternative. You will feel fully immersed in the stunning nature and simple way of life, and return with memories for a lifetime.

Mountain village

Mountain village

Settling the sheep in for the night

Settling the sheep in for the night

Getting the cows ready for a day of grazing

Getting the cows ready for a day of grazing

Village boys resting after a long day

Village boys resting after a long day

Basotho man in traditional hat and blanket

Basotho man in traditional hat and blanket

Oncoming traffic (donkey with load) on mountain path

Oncoming traffic (donkey with load) on mountain path

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