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Lesotho

This tiny country, which is also known as ďthe Kingdom in the Sky,Ē is an unusual place. Firstly, itís one of the very few monarchies in Africa and, secondly, itís an enclave, which means it exists entirely within the borders of another country. And, lastly, it has the highest lowest point of any country in Africa.

The history of Lesotho, and of its royal family, is fascinating. Moshoeshoe, the first king of Lesotho, was a minor chief who built a lasting nation by the simple expedient of accepting anyone who came in peace. And, of course, by successfully fending off those who came in a spirit that was not peaceful. Much of the more fertile and lower-lying territory that originally belonged to Basutoland, as it was then known, was captured by the Boer republic of the Orange Free State in 1865. So the Basotho asked Britain to intervene and protect them from incursions by the Boers, and Basutoland became a British protectorate until its independence in 1966, when the name was changed to Lesotho.

But itís Lesothoís altitude that makes it really different. The climate is cool and bracing.  Most rain falls in the summer, usually in the form of spectacular thunderstorms, and the terrain is green and beautiful. In winter, the grass turns blonde, and itís likely to snow.  And, of course, the presence of snow means snow sports, with a couple of places well set up to cater for keen skiers and snowboarders if and when Mother Nature decides to drop a good load of snow.

Itís also because of its altitude that Lesotho is such an important watershed, and so can export water. And the altitude also contributes to the many fantastic waterfalls, including the spectacularly high single-drop Maletsunyane Falls , which is the venue of the highest commercial abseil in the world. Itís official.

Lesotho is a fascinating cultural destination with one very interesting, if small, museum, lots of rock art, dinosaur footprints and fantastic opportunities to stay with local people on a variety of trails. And the trails, too, are spectacular. You can head out into the magnificent mountain scenery on your own two feet, in a four-wheel drive, on a quad bike, a mountain bike or Ė by far the most iconic Ė a gentle, hardy, sure-footed Basotho pony.

 



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