Our visit to Peka had been memorable in so many ways; the one thing that stands out in my mind though is the privilege of knowing that I have friends living on the side of a hill in the little town of Peka in The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. I treasure the friendship that I share with these wonderful people. We have a mutual love and respect for one another. The friendship I share with Alice and her lovely family enriches my life immeasurably. I don’t know if Alice will ever read these words, if she does I hope she realises how much she and her family mean to The Newberry Family. I look forward to meeting again some time soon.
When we got back to Maseru it was getting dark and we had another night in The Lancers Inn to look forward to. We had previously arranged to have a ‘team’ meal in The Lancers that evening, all friends together, five Westies, Five Lewises, the lady of the house and me. Matt and Helen and their beautiful girls had decided to join us by staying in The Lancers as a ‘special’ treat and they managed to book a ‘bungalow’ in the hotel. It was a beautifully designed self-contained apartment. We were so excited.
The meal was superb but the company was even better. It was a memorable evening. We went to sleep reflecting on a most special day and one I will always remember.
The next day promised further treats, we were due to start our journey home. We had planned to spend two nights at the Willem Pretorius Game Reserve, which is roughly between Maseru and Johannesburg.
After an early morning swim in the hotel pool, we packed and tidied up and went for a stroll around Maseru town.
We ended up at the Lesotho Craft Centre, a wonderful building shaped like a Basotho hat. The girls loved this and bought a load of gifts, presents and souvenirs.
Outside there are some local women, who sit and make the famous Basotho hat in front of you. It was fun chattering and bartering with them and the lady of the house bought a traditional hat and also a winter hat, which would have looked great on a herd boy, but she still managed to make it look glamorous on her. Happy days!!
Sadly, the end of the shopping trip meant the end of our stay in Lesotho. It had been another memorable visit and after checking out of The Lancers, we made our way to The Maseru Bridge border crossing and said goodbye to this beautiful place.
Being back in South Africa was a thrill and we drove the short journey to Ladybrand, a small town in the Republic. We stopped to pick up supplies and prepare for our stay in the Game Reserve. It was self-catering, so it meant being well prepared. We had lunch in a Wimpy (where else?!!!) and then did the shopping. Mark organized meat for the braai. The word braai is Afrikaans for barbecue or grill and is a social custom in South Africa. Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Zambia. The term originated with the Afrikaans speaking people, but has since been adopted by South Africans of many ethnic backgrounds. A braai is a social occasion that has specific traditions and social norms. . In black and white South African, women rarely braai (cook) meat at a social gathering, as this is normally the preserve of men. The men gather round the braai or braaistand (the grill) outdoors and cook the food, while women prepare the pap, salads and deserts for the meal in the kitchen. The meal is subsequently eaten outside by the fire/braai, since the activity is normally engaged in during the long summer months. The braaing (cooking) of the meat is not the prerogative of all the men attending, as one person would normally be in charge. He will attend to the fire, check that the coals are ready, and braai (cook) the meat. Etiquette has it that you don’t interfere with the braaier’s duties, except if expressly asked to help. Other men may assist, but generally only partake in fireside conversation while having a drink in hand.
The rain was chucking it down thorough all the time we were in Ladybrand, but well fed and well stocked we made our way to Ventesburg and the game park. It was a long wet drive but we arrived safely and checked into our homes for the next two days. We were staying in rustic huts over looking the lake of the game park. It was idyllic.
We ate and settled down for the night having planned an early start exploring the park.
We visited the park early to try and catch the animals – not literally – while they were active. Entry to the park was ridiculously cheap with an entry fee of R50 per car. With an exchange rate of almost R14 to £ it meant it cost just less than £4 per car (we had 7 in our car!) to tour the game reserve. It’s self-drive so you can just drive anywhere you like seeking out the best views of the animals. The roads of the park are unmade roads, which give you a real experience of rural life. The entry fee also allows you unlimited access for the whole day. That first visit turned out to be disappointing in terms of animal sightings and after a couple of hours hunting, we returned to our house for breakfast. We were hoping better things were to come… and they were!
When we returned later in the day, things were very different and we saw many animals – kudu, antelope, ostrich, guinea fowl, rhinos, wildebeest, monkeys, zebra, baboons and many others including the highlight of the day the giraffes. These animals are the favourite of the lady of the house. We followed a family of giraffe for some time before our paths finally crossed on the lower road. It was an incredible experience; seeing these wonderful animals so close and in their natural habitat. It was an almost spiritual experience.
On the way out of the park we had a bit of childish fun finding silly signs and pretending to drive our vehicle ‘rally car style’ through the enormous puddles.
We enjoyed a delightful evening with the braai, the food was wonderful with real South African steaks, Mark did not let us down at all. The food was great but the company was the best thing of all.
In the evening quietness, I reflected on many things this trip had given us, visiting a different continent, meeting up with a special family – Mark, Chabi and the girls hold a special place in our hearts – the SU camp with all those incredible children and young people, visiting Alice and her family in Peka, the smile on Alice’s mum’s face, church on Sunday, Maseru the changing city, driving through South Africa, the animals and then Matt Helen and the girls, such wonderful friends. I have so much to be grateful for in my life and I am really grateful. I thank God very day for the good things I have. Best of all though, is the incredible lady who was brave enough to agree to share her life with me all those years ago.
It was so good to share such an amazing time with the lady of the house.
A glorious sunrise greeted us the next morning.
I got up with the sun and sat outside overlooking the lake and read my Bible. Before the sun would set we would complete our journey to Johannesburg and be halfway home to our families in Wales.
It was an uneventful journey and after visiting a flea market near the airport we made our way to Oliver Tambo Airport, to catch our flights home.
Some people asked me if it is worth going so far for only ten days…. I’m just guessing you know my answer!
With grateful thanks to Mark, Malichaba, Patricia, Elizabeth and Angharad, Matt, Helen, Naomi, Hannah and Abigail and Boo – it was an experience I will never ever forget!