Thaba Bosiu means ‘Mountain at Night’ as the place was secured after sunset, but also because the mountain is reputed to grow larger at night – a great deterrent to warring enemies. Through the imperial age and beyond, Thaba Bosiu was never conquered by invaders, lending some credibility to the impregnability of this mountain fortress. It is also said that, if you take a handful of dirt from Thaba Bosiu, you will wake to find it gone – having returned to the mountain. This too is something I can almost believe for the magnetism of the mountains in this country. Thaba Bosiu stands today as a national monument and popular tourist destination in Lesotho.
If Sani Pass is steep, the tarred pass to Mokhotlong underscores the vertical nature of the country. We drove up and up and up past patches of snow. If we'd considered the summit of Sani Pass the apex, we watched as it diminished into the relatively low distance. The huts went from crude mud huts with low doors and ruffled thatch to more organised looking villages as we moved closer to ‘town’.
We passed shepherds wrapped in signature Basotho blankets, herding their sheep, trailed by their dogs. We saw them riding their short and hardy ponies – a natural partnership between man and steed that has spanned generations. In a passing moment, I saw a blanketed man leading three horses down the mountainside in silhouette – sure-footed and quick in their trainlike descent. On another occasion, I saw a man walking through the wind, blankets billowing. For me, this was reminiscent of a 19th century bronze called Horseman in a Storm by Jean Louis Ernest Meissonier, which I'd seen at the Musee d'Orsay. This was a moment of timelessness, a flash of connection, between the rural lives of Basotho farmers and 19th century France. →