Overnight stay at Semonkong

Written by Donovan February 5, 2017 Category: Africa, Lesotho Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , Comments

Maletsunyane Falls is a 192-metre-high (630 ft) waterfall in the Southern African country Lesotho. It is located near the town of Semonkong (Site of smoke), which also is named after the falls. The waterfall is on the Maletsunyane River and it falls from a ledge of Triassic-Jurassic basalt.

Having heard about its natural beauty, I decided to venture out of the capital city Maseru to the countryside. Public transport in Lesotho is not convenient because one has to wait for the minivan to fill up before it would depart. It was also difficult to find the combi bus station in Maseru, so it is better to get into a shared taxi where the driver knows where to drop you off. Any taxi ride within the city limits of Maseru only costs 6.50 rand (S$0.65). After my bus was filled up, this time it took about one hour wait instead of the previous day when I waited for 2 hours and it was still not filled up. The bus ride from Maseru to Semonkong cost 57 maloti (S$5.70). We drove out of the derelict bus station and slowly made our way to the mountains. We arrived in Semonkong around 2.30pm and heavy rain greeted us. I did not want to get into any taxi, so I just walked along the town and followed the signs to Semonkong lodge.

Traveling the local way really exposes you to the facets of daily life and its daily struggles. For example, the lady on the bus whom I had to share seat with, her butt occupied 2/3 of the seat; the bus which said it would depart at 9am and left one hour later because it was waiting for people to fill up the seats; villagers who asked me for money when I took pictures of them (c’mon you’re not even famous and of course I didn’t give) to the non-functioning speedometer in the vehicle that I’m traveling with (I pray for my life). All these are worth it as I got to travel deeper into Lesotho and experience the local life. And Semonkong was really beautiful, it was just somewhere in the middle of the mountains and away from the noisy traffic of Maseru. It was so calm and serene here that I wished I could have stayed a few more nights to indulge in the plethora of activities that it offered.

Interior of the 6 bed dorm at Semonking lodge
The exterior of a Basotho hut

At Semonkong lodge, since I visited during the low season, I stayed in a six-bed dorm and had the whole room to myself. The design was that of a traditional Basotho hut with 3 double decker beds. In winter there would be a fireplace to keep the room warm. In summer when I visited, it was cold at night when the temperature dropped, but the blankets kept me warm. The lodge is owned by a South African couple (as usual the whites dominate in business in this region), but they also hire several locals to work in housekeeping, the restaurant, bar, guides for activities.

The main highlight at Semonkong is the Maletsunyane falls, which can be done in a comfortable 3h day hike. The Phororo Viewpoint ±3 hours return is an easy hike to a viewpoint opposite the falls to view the spectacular 186m single drop waterfall & gorge with its 300m cliffs. Since I arrived in the late afternoon and wanted to see the falls immediately, I did that from 3-6pm after having deposited my bag in the room. It was drizzling slightly when I was walking but the sun came out when I reached the viewpoint. There was no need to hire a local guide unless you are going down to the falls and that would take about 6-7km clambering over slippery rocks. I devoured the waterfalls view in front of me and had a moment of meditation at the sight as I was deeply reminded by the wonders of nature. Of course, I had visited Maletsunyane falls before seeing Victoria falls, so I felt that this was already impressive because of the sheer height of this single drop waterfall.

Along the way back, I met some cute children playing in the fields and also local men who were riding horses. It felt like a scene out of Lord of the Rings in this tranquil countryside. I fully understand why Lesotho is also known as “Kingdom of the Sky” because everywhere is at least 1000m in elevation and I was surrounded by the mountains. One can also do a pony ride through the villages to experience riding on a pony.

Back at the lodge, I dined at the restaurant which served fresh trout for dinner. There were only two choices for dinner, I chose to go with the fish because I had been having quite a lot of meat the past few days. The lodge also offers a self-catering kitchen for those who want to prepare their own meals. Since I was traveling alone and did not buy any groceries, I just dined at the restaurant for convenience. The next day, I left Semonkong to head down and meet my friend at Mohale dam.

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