Lesotho – A Little Kingdom in a Big Country
Though situated in the heart of South Africa, Lesotho is, in fact, a Kingdom completely separate from the politics and government of South Africa. Physically speaking, the kingdom is mainly comprised of incredibly rugged mountains. It was this geographical feature which proved to be the kingdom’s greatest ally and which has ensured the survival of an ancient people as well as an ancient Kingship.
It all started in the 1820s when a Sotho Chief by the name of Moshoeshoe the Great fled to the mountains in the Lesotho region in an effort to evade the Mfecane wars which were then raging across the highveld. He found a sort of natural fortress – a highpoint in the mountain range with a brilliant 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains – where he chose to settle along with some 40 000 people who followed him. The mountain was known as Thaba Bosiu and it is located near modern Maseru. Despite hardships, the people flourished and formed the BaSotho nation.
Some time later when the Boers and the British were fighting to gain supremacy over land, they found their way into the BaSotho region. The local warriors were able to fend them of courageously and were able to stand successfully against invasion and conquer largely due to their refuge on Thaba Bosiu which meant that their enemies simply could not gain their stronghold. At last, nearly a century later, they were left alone as the wars moved elsewhere and so the little Kingdom of Lesotho survived possible destruction. Lesotho remained an independent Kingdom until the King died in 1870. The kingdom – then known as Basutoland – elected to be a British colony in 1884 and in doing so escaped many of the horrors of apartheid. In 1966 they were able to continue the royal legacy by becoming an independent constitutional monarchy.
Today this great little kingdom has become a massive tourist destination. Packed full of enjoyable outdoor activities, visitors can enjoy fishing, fossil-finding expeditions, San cave paintings, a thriving craft industry and, of course, legendary pony treks. The Sotho are known horsemen who have managed to continue breeding and riding their horses with very little guidance or equipment and a ride through the rugged countryside aboard one of these hardy little creatures is a treat most people never forget. Remember to make Lesotho a part of your next trip to South Africa and discover a world of culture, history, outdoor activity and beauty.