Date: Tue, 13 Jul 1999 05:46:15 PDT
From: Claude Marthaler

Subject: "Motsamai Khotso"

Dear Redfishes!
Harrismith, South Africa
km 918OO

The border between Lesotho, the so-called "Kingdom in the sky" and the Republic of South Africa, the "powerhouse" of Africa, is not a border. I entered at night on top of the Kothisephola Pass (324O m), the last among 16 and over 8OO kilometers of zigzags through the "Mountains of the Dragon" to hit a locked fence. The policeman who had finished his job was well into a full bottle of Brandy in his hut.

I put in at the Sani Top Chalet, an old trading post transformed in a cosy hotel dominating the winding Sani Pass (2873 m.). The next day I climbed the "Thabana Ntlenyana" or "Little Mountain" (3482 m.) which claims to be the highest mountain in Africa south of the Kilimanjaro. I reached Himeville below the Sani Pass on Friday in time to spend the rest of the evening in a pub. A big screen was showing Mario Cipollini winning the 7th stage of the Tour De France.

Dusty, tired, but sober and not doped, I wanted to sleep like a giant Lesotho dormant volcano. "The Basothos are steeling our cattle!" a guy told me at the bar. "They are foxy, operate during the night, cut the fences and take as much animals as they can. Soon they disappear into their stomach and the money into their pockets".

This story awoke my rebel instinct and made me appreciate the relativity of any border: The King of "The Roof of Africa", Leslie III, who intend to marry in October has offered some 25 oxen to his breed. Throughout his kingdom, I slept on two benches in tiny stations of the "Royal Lesotho Mountain Police" more dismounted than royal, warmed by a coal chimney or packed with Basothos watching TV. Happy to be in any warm place at the beginning of winter, I thought about what remains after all of us, what, if not stories?

Two weeks before, I spoke about my journey in front of two dozen "Sisters of the Good Shepherd" (not the clandestine one, the other one). "Do your parents allow you to go for so long? What are you going to receive at the end of your trip? Are you married?". The reception has been warm or even hilarious, as the main sister took her long skirt up to ride on the yak. Basothos who have the tradition of nicknaming people called me "Motsamai Khotso" (the man who travels in peace) and said they will pray for me.

The YAK_



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