Explore Lesotho on a Horse Trek Adventure
There are few places left on the planet where you can disconnect and explore uninhabited wilderness like that which is found in Lesotho; and what better way to venture into these uncultivated lands than on a multi-day, cross-border horse trekking adventure.
Being a mountain landscape enthusiast, I've developed a strong appreciation for Lesotho's untamed environment. After spending a few weeks exploring Lesotho, I decided to take a horse trek into its remote wilderness in order to experience the country from a new perspective. Travelling through Lesotho by overland vehicle had provided me with an opportunity to see a large part of the country, but now I wanted to travel at a slower pace, and absorb Lesotho's natural beauty unencumbered and immersed in its natural environment.
I found Khotso Horse Lodge & Horse Trails, located just outside of Underberg in South Africa, and decided to take their 3-day horse trek into Sehlabathebe National Park and the Maloti Mountain range. Khotso was the pioneer of tourism horse trips in the Drakensbergs mountain area and throughout Lesotho, so I knew I could trust they'd deliver a top-notch horse trekking adventure.
DAY 1: Climbing the Bushman's Nek Mountain Pass
The first day of the Lesotho horse trek can best be described as "exhilarating", followed by a dose of "hair-raising fear".
After our Lesotho guides paired each of our 8-person group with a suitable horse, and helped secure our gear down, we left the South Africa border post behind us and set off to summit a mountain pass during the first two hours of the trip. Talk about not wasting any time.
Facing the challenge of climbing the Bushman's Nek mountain pass on the back on a horse was the perfect way to start the trek. We were able to build confidence in our horses as they schlepped us up the side of a mountain, which helped prepare mentally for the rest of the trip. When the going got too steep we dismantled our saddles and let our perspiring horses tackle the peak free of our weight, watching as trails of rock crumble to the valley below us.
After the initial climb we continued along a ridge, enjoying a biodiversity of grassland and wildflowers stretch on for infinity. At times, a sheer multi-hundred foot drop loomed on one side of the trail, and it took all of my effort to trust my horse Rupert's instinct and capability. It was in this moment I realized Khotso only used the best and most experienced horses, and they obviously knew the trail well.
After stopping for lunch we continued on, and eventually arrived at Khotso's lodge nestled in a quaint Lesotho village, which would be home for the next few days. We dined on a hearty comfort meal, took walks through the country side, and visited with the local kids who ran and played all around us. After sundown we got a game of cards going, and sipped on Sedgwick's Old Brown sherry as we performed a retrospective of the exhilarating day we'd just had. Needless to say, we went to sleep eager to see how Day 2 would unfold.
DAY 2: Exploring Sehlabathebe National Park
Khotso's Lesotho horse trekking adventure is one of the world's best, because of the chance to tour the epic grassland environment of Sehlabathebe National Park.
After breakfast we waved goodbye to the local villagers and set out for the expansive prairie-like fields. With mountains towering on all sides, we were given the chance to full-speed gallop through Lesotho's grassland savannah. We saw glimpses of the endangered cape and bearded vulture, and observed a biological diversity of wildflowers and plants.
Sehlabathebe is home to clusters of rock cliffs and cool water pools, and over 50 ancient rock art sites. After our galloping adventure we slowed down the pace and explored a maze of rock dwellings, and stopped for a picnic lunch and a swim. The park was starting to feel like home, and I settled into a state of serenity as I embraced the seclusion and silence of Sehlabathebe.
After lunch we attempted our first river crossing on horse back, and returned to the savannah landscape. We stopped at the Sehlabathebe headquarters to pay a park fee, then slowly cantered back to our village for another evening of great dining and conversation.
DAY 3: Trekking through the Clouds
We woke up to the scent of homemade baked bread, as sandwiches were being made for the final trek back to the South Africa border where we'd end our journey.
Saying goodbye to the villagers, we mounted our horses and settled into a comfortable cantering pace. Even though my knees and hips hurt from the last couple days of jostling too and fro, I enjoyed every moment of riding through Lesotho's unforgettable landscape.
I soaked up the beautiful scenery as we descended and ascended through never-ending valleys, then stopped at the crest of a ridge to admire the blanket of clouds extending out from where we stood. Heaven felt close enough to touch, and I was overcome with emotions of joy as I contemplated the importance of protecting natural environments like Sehlabathebe.
The landscape flattened out again, and I spent the rest of the morning glancing in all directions, marvelling at the various unique rock formations appearing throughout the scenery. We galloped, trotted and cantered our way towards the Tsoelikanyane waterfall, a strikingly beautiful and powerful site, then stopped for lunch at the top of a precipice, where we geared up to tackle the last great ascent of the trip.
As rain clouds began to form in the distance, we carefully led our horses step by step down the side of a rugged mountain slope. Once we made it to the bottom, the weather broke and the last two hours of the trek was christened by the company of a rain storm.
Thankfully we were back on flat ground and didn't have to eek down the side of a slippery mountain during the rain, but this didn't mean we were off the hook yet. The border post exiting Lesotho closed at 4:30 PM, and we couldn't miss getting our passports stamped back into South Africa. We must have gotten caught up with Lesotho's beauty when stopped for lunch at the viewpoint, and were paying for it now as we switched between a fast and slow gallop in what felt like a horse race to the finish.
On horseback we dashed through the picturesque valley, awash with a sun-streaked grey as rain poured through clouds lit by the afternoon's dimming rays of sunlight. The group's energy was high as we rushed through knee-deep river crossing and held on to our horse reins for dear life.
We made the border post with minutes to spare, then were met by Khotso's staff who were waiting for us with smiles, champagne and baked goods to celebrate our triumphant finish.
Completing Khotso's 3-day Lesotho horse trek is an accomplishment. We were well cared for by our guides and the lodge staff, but the days were long, the terrain tough, and if you're not used to sitting on a horse for three days the body can easily take a beating.
With that being said, if given the chance I would do the trek over and over again. Being completely surrounded by such memorable vistas and adventuring by horse through an unforgettable land like Lesotho's, is an experience that will stick with me until my death bed.
For more information about booking this 3-day horse trek through Lesotho visit Khotso's website.