A Trip to Lesotho, Africa

Guest Post by Cherie Oly

I was warned.  But I didn’t really believe it…. Until I got there.  And experienced it.

{My daughter and I in the mountains of Lesotho}

Lesotho

{Lesotho is is a mountainous kingdom referred to as The Kingdom of the Sky}

Lesotho: The Kingdom of the Sky

In 2008, we decided to take our children to Africa to visit my Dad, who had been there working in an orphanage since 2006 in a little landlocked country called Lesotho (pronounced Le suit who).

{image credit}

where is lesotho, south africa

As word got around about our trip, two things happened.

1)     People wanted to come along.

2)     People thought we were crazy.

We were, frankly, really surprised that people wanted to come along!  They didn’t want to plan such a trip alone and were inspired to go if someone else was leading it.   So we turned our family holiday in to a mission team and we had a focus of going around to different orphanages to do rotation-like games with the children during their school holidays.  We ended taking with us sixteen (16!) more, including a family of four.

{Orphanage in Lesotho}

Me' Neo -- Orphanage in Lesotho

Planning for twenty one was extremely interesting, to say the least.   Questions that apply to anyone planning to visit a foreign country were multiplied.

  • How would we get around?
  • Where would we stay?
  • What would we eat?
  • What could we do as tourists?

On top of that, people thought we were crazy because AIDS is so prevalent in Africa so “why on EARTH would we be taking our children, aged from 5-9 to such a rough country?  Weren’t we afraid for their health?”  To answer those questions, I have to be blunt.  One, being worried about my children catching AIDS never occurred to me; educating myself on how the virus spreads meant I knew how to ensure our safety (read more about AIDS here). Two, we were going to be together and we were going to learn something from the culture over there.

{The Rondavels in the background are the national house in Lesotho}

Rondavels in Lesotho

{Transport in Lesotho is (very!) casual}

transport in Lesotho

{Donkeys are also used for transport}

donkey's in lesotho

{Sunset in Lesotho}

Lesotho Sunset

I learned two main things planning for and experiencing our first trip to Africa.

1)   It’s REALLY good to plan well ahead of time, what you’re going to do, where you’re going to stay and how you’re going to get around.

2)   It’s extremely IMPORTANT to be flexible because there is a saying in Africa that goes like this: “T.I.A”.  This Is Africa.

{Mountains in Lesotho}

mountains in Lesotho

“T.I.A.: This Is Africa

I’m not sure, reader, if you plan to take a family or twenty one people to Africa (if you are, and you have questions, just write them in the comments below). So after explaining the context above, I want to concentrate on the things I learned in my own family of five:  My husband, three children and myself.

This trip to Africa was the first time we had taken our family anywhere overseas so we were very ‘green’.  But we got some tips from a variety of people and I have compiled them into a list that I hope will be helpful to someone who may be contemplating taking their family to a foreign country.

1)    Start planning early.  If you have an idea of where you want to go, enlist a travel agent to begin looking for cheap flights for you (unless you can afford business class of course!).

2)   If possible, take extra time off work and spend a bit longer in the country and see more things.  We took 6 weeks.  Some of the people on the team regretted not taking more time at the end of the mission to experience more of the country before they went back home.

3)  Use the Internet to find accommodation and reputable touring companies.  Internet is not widely used in Lesotho, so if they ARE on the Internet, it means they cater for international tourists.  This is good to know because there are certain health and safety concerns that Australians regard important (to the extreme in my opinion) but Africans  (for example) do not!

4)  Make some international phone calls.  Talk to the hotel/backpackers lodge/motel/B&B you are staying with because they will have some ideas about what you can do and then you can investigate further if it suits you.

5)  If you are an adult, go to the doctor get some sleeping pills to take on the plane.   Cattle class is not comfortable but if you can get some sleep on the way, it will help your sanity when you get there.  NOTE!  For me personally, travelling west is easier than travelling east.

6)   On the note of doctors, go and see a travel doctor about what injections/medications you might need to take.  You need to do this fairly early because if you haven’t had any injections for a while, it can take up to three months to complete a course of Hep injections, for example.

7)   Have suitcases that your children can mostly manage themselves.  When you are tired at an international airport after flying for weeks hours, you’ll need your children to help you with the bags.

8)   Prepare your children before you go.  Personally, I lived in Papua New Guinea for a couple of years and knew a custom that would slightly disturb my children (it’s called Bung Betan – everyone prays out loud altogether).  I introduced it to the children months before we left so in the same way, if we saw/experienced anything that would be different, they would know, to some degree, how to handle it.  It took them about 1 week, practicing every day, to become comfortable with Bung Betan.  This is interesting because this correlated with what the children experienced in Africa: it would take them maybe a week of constant exposure to accept it.  This was good information for me, as a parent, so I was able to support my children through the process of being in a new country with different (very!) customs.

{My daughter had her hair braided; it took 7 hours to do!}

braided Africian Hair

I began this post with “I was warned”.  This is the warning I received : “Africa will get in your blood and you will HAVE to return.”  I thought it was a bit of a farce until I got there and experienced it.  Then I knew I had to return.  So at the end of 2011, we packed our bags, and headed back to Africa with our children.  More about that in my next post.

{Our family in Lesotho}

holiday in lesotho

“Africa will get in your blood and you will HAVE to return.”

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Comments

  1. Kylee says

    What a fantastic adventure. I can’t wait for the next installment. Africa is one of those places I would like to visit because I have heard how beautiful it is, but fear going on my own. I did take my two children to America as a single mother. And while not so culturally diverse, traveling abroad is a gift that they will always remember. I think it helps them appreciate the broader world around us.

  2. says

    Sounds amazing.

    We uprooted our kids 9 months ago and moved to Port Moresby, PNG from Brisbane – SO many people thought we were crazy too – but we are loving it.

  3. Helen says

    Lovely blog. It is soooo nice to hear someone singing the praises of a holiday in Africa, rather than worrying about all that “could” happen in an unfamiliar country. We love Africa (it helps that my sister and her family live there) & have had many a breathtaking holiday there. We took our 2 1/2 year old there for the first time when she was 15 months old and she loved it and, with the help of a homemade photo book, has many wonderful memories of her trip to “Ass-rica”! Look forward to reading your next instalment.

  4. Charm h, says

    what an inspiring story! Travelling overseas is a blessing not only for us adults but most of all to our children. Although, we are planning a trip to go for a visit to our home country (not in africa) as the children now 10 and 15 yr olds are older and have lived in AU most their lives – it does help to be really organize and prepare them as culture is very different. Going to another country helps us to be reminded how blessed we are in Australia inspite of the challenges and also to let the children see how big the world is, appreciate and respect other cultures through visiting different countries. I’ve experienced that people tend to be more open minded in accepting other cultures when they tend to travel more compared to people who dont. Enjoy your trip and we look forward to your next update!

  5. Allan Long says

    This is just such a wonderful blog we love it and are so thrilled that you came to lesotho twice We hope you come again we love you Dad and Donna

  6. Cherie Olij says

    @Kylee – that was very brave! And yes, I think any country can achieve a sense of appreciation for our own!
    @Leslie WOW!! That is amazing. Hats off to you and I’m glad you’re loving it.
    @Helen Fellow traveler to Africa – I salute you!
    @Charm H I hope you have a wonderful trip!
    @Dad & Donna I do too!
    @Miranda Thanks. Lesotho is not a well known country, I’ve found. How have you heard about it?

  7. says

    ovely blog. It is soooo nice to hear someone singing the praises of a holiday in Africa, rather than worrying about all that “could” happen in an unfamiliar country.

  8. Patricia Pikes says

    I found a beautiful painting called Lesotho Lady by Sarah Barr. This prompted by web search to learn more about Lesotho and I found your post. Your pictures were great. What a great trip your family had. I’m going to start planning mine.

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