By Lesotho standards, we are rich beyond belief. We think we are living simply when we travel and camp, but I see some of the locals looking in the back of our ute and thinking ‘what do these white people do with all that stuff?‘ We have 2 drawers that run the full length of the ute tray and one of them has our food in it, probably more food than a local family would eat in a month. AND we also have a fridge! Not much refrigeration or power in this country
People have approached us asking money or ‘sweets’. We have driven on the main roads here and had kids and adults wave and hold out their hands. They do that because that behaviour has been rewarded by people who have travelled here before us, but we don’t give money just because someone asks for it. That’s begging, and while I understand why it happens, and I’m acutely aware of how much we have compared with the people who live here, I don’t reward begging. But I feel conflicted about it, and occasionally have to remind myself to stop getting irritated. At home I don’t feel conflicted, I just get irritated.
We’ve given money to people who do something for us, and we’ve bought and given food to people who ask for it, in return for them watching our car while we’re in the supermarket. Yesterday a man played some music on a traditional instrument for us and while it sounded like a cat being strangled, he gave us something in return for the food and small amount of money we gave him. And he let us take photos. We’re ‘giving something’ by spending money in villages – Greg has almost cleaned out several small shops by buying up their stocks of Vodacom airtime cards, at AUD 50c each. He has to buy at least 6 at a time to be able activate more online data, but one shop we tried this morning only had 3. He walked past some kids near St James a couple of days ago with a strip of 10, and at least 2 kids asked him for ‘just one’, with no expectation that he’d actually give them one – the school gives their students a very strong message and begging is absolutely not the way to go.
Anyway, I was really just thinking aloud, or ‘on paper’. We’re currently at Afriski, a ski resort in the northern part of Lesotho. We’ve just had lunch at the Sky Restaurant, which claims to be the highest restaurant in Africa at 3010 metres. My sea level-dwelling lungs are letting me know how high we are, I get puffed out climbing a flight of stairs! There’s a small ski run with just enough snow to ski on, but it’s pretty funny to compare it with the Swedish ski resort we stayed at in January last year when we were hunting the Northern Lights. There was snow everywhere there, but it wasn’t open because there wasn’t enough snow yet. And further south in Sweden, there were snow-making machines supplementing what we thought was plenty of snow.
We’ve seen the first white people in a few days here at Afriski, and we probably won’t see any more until we get to Maseru, the capital, tomorrow.