Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pony Trekking

There are certain things you are supposed to do when you visit certain places. In Egypt you have to go to the Pyramids. When visiting Paris you climb the Eifel Tower. In Las Vegas you get drunk and marry a stranger in a brief ceremony presided over by Elvis. In Lesotho, the Mountain Kingdom, you go on a pony trek.
Pony treks are available everywhere in the country and last anywhere from an hour to a week. The name is a bit misleading, however, because you clearly hire a full-sized horse, not a pony, to ride high above the rocky, narrow paths through the steep mountains. I knew this before I became bound and determined to go on a pony trek. I also knew that, in truth, I’ve never really liked horses. I grew up riding my mom’s high-strung, jumpy, slightly crazy Saddlebreds, and my lack of balance prevented me from ever really taking to it. But we were in Lesotho and Jeanette was feeling a bit healthier, and you’d better believe we were going on a pony trek.

 We opted to join another traveler on a three-hour trek to see San cave paintings. It was characterized as an easy ride, though it started with a steep downhill rocky section in the middle of the village. I thought this would be fine. Our horses looked sturdy and mellow. The guides said we wouldn’t have any troubles. When I mounted my horse, everything came back to me. I sat up straight, heels down, reins held properly, and I thought, I can do this! Then the horse started moving and completely ignored absolutely everything I did. It was like trying to control a cat or a raging two-year-old child. It didn’t actually matter that I was there. Suddenly, all of my distaste for horses came back to me and I realized what a dumb idea this was. Unfortunately we still had two hours and 58 minutes left to the ride. Great. The guide noticed that I wasn’t doing so well and told another guy to take my reins from me. I thought he would just lead me down the hill, but instead he led the horse the entire ride. That’s fine; I just held on to the saddle and watched the scenery go by. Jeanette had better luck, and her horse listened to her, but sitting on the saddle made both of our bums hurt. I decided walking was much better than riding. 

The San paintings looked very similar to others we had seen – faded images in red and black of elands, shamans, and dream walkers. Some figures you could easily discern whereas others just looked like faded lines. Our “guide” didn’t help explain them or their meanings, so I read a sheet out loud given to us by the lodge. I have to admit that as much as I like art and learning about ancient cultures, I’ve decided that I might have seen enough San paintings. Especially ones that have to be seen by horse.

That afternoon Jeanette rested, and I hiked to a waterfall. Lesotho really is beautiful, but it’s also very, very cold.  Cold to the point that our 15 degree sleeping bags couldn’t keep us warm camping and we had to stay in hostels. (The best hostel had six blankets on each bed. Seriously.) The temperature was down to about 18 degrees the night before our pony trek, so we decided that once we fulfilled that obligation we would head back to cozy South Africa and the Wild Coast. We’re now out of the cold, away from the wretched “ponies” and on to our next tourist obligation. I’ve decided I no longer need to do the things that you are supposed to do at different sites, except get married by Elvis of course. That’s still a dream of mine. 

1 comment:

  1. Great story! Tell Elvis hello--I think you'll see in over there before you leave.