“Going up to the spirit in the sky” – Norman Greenbaum.
“The Kingdom in the Sky” Lesotho was neglected by me way back in 2011. That time on my first ever African adventure, I chose instead to visit South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland /Eswatini. Yet I was mightily close to Lesotho on my night bus with Grace, from Johannesburg to Durban via Montrose.
In life we often wonder if that chance will ever come again. But I am a persistent type of guy. Despite my ongoing depression and mistrust of fellow humans, I live my own selfish dreams with those who dare to cross my threshold. Nobody else wanted to join me in Lesotho this time. Malina and Russell were in Africa with me but they took an extra day in Livingstone and 2 extra days in Cape Town, so I went alone with a stop over in Johannesberg. I just had to see Lesotho, one a very few landlocked inside another country countries! Other places similar I have visited are Uzupis, San Marino, Adammia, Austenasia, Romkerhall, Kugel Mugel, Podjistan and The Vatican City. But this place, was possibly the diamond of the lot.
I had just two (full) days and two nights here and if money and relaxation were not on my list, I could have seen a lot more. But I chilled out a lot. I skipped the hiking, the caves, the dinosaur footprints, another waterfall and the (alleged) highest pub in Africa. Instead I opted to live my other priorities… football being high on my agenda.
And it doesn’t get much bigger or better than this… I attended the top of the table clash in Maseru in Lesotho’s Premier Division. I toured the sights of Maseru by day. I toured the bars of Maseru by night. I slept in a fantastic place – The Anne Guesthouse (which only opened in 2018). However, my highlight from Lesotho is probably not the football match, but my trip to Thaba Bosiu. Yes, Thaba Bosiu – the spiritual heart of the Sotho Kingdom.
This is the historic venue of Lesotho life and culture and my finest lasting memory from backpacking in Lesotho. This post is a brief rundown – please visit it if you are in Lesotho – it is a fantastic place!
About Thaba Bosiu
Thaba Bosiu lies at the historic and spiritual heart of the Sotho Kingdom. It is set in deep, beautiful countryside. Rising to an altitude of 1,800m only 20km east of Maseru, this near-impregnable sandstone plateau served as the residence and military stronghold of Moshoeshoe I, the kingdom’s founding father, throughout most of his mid-19th century reign. Moeshoeshoe is a cracker of a name to pronounce and on the tour I learnt a lot about him. The main airport (25 kilometres from Maseru) is also named after Moeshoeshoe.
Getting to Thaba Bosiu
When I was there in February 2020, there was no public transport directly to Thaba Bosiu. I was informed there is some local bus service that stops nearby. It is more of a tourist thing to go there and since the country is not as popular for tourists as it should be, public transport for tourists becomes limited. So I got my trusted driver, Thabo to take me there as well as a few other bits of sightseeing and backpacking. Thabo was a fab guy and I listed his number below – he was very well versed and knowledgeable about Northern Ireland too.
Thaba Bosiu is not really that far from Maseru, the capital city. The drive there took a mere 40 minutes. Lesotho is only marginally bigger than Northern Ireland and you could do a lot in one day by private car if you wake up early. The entire drive was scenic – this is a beautiful country, truly.
Entrance Fee to Thaba Bosiu
There are two things to pay for:
1.Thaba Bosiu Museum
2.Guided Tour with a Basotho person of Thaba Bosiu village
I wanted both as I knew it would be a once in a lifetime visit for me. Sadly you don’t get a ticket, a keepsake or even a receipt. Both together is 100 Maloti (£5), very reasonable and worth it. Pay the money, join the tour. One tour in the morning and one tour in the afternoon, unless you otherwise request. Mine was the 10 a.m. one.
Guided Tour of Thaba Bosiu
I must say that this guided tour was quite excellent and easily one of the best cheap guided tours I have ever done. My guide was Edgar, a truly great guy with so much passion, wisdom and knowledge. My fellow tourists were a group from Ghana.
The tour starts at the top of the town where the statue of Moeshoeshoe himself sits. We are told all about Moeshoeshoe, founder of the Kingdom, and he is buried nearby here. That spot is sacred and often visited by locals. We enter a few traditional Basotho style houses. Moeshoeshoe lived from 1786 to 1870.
The biggest surprise for me is that these houses were designed by the Irish. It is Ireland (before the split) that was good friends with Lesotho. This was a really nice thing to hear, especially as I knew I was visa free into Lesotho on my Irish passport and that Lesotho citizens do NOT need a visa to visit The Republic of Ireland. I am not sure if Northern Ireland (formed in 1921) is included in that arrangement though. Offically the jurisdiction comes under the United Kingdom.
We enter these little houses and are told a lot about how they were built, why they are built like that. There were stories told about gender segregation and how the males choose their wives. We also learn that Moeshoeshoe was a busy man – he had 150 wives!! Seriously! We enter the homes of one of those wives.
We are also given some special local spice (above) and told about the cooking procedures.
This was the first part of the tour – next up is a guided tour of the circular museum with Edgar. As I mentioned before it is possible just to pay for the museum and walk around yourself but seriously for £5 I wouldn’t even consider skipping it. Plus, Edgar is a great guy.
The museum at Thaba Bosiu
Now we get a tour of the circular shaped museum. This will be without doubt the best museum to get an insight into Lesotho as a nation. The museum is simply brilliant. As you walk your way round the circle, each mini display represents a different era or aspect of Basotho and Lesotho history.
We learn about arts and crafts, farming, the borders, the fact the flag changed three times, the different leaders, weapons. It is all explained in great detail by Edgar. I ponder on why Thaba Bosiu is not actually the capital city of Lesotho and then the reason becomes clear. This is tradition and spirit maintained here. The modern day capital Maseru has hotels, bars, brick buildings and commerce so it is the capital city. But part of me knows that here in Thaba Bosiu, this feels more like Lesotho.
Souvenir Shop at Thaba Bosiu
Sadly, there isn’t one. I was looking for fridge magnets and postcards. In the end I was able to buy both of these things at an excellent wee souvenir shop in central Maseru.
Bar and Restaurant at Thaba Bosiu
There is a decent bar and restaurant here at Thaba Bosiu. I decided not to have my lunch here nor even a quick coffee or beer, but the option is there.
Aptly the outdoor beer garden is known as Moeshoeshoe.
Tourist Information at Thaba Bosiu
Apart from Edgar (our guide) there is an Official Lesotho Tourist Information Centre here. But it is not inside the complex. It is on a hill overlooking it so we headed up there too where I got some brochures and information on the country. The staff there were so friendly, as I have to say was everyone I met in Lesotho. A credit to the nation.
View over Thaba Bosiu
As a bonus, the location of the Tourist Information Centre offers superb views over Thaba Bosiu. I got snap happy here and loved it.
Visiting Qiloane Hill
Nearby, you can also visit the famous Qiloane Hill. The profile of Mount Qiloane, the legendary conical mountain close to Thaba Bosiu, and described by Masupha as Mother and Father, inspired the traditional Basotho Hat called mokorotlo. I didn;t hike to the top, some people do.
Here is the address of Thaba Bosiu:
100 Maseru, Lesotho
Here are the contact details of Thabo, my driver:
Thabo’s local numbers – +266 63969433 , +266 53790506
Here are some videos from my time visiting Thaba Bosiu: