Tag Archives: Semonkong Lodge

It’s a Rudi-ful Day

Rudi (right) with an admirer

I’ve met some wonderful people during my world travels, and more than my share of complete nutters. There was Henry, the homosexual pensioner with full-face tattoos who I met in Samoa. Stavros, the pizza-crazed Slav who I saved from certain death in Hobart. And who could forget the pleasant chap who I saw giving a dog a bone in Guilin? But I think the oddball I met last night beats the lot of ’em.

I bumped into Rudi in the bar of the Semonkong Lodge, which isn’t a big surprise because he’s the manager there. The conversation started pleasantly enough, with the usual chatter about where I’d been and where I was going, beer and women. He seemed like a bit of bullshitter, but harmless enough. When I mentioned to Rudi that I’m a writer, his eyes lit up and he poured me a shot of Jager.

“You must put my life story into words,” the Namibian gasped. “I already have a multi-million-dollar book deal with a major New York publisher, and Steven Spielberg is interested in directing the film adaptation. It will be called According to Rudi.”

It seemed like a good offer. Who could refuse? I was surprised that a major publishing house would throw millions of dollars at a story about some random hillbilly that’s been written by an author whose two novels combined have seen less interest than Dave Hughes’s used underwear, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

“This is the offer of a lifetime, but you must sign the contract in the next 24 hours. You will stay here in Semonkong for free, and will spend your days with me and your nights writing. You must learn everything about me – the way I smile, the way I interect with the ladies, and the way I talk. I say ‘cool beans’ a lot – it’s a Rudi-ism.”

While I’m not sure a biography of some dude who runs a hotel would be as popular as Rudi believes, if he’s done even half of the things he claims, it would be a decent read. Here’s a rundown on Rudi’s supposed life and times – consider it his biography, on the off chancethe print version never comes out

  • He was captured by terrorists while racing in the Paris to Dakar Rally. After they chopped off his teammate’s head, Rudi killed the bad guys, jumped in his car and finished the race
  • He was a mercenary in the Angola War, and while he wouldn’t give me an exact number of people he killed, he did say that, “If you piled their bodies on top of each other, it would reach higher than Semonkong”
  • Stephen King and Tom Cruise are his best mates, and they often travel to Semonkong to ask Rudi’s advice on their latest blockbusters
  • He slept with Glenn Close, and didn’t show a scrap of shame when he told me that
  • When Richard Branson told Rudi he couldn’t fly a hot air balloon across the Sahara, he did just that, and had sex with a woman as soon as he landed, and
  • He once punched a crocodile and killed it

I told Rudi that I’d think about his once-in-a-lifetime offer, then staggered out of the bar and promptly fell in a ditch. I’m sure I did a better job of getting home than Rudi, though, because that motherfucker was smashed. The next morning I got up bright and early, hoping to fuck off out of there before Rudi turned up at the office, but he was already there. I got ready to fight off further begging for my services, but the prick just thanked me for staying there and took back my room keys without another word. It’s lucky I didn’t cancel the rest of my trip to stay with him!

     

    Lesotho is remote, oh!

    Lesotho is known for three things. 1) Being the highest country in the world, with every scrap of land above 1400 metres. 2) Having the highest rate of AIDS on the planet, with around 45 per cent of the locals suffering from the nasty disease. 3) Being the only nation to have a name that rhymes with the delicious Italian meal, risotto. Today I made it the 45th country I’ve visited, crossing the border from Ladybrand in my dinky little Hyundai and heading for the alpine village of Semonkong, home to Africa’s highest waterfall.

    Heading across the border took no time, and I was soon out of the first world and very much into the third, with animals and overflowing buses everywhere. The capital city of Maseru doesn’t offer much for tourists, and from my brief journey through it seems like a busy, dirty, poverty-stricken wreck of a place. The one tourist spot is the Basotho Hat, which is a souvenir shop in the shape of Lesotho’s bizarre national headwear. I guess it counts as a Big Thing, then. I didn’t get much of a chance to take photos of the hat, though, because there are heaps of beggars lurking around out the front, so I dived back into the Hyundai and burned out of there.

    Driving in Lesotho is funny, frustrating, and fuckin’ incredible, often at the same time. The roads out of Maseru are full of potholes and crawling with people, who don’t seem too bothered about getting out of the way of cars. The streets are lined with dusty shacks, tiny stores, and gutter cookouts. Even compared to the rural areas of South Africa, it seems like a different world and a huge step back in time. Reminiscent of the rougher parts of Southeast Asia at times, this land is nonetheless different from anything I’ve ever experienced.

    Once out of the city, I started to feel like I was the only man on Earth. Climbing massive mountains in a car that would struggle up an anthill, I barely saw another vehicle. Every now and then I’d pass a man and his donkey, seemingly heading nowhere. Every person I passed turned and stared; whether it was because I’m white or because cars are so rare, I couldn’t tell. I crossed through a few villages, and the children ran out onto the road to dance around my car. I was terrified, not because I thought they would hurt me, but because I was sure one of them would end up under my wheels. And a squished African kid in the wheel arch would probably eat into my security deposit.

    After three hours of tough driving the 120km journey, I finally hit Semonkong, a bustling village of maybe 1000 people. The tarred road ended, and I weaved the Hyundai in and out of donkeys and women with baskets on their heads as I bumped through potholes that reminded me of Rebel Wilson’s sex video. The road just got worse as I tried to steer down into the valley that holds the Semonkong Lodge, and I was truy amazed that I got the tiny vehicle down such rough terrain. The locals, climbing down the cliff on their donkeys, thought I was an idiot, and they were probably right.

    The journey, as tough and weird as it was, turned out to be worth it, because the place I’m staying is truly incredible. I’m sleeping in a rondavel above a perfect stream that winds through jagged cliffs. The locals swagger past my door in their woollen caps and full-body ponchos. Children gallop by on horses, laughing. This area is full of life, and the only effect the modest tourism industry has is to give the locals a bit more to eat. It’s remote, quiet, happy and beautiful. Sitting at 2,275 metres above sea level, Semonkong is also incredibly cold, and the air is so thin that even a brisk walk is hard. I’ve never been anywhere similar to this – most people to walk the earth haven’t – and I can’t wait to get out and see more of this gorgeous country tomorrow.