Tag Archives: Semonkong

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!

     

    The Kingdom in the Sky

    The day starts early in Semonkong, with doneys and goats and sheep and people bubbling out into what passes for streets as soon as the sun peeks over the mountains. I was up at sparrow’s to catch the sunrise, then made the most of my early start by heading out into the wilderness to explore the fascinating country of Lesotho. The main attraction around here is the Maletsunyane Falls, so with a spring in my step I headed out in that vague direction, dodging animals as I went.

    The villages in Lesotho are truly fascinating, incredibly poor, and from a different world. They have no electricity, running water, or roads, and are little more than a random sprinkling of huts amongst the hills. I didn’t see too many kids running around with the fancy new Nintendo Switch in their hands, that’s for sure. Everyone’s very pleasant here, and people waved and did their best to say hello as I went past. The walking is tough at such an altitude, though, and I was huffing and puffing like a donut-muncher before long.

    I eventually made it to the Falls, and they proved to be as spectacular as I’d hoped. The viewing area (an open cliff, really – there are no fences or signs to be found) is a long way from the waterfall, but the size of the big, wet thing is still immensely impressive. It’s not a wide, open waterfall like Niagra or the aftermath of a huge night on the VBs, but the height of it is frightening. I’ve seen a lot of awesome natural spectacles, and Maletsunyane Falls is up with the best of ’em.

    With all day to walk, I crossed wide, open plains and climbed rocky outcrops. I jumped rivers and pushed through thick thatches of grass that sound like rain falling whenever the wind blows. This land is almost untouched by modern society, and that’s part of the beauty. I’ve never been anywhere so remote.

    I was strutting along, minding my own business and looking cool, when a couple of young lasses came running over and struck up a convo. They didn’t speak much English, and surprisingly enough I’m not fluent in Lesothonese, so we didn’t delve into an in-depth discussion of Russian politics or anything like that, instead sticking with basic pleasantries.
    “I like your face,” one of them struggled to say.
    “I like your muscles,” the other almost said. Things went on like this for a while, and I was feeling on top of the world (and being in Lesotho, I guess I was) until the conversation took a disturbing turn.

    “I like your penis,” yelled one of the girls, and a balaclava-clad dude on a horse turned around to give me a filthy look. I hoped it was a mistake, but then her mate threw her arms in the air and yelled, “I like your penis, too!”
    Now the bar at my lodge tossed me out at 8pm last night, so I was pretty sure I didn’t get smashed and start chucking it around at the locals, but the situation still worried me. If the locals thought I’d been porking their sheilas they might come after me with spears or, even worse, make me marry the girls. I don’t thrive in the cold, so I was reasonably concerned.

    I could see a few horsemen sharpening sticks and glaring at me, so I waited until the girls were distracted by something shiny and dived into a bush. I thought it was the perfect place to hide until I realised it was a rare Condom Tree. In a country where half the people are rancid with AIDS, I was a little concerned that I’d end my trip to Africa looking like Tom Hanks in Philadelphia, but I tested the tree’s fruit and it tasted fine. Thumbs up!

    I ended the day by almost agreeing to write the autobiography of some nutter named Rudy who I met in the bar. Richard Branson will be signing my cheques personally, apparently. It’s a great story that ended with me falling into a drain, but I think Rudy deserves his own entry!

    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.

    Running to Lesotho

    I would’ve loved to stay in Hogsback for the rest of my life and become a tree-hugging hippie, but when a rancid strain of flu swept through my hostel and people started dropping like flies, I knew it was time to get out of there. I’ve spent a lot of time on the coast, so I decided to head further inland and point myself towards the world’s highest country – Lesotho. With every scrap of land above 1400 metres, it’s as close as you can get to the sky without a helicopter.

    It’s a fair trek from Eastern Cape to Lesotho, and its made longer by the fact almost all the border crossings are inaccessible to anything but the meanest of 4WDs. The 481km drive from Hogsback to the Maseru border skirts around Lesotho from bottom to top, and heads through giant mountains, poverty-stricken towns, and endless desert.

    There’s not much out there and it’s a fairly boring drive, being similar to a cruise through the Aussie outback (but without the persistent risk of a kangaroo jumping through your windscreen and kicking you to death). Sure, a monkey, cow or local might get in the way, but that’s to be expected. The towns are sparse and well spread out, and the roads are mainly as straight as a Nazi salute.

    I was lucky enough to find a pie shop on the outskirts of a depressing village called Jamestown. South Africans get a big thumbs-up from me for loving their pies, but there is one unforgivable quirk of their pastry passion. They display them in the shop at room temperature, then chuck the delicious treat in the microwave after you order it, causing the pastry to go all soggy. Weird Saffas.

    From Maseru to my final destination in Lesotho, Semonkong Falls, is only 130km, but takes three hours, so I decided to spend the night in the Saffa town of Ladybrand. Whilst it’s not poor and horrible like Jamestown, it’s not exactly a place any sane tourist would bother visiting other than for a one night stopover. There’s a nice church… some shops. Alright, I’m struggling to think of anything else.

    Ladybrand is also home to the ugliest women I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to Huddersfield. They all have the same big, round, dumb faces and out-of-date haircuts, and wander around looking like they just stepped in dogshit and then trampled it through the house. The bloke who owns the local paper bag factory must be laughing. I’ll be getting out of here at the crack of dawn to ensure one of the fugmos doesn’t make a rape victim out of me.  Sorry, Ladybrand, but you’re not my sort of place.