June 14, 2016

Fly Fishing in Lesotho, Africa

Images and words from Micky Wiswedel

I’m no fly fisherman, but when friends offer you a donkey-trek adventure along the Bokong River in Lesotho’s highlands, it’s easy to get over your lack of interest in fishing and join the trip. I mean, following a pack of donkeys to a place known as theKingdom in the Sky didn’t sound like a bad way to spend a week, even if there was some fishing to be done.

So we packed our gear into a car and left Cape Town, South Africa, before dawn for a massive two-day drive to the mountain kingdom. After 16 hours of tar road, a border crossing, five hours of winding mountain passes, a night at Makhongoa community camp and a bumpy 4×4 track to the end of the road, we reached the start of our trail. Here we met the rest of our group — a fly fishing and local area expert, our two muleteers, and a pack of not-so-impressed donkeys who would be carrying everything we needed to survive for the following week along the river.

Our first day on the river was spent mostly hiking, making our way higher and higher up the valley past the last Basotho villages until we were the only people in the upper reaches of the Bokong River. Here the surreal atmosphere of the place really started to sink in. We were miles away from anything. We had no contact with the outside world whatsoever and everything we needed was on the backs of our donkeys, who seemed to enjoy occasionally making a run for it. Luckily our muleteers David and Matsoele were pretty quick on their feet and could outrun a fully-laden donkey even on an open plain.

The days that followed felt like an immersion into a time long-forgotten, far from the distractions of modern life and truly connected to the immediate world around us. Our movements were guided by the valleys, river and weather. When storms approached, our local Basotho guides would pray and chant at the clouds to keep the ‘white rain’ away, which we later found out was hail and lightning. Strangely, for the most part it seemed to work. Ominous clouds would skirt around our camp just as quickly as they had appeared over the horizon. We spent hours studying the flows of the river trying to decode the movements of yellow fish and trout under the rapids.

Time slows when you are in a place like this. You find yourself having the time to actually listen to a river, feel the wind and let the elements speak to you. Your mind stills and thoughts of future and past fade, allowing time to enjoy the now — whether it be making a slow brew of coffee by the fire, taking in an expansive landscape or talking about nothing. These are the times when I feel I am most myself. You realize that happiness is simple. It’s friends, nature, a good cup of coffee — and it’s now.

If you’re wondering, I’m still no fly fisherman. I didn’t even pick up a rod! Sometimes just being there is enough.

Lesotho is a landlocked kingdom of just over 30,000 sq km, completely surrounded by South Africa. With a population of almost 2 million, at least 80 per cent of Lesotho’s terrain is 1,800 m above sea level, and is mostly highlands with mountains, hills and plateaus. Most villages are only accessible by horse (or mule) back, on foot or by light aircraft. 2016 marks 50 years of independence from Britain. 

Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Micky Wiswedel is aphotographer, climber and general mountain freak who documents the stories behind the people and adventures he encounters. Wiswedel is Stocksy United’s 2015 Sport Photographer of the Year. See his winning entry here, and check out the rest of Micky’s collection >>

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