A few kilometres further on we turned off the main road and visited the Basotho Cultural Village. While a highly sanitized representation of a Basotho settlement, it offers an insight into the rich architecture, crafts and everyday living of the people. The huts are well made and washed in dark ochres, purples and oranges strongly decorated with white and black diamonds , swirls or crosses. Some were just stone, others covered in adobe, still more studded with intricate stone mosaics on the walls. Inside were pristine artefacts of your average Basotho household, the pots, wooden mortar and pestle, the long wooden spoons, the knives, the mats, the hats. Yes, there was that iconic conical shape once more.
I looked eastwards and consulted the map – I saw mountains to the south east that I realised were the ones at the back of the Royal Natal Park. I had last been in this area some twenty years earlier when I had holidayed in South Africa with my friend Kirsty. Funny when you have been travelling long enough that you start joining up the dots, seeing an old historical memory for real again but from a different angle.
We had to drive back the same way, but that was no hardship. More game in the shape of impala and waterbuck were now out grazing in the late afternoon sun, and the colours in the buttresses were more vivid in the lowering sunlight. It was hard to tear yourself away from this environment.
Fortunately we did not need to tear ourselves too far away. As we reached our villa, Clarens was now in the shadow of a mountain to the west, but the valley we had just returned along was glowing in all the sun’s glory to the east. We cracked open a bottle of wine and watched the sunlight play on the scene, a marvellous slow motion disco of yellow, red and purple. We then settled down to make some dinner and flopped about feeling relaxed. It had been a long but fantastic day.