October 23, 2009
When I pedaled across Lesotho (the mountain kingdom completely within the borders of South Africa) there was exactly one paved highway. I was never on it. Instead, I pedaled on roads that could only be described as linear collections of large rocks. I remember one day's progress ... 9 hours of struggle ... 17 kilometers.
I wheezed my way up to a small school at about 11,000 ft. I was invited to visit a classroom. The teacher spoke enough English that he could translate for me. I talked with the students and answered their questions about my bicycle journey.
In return, the students decided to sing for me. Now this was not the school's choir. This was a history class.
Chills ran up and down my spine for the next 20 minutes as I listened to the soul of a country expressed in song.
I wish I had a photo of the faces, but for some reason not a single image from that roll of film turned out. Which, in some ways, makes my memory that much more ethereal. You can hear their singing at the link below. (The rough translation I was told: "When the sun goes down I am lonely. When it gets dark, where will I sleep?).
Photo and audio recording by Willie Weir
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His books, Travels with Willie and Spokesongs, will inspire you to hit the road, and might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at http://yellowtentadventures.com.