I went to Lesotho last week for a work assignment. I was in a rush on the drive there, but on the way back I took my time, winding through the Maluti Mountains and visiting some of my favorite places.
As a travel writer, I’m always trying to discover new things. I rarely visit the same place twice. But there are a few places that are magical and special enough to draw me back again and again. The Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre is one of those places. The Clarens Blanket Shop is another.
Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre
I first visited the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre in August 2010 and I’ve been back about four times since. The Centre is right on the Lesotho Main Road in Teyteyaneng, about 40 minutes north of Maseru, and it’s an easy stop for those coming in or out of Lesotho through the Peka Bridge crossing.
I get emotional every time I walk into this amazing workshop because I get transported back to a pivotal time in my life when I was becoming the person I am today. Time seems to stand still at Elelloang Basali (which means “Be Aware Women” in Sesotho): The same women who worked there in 2010 are still there, with a couple of new recruits, and the women are still doing the same beautiful work, only better.
I decided to buy a Christmas present for myself at Elelloang Basali: a large tapestry depicting Basotho horseman riding through green, snowcapped mountains. I used every bit of cash I had — note there are no credit card facilities.
The Clarens Blanket Shop
UPDATE (March 2018): I’ve just learned that the Blanket Shop is Clarens has closed down. I’m devastated.
After leaving Elleloang Basali I hopped over the border at Peka Bridge and headed toward Clarens, about an hour away on the route back toward Joburg. I parked in town, bought a lamb curry pie at a bakery, and ate it under a tree in Clarens’ beautiful town square. Then I drove down to the bottom of the hill by the highway, turned left onto a small gravel road, and drove about half a kilometer to the Blanket Shop.
My previous post about the Blanket Shop is one of my most popular so I won’t repeat myself. But briefly, the shop is run by two 80-something sisters, Minnie and Gertie, and they sell Basotho blankets. Basotho blankets are the best blankets on earth.
After a brief but delightful chat with Minnie, I walked out with two blankets.
If you’re looking for a good Christmas present, I highly recommend a tapestry from Elelloang Basali or a Basotho blanket from the Clarens Blanket Shop. If you can’t make it to Lesotho or the eastern Free State before Christmas, keep them in mind for future reference. These are can’t-miss places if you happen to be in the area.
This post is dedicated to Andy Carrie, one of my favorite fellow travelers, who passed away tragically this week at the age of 28. We’ll miss you, Andy. I hope you have a good blanket, wherever you are.
The Blanket Shop is at 499 Naauwpoort Street, Clarens, South Africa. Elelloang Basali doesn’t have a street address, but the shop is located just north of the town of Teyateyaneng and is well sign-posted.