Woven mats from Elelloang Basali

Must-Have Christmas Gifts From the Maluti Mountains

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.

Road through the Maluti Mountains
The Maluti Mountains on the South African side of the Lesotho border.

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.

Elelloang Basali Weaving CentreJust look for the cheerful red building made of aluminium cans — it’s hard to miss.

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.

Marosa weavingMarosa, an Elelloang Basali veteran, weaves away at a new mohair masterpiece.

Marosa weavingAnother shot of Marosa.

Alin at Elelloang BasaliAlina in the Elelloang Basali showroom. The large tapestry folded up next to her is the one I bought. The small mats in front of her make great coasters.

Cotton loom at Elelloang BasaliElelloang Basali is weaving with cotton now too. I was fascinated by this loom. (I’ve forgotten the name of the weaver.)

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

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.

Minnie and Gertie at the Blanket ShopGertie (left) and Minnie (right), the blanket ladies.

After a brief but delightful chat with Minnie, I walked out with two blankets.

Basotho blanketsI bought both of these as gifts — every South African household needs at least one Basotho blanket.

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.

Andy at the Blanket ShopAndy at the Blanket Shop in October 2015.

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. 

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9 Comments

  • Reply autumnashbough December 6, 2016 at 8:47 pm

    I didn’t know Andy, but I was all sniffles when I saw the picture. So sorry for your loss.

    Now I am off to read your previous posts.

    • Reply 2summers December 6, 2016 at 9:31 pm

      Yeah, it’s really so sad. He was killed by a drunk driver.

  • Reply UnderAnAfricanSun December 6, 2016 at 10:05 pm

    So sorry about your friend, how senseless. Hugs… thanks for the tip about the tapestries, they look amazing I need to plan a trip to go get some.

    • Reply 2summers December 7, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Thanks a lot Kelly. You would love these places!

  • Reply GoingSomewhereSlowly (@AnjeRautenbach) December 6, 2016 at 11:36 pm

    Beautiful Heather xxx

    • Reply 2summers December 7, 2016 at 8:58 am

      Thanks A!

  • Reply Stephanie December 7, 2016 at 5:13 am

    Okay, we are heading to the Clarens area in April so I think we might need a blanket — for those five nights a year that we contemplate getting a space heater in Durban. And Lesotho — such a special place in the world. I love the tapestries and weaving.

    Great tribute to Andy. I didn’t know him well but geez he left a big wide hole in the world to so many people I know in Durban. Thinking of you and all those he touched in so many ways.

    • Reply 2summers December 7, 2016 at 9:00 am

      Thanks Stephanie. And yes, I suppose Durban isn’t the best place for blankets but you’ll love having it on those five days! And of course the experience of buying one is worth it anyway.

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