The Great Water Snake of Lesotho

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The great water snake of Lesotho, known as the great Khanyapa, is believed by many to have been seen coiling and uncoiling in the sky near the village of Qopo with great speed.  Residents of Qopo, which is not far from Maseru, firmly believe that the snake is responsible for the vicious storms which have devasted the town for more than 30 years.

A resident of Qopo points towards the valley of the Water Snake.

The ‘water snake’ wreaking havoc in Qopo

The Falls

The only water snake I have ever encountered in Lesotho was the great snake of water that thunders down the sandstone cliffs close to Semonkong.

A young man wearing a colourful blanket and a missing tooth in his smile, pointed up the road when I asked him where I could find the world famous Maletsunyane Falls.

“Just there” he said.

We turned off at the river as instructed and drove on the little 4×4 track and we drove and drove and drove.  Every now and again we would stop a woman carrying water, or a shepherd or anyone else we could see and ask the way to the falls.  We always got the same smile but each pointed in a different direction.  The circles got bigger and bigger and the little track smaller and smaller.  I thought that a lifetime dream to see one of the highest falls in the Southern Hemisphere would never materialize but suddenly after taking what I thought was another wrong turn I heard the sound of thunder.

The Place of Smoke

Maletsunyane Wailing Pool

The falls are more impressive in real life than can be imagined.  The highest abseil in the world at 204 meters, that has earned a mention in the Guinness Book of records and it is just a glint of silver down the edge of this speeding blanket of water.  At 192 meters they are higher than the Niagra falls.  The source of the water is the Maletsunyane River which tips over a ledge of Triassic-Jurassic basalt.  The cleft of rocks surrounding the falls are lush and the pool at the base, known as the wailing pool, splashes water in great torrents into the air as the falls hit the surface.

Untarnished by Man.

Other than the roaring of the water there were no other sounds. There are no marked signposts leading to the site and no kiosks selling soft drinks and fridge magnets. There was literally not another person in sight.  Other than a partial deck overlooking the falls from a distance the area remains the raw natural wonder sculptured by nature.

Were it located in a better-known country, this site of splash and crash would be deemed a world wonder”.

Semonkong Town.

In the summer when the rains come Semonkong is covered by mist earning the name of the place of smoke. This little town is a wonder of its own but that will have to wait for another story. However rather go on a guided tour, it will save you a lot of time.

…and Where is the Great Water Snake.

Well an expert from the Lesotho Meteorological Service (LMS) Senior Meteorologist, Charles Tšeole, explained the legend of the water snake.  He said the valley squeezes the wind, causing it to increase in speed.
“The villagers see the storm coming from the valley because the wind has been squeezed and it comes with force from the valley. The rain and dust look like a coiling snake.”

I’m not so sure, after the amazing sights and experiences I have had in Lesotho I’m prepared to believe almost anything.

Sani and the Place of Smoke

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One thought on “The Great Water Snake of Lesotho

  1. What a wonderful article, Angie!

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