Friday, October 1, 2010

LESOTHO TOUR 4th to 10th September 2010 --- A country of which most South Africans know very little about!

With two 4x4's and four people, Annegret and Carl List and Hasso Meyer and me.

Day 1: 3rd Sept.: Himeville, Albizia House,
At about 17h00 Carl, Annegret and Hasso arrived in Himeville. They had a good drive through the Transkei, but had a long hold-up on a Friday afternoon in Umtata. They must have missed the by-pass?!
I was already in Himeville since the day before. From here started our tour together.
We had supper at the Himeville Arms Hotel this evening.

Day 2: 4th Sept.: Senqu Hotel, Mokhotlong
The next morning the real tour started with Sani Pass, conquering this pass and the border. After that we could relax at the Highest Pub in Africa, being at 2,873m.
After lunch we drove passed some high peaks to the right of us of which one must have been the highest peak of Southern Africa, Thabana Ntenyana at 3,482m.
We came to Makhotlong when it was almost dark on a road full of potholes. At Makhotlong we battled to find the Senqu Hotel, but found it eventually. They tried their best to provide us with a good supper, us being their only guests for supper.

Day 3: 5th Sept.: New Oxbow Lodge.
A fantastic sunrise greeted us this morning. We left early and had breakfast along the route. Tables and chairs were put out and it was more of a brunch. Two little boys came to talk to us in a good English. They wanted money, but only got sweets from us. Now we were on the A1 on a tarred road, so easy to travel. We drove again over passes and then the Tlaeeng Pass at 3,255m, the highest pass in Southern Africa.We made a photo stop at the top. Soon after this came a huge sign of AfriSki, Ski + Mountain Resort. Crazy—A white patch of snow on that dry and brown mountain. Snow machines from Europe were standing there and the chalets looked like in the Alps with names of Chamonix, Davos, etc. As we came nearer, yes, there were really people enjoying their skiing in Africa. This evening we stayed in the nearby AfriSki New Oxbow Lodge.

Day 4: 6th Sept.: Maliba Lodge, --in the Ts’ehlanyane National Park .
After breakfast we are heading for more passes up and down. The Mountains in the distance are very hazy dew to fires in various areas, some big ones in the Eastern Freestate. We have to stop for more photos, especially the fantastic, pink peach blossoms everywhere. This looks particularly beautiful together with the grass roof rondavels. We make a stop at the San (bushman) rock paintings in a large overhang, with interesting rock paintings.
At about 15h00 we arrived at the lovely Maliba Lodge---a 5-star lodge with a fantastic lounge, bar, veranda and Restaurant. We, however, stay in their 3-star self-catering house, but like the best 4-star accommodation. A pleasant surprise! After unpacking, we go for a little walk in the park and then off to the nice bar at the Lodge. This evening we had a lovely braai with meat that we bought still at Underberg on the 4th Sept.

Day 5: 7th Sept.: Katze Orion Hotel, near the Katse Dam wall.
Today after about two hours drive, we came to the Dinosaur Footprints. Amazingly interesting since there were three different footprints to see from three different Dinosaurs species, being about 120mil. Years old. After these footprints we drove on up one of the most spectacular mountain passes with signs of “drive slow in snow and ice!” At the top was a wall build out like a dam wall, for the needle curve the road made. An amazing engineering work.

Then came the first sight of the water of the Katze dam and with that the Bokong Nature Reserve. There are now only small animals left like the caracals, ice rats (looks like some smaller cane rats), mongoose and the biggest is perhaps the grey rhebuck. No more leopards in these mountains.
We arrived at about 15h30 at the Katse village and our hotel, the Katse Orion Hotel. Here we went to have a look at the interesting plants in the Alpine Botanical Garden, where there were many of these strange aloes, the emblem flower of Lesotho.
This evening we stayed in the Katse Orion Hotel, with no lights (a power outage at this huge energy project?!). Supper was by candle light and fortunately they did have gas cookers. The rooms had large flat screen TV’s, but the electricity only came back at 10h30 that evening.

Day 6: 8th Sept.: Semonkong Lodge.

Today we had to leave early. A long trip of about 250km was ahead. First it was a tar road, but soon came gravel to Thaba-Tseka. Suddenly there was a cloud of dust, coming towards us. I thought it might be a whirl wind, BUT no they were blasting the road and our cars were only about 200m away from this blast. So we were just lucky that no rock splitters hit our cars. The construction people then had to clear the road of the rubble to let us through.
Then came more passes, police stop, asking for drivers licences, and a petrol stop at Roma. In Roma is The University of Lesotho and also some old missionary schools and churches.
Soon came the worst 65km of the whole day. Gravel with stones and large potholes and three patches that were tarred, maybe 10 years ago and left as is! Very deep potholes and peaces of left-over tar in between, one could hardly call this a road.!! Getting to Semonkong and then to the Semonkong Lodge, was well worth it. Not as luxury as Maliba, but a very good place to stay, friendly people and good food.

Day 7: 9th Sept.: Semonkong Lodge.
With two nights in Semonkong we could have a late breakfast. At about 11h00 we drove to Southern Africa’s Highest Waterfall, Maletsunyane falls, being 192m high. This also being known as “Place of Smoke” (Unfortunately now there was not enough water coming down to make “smoke”. Very dry everywhere.) After many photos we drove back on a dirt road with many cows and sheep on and next to the road also a donkey, at first it looked like an Ostrich. He had a huge pack of wood on his back and an old lady was looking after him.
Back in the Semonkong village we came across a lady, who was walking to the Semonkong lodge. She was all the way from Hongkong and came now with the bus from Maseru to Semonkong. She had lunch with us, so we heard some more about her world travels. She was staying at the Backpackers at the Semonkong Lodge. In the afternoon late she and I went for a walk up the mountain behind us for an interesting sunset view. We also saw three ground hornbills, very unusual birds to see.
This was our last evening together on this Lesotho tour. It was far too short, we all thought. After a drink at the bar, we met some Germans, had Carl’s birthday, two days earlier, and that was our last day celebrations.

Day 8: 10th Sept.: Ash River Lodge.
After breakfast leaving Semonkong on the long bad dirt road (65km) back again. As the owner of Semonkong Lodge said it was better going back, than coming, since one knew what to expect. At about 11h30 we reached close to Maseru (the capital of Lesotho) where the roads split and here we said good bye to Annegret and Carl who were now travelling south. We took the by-pass of Maseru to Bate-Bridge, the border to South Africa. We had to wait more than an hour to get through the border. After this the road on the R26 to Clarens was very good.

Our Lesotho tour was very interesting and enjoyable, but we would have needed two more days for all that and more to see. I could easily go back with more time and to learn a bid more about these, usually very friendly people. We did learn a few words of Sotho, namely Dumela = Good Day and Kaliboa = Thankyou. So let me know if you want to take a trip up to the Roof of Africa, as it is also known. Write to or phone Gudrun on +27218511475 or Cell: +27837542493.