It was a brisk night at Dirk and Dina’s farm and the ground was frozen early morning, looking rather fab in blue skies. I gathered the rest of my stuff and loaded Zimba up for my journey. All three dogs were rather calm this morning, maybe they sensed that I am leaving? Dina cooked up a tasty omelette and we had a good chat. It was time to say goodbye and be on my way again. Another big thank you to Dina and Dirk, and off I went.
A quick stop in Memel,then further on to Newcastle. Zimba needed an insurance check and I shopped for a few things. Leaving rather late, I knew I won’t make it to Sani Pass today. I eventually found a camp spot and set up for the night.
The weather gods were still with me, another sunny day. After a few hours drive, the snow covered peaks emerged on the horizon. Fantastic view. It reminded me a bit of the ‘Lake Hayes’ region, just behind Queenstown in New Zealand on a clear spring day, with ‘the Remakables’ peaking in the distance.
They received 2m of snow a few days ago someone told me. This could become a snow challenge. Sani Pass Road is a gravel road with plenty of roadworks. I made it to the South African border post where papers were quickly checked and ticked off.
Those snow covered mountains looked impressive in blue skies. The road got more and more challenging, a sharp zig zag ascent at the end, before I arrived in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
I had a good laugh with the very friendly border patrol, 3 of them in their tiny ice box office. Literally just behind is Sani Pass pub (highest pub in Africa), Chalets and backpackers. There was an option to camp, but I skipped it this time. I made myself a nice cuppa coffee and looked over to those snow covered mountains.
Looking impressive and worth exploring. I can’t remember the last time I played in snow. I wanted to go up the mountains and build a snow man. It looked doable from this view, but it turned to an impossible task. Melting snow created streams, which ran in to larger creeks.
There were just too many creeks to cross, and some dark clouds were rolling in. The wind picked up and it got rather cold. In fact, it gotten absolutely freezing. Thick fog clouds covered the alpine valley, visibility of 3 meter maximum.
After dinner and a long long hot shower, I got comfy in the common room were a fire was lid. Heaven sent and so close to it too. I had a chat with a few fellow backpackers from Pretoria, who came up with surprising facts.
The main export from Lesotho is water and dope. No, it is not legal here but an interesting fact. We’re up pretty high up here, didn’t think it was that high. Measured by its lowest point, Lesotho is the highest country in the world. Obviously can’t compete with the Himalayas on height. I did notice that there was plenty of water though. Time for bed, which had thick blankets. Yay.
OMG, what a day! My adrenaline is still pumping thinking about it.
A 5 o’clock start to another sunny day, still damn cold though.
I had a cruisy day in mind, driving north to ‘Ts’ehlanyane Nat Park’ and wander up to ‘Lepaqoa Waterfalls’ and camp somewhere there. Coffee, breakfast, lunchbox… check, and ready to go.
Zimba doesn’t like cold mornings, just like me. He took a while to warm up. I meanwhile checked maps.me, which suggested the shortest way. A quick look on the map, some parts were gravel road. Fair enough I thought, this would be fun.The tar road ascended even higher and one literary drives on top of the world. Snow patches and black ice were easy to spot in sunny conditions and driven carefully. What a view.
At Mapholaneng, I turned in to the gravel road which I then followed thru many little villages, along the rim of the Grand Canyon it seemed, not as colourful though.
I drove for a while, and whilst ascending from another village, I noticed the track had gotten bumpier, rockier and muddier. But not too bad and didn’t think much about it. At the next village, I lost track of the track and the kids were running and showing me the way, asking for sweets or money in return. Looking ahead, it was time to engage Zimba in 4WD mode. What started out as a bit challenging, turned in to ‘are you shitting me’? kinda track. Lucky I went to the toilet this morning, this had gotten one of the most challenging tracks I’ve driven.
Uphill or downhill, the size of boulders, gaps and mud pods sure kept my heart pumping and Zimba’s engine revving. I had to reverse a few times as the road got washed out and I missed the, just as dodgy, bypass. Mainly with locals yelling and cheering the direction. I stopped a few times and was immediately surrounded by mothers and children, asking for money. Shame, as I ran out of change earlier. Some were asking – where I was going? I don’t know I replied.
There were lots of amazing photo opportunities of locals in traditional clothing and blankets, on horses or donkeys. I couldn’t stop, or would have been surrounded by masses. A lot looked amazed as a zebra was driving through their backyard and kept cheering me on. Some were calling taxi! Cut a long story short, the 70 km gravel road took me about 8 hours to complete. Zimba did extremely well, without any overheating, tyre wear out or suspension problems. He just kept on going and going!
I was very impressed, as the thought of getting stuck here in the middle of nowhere on a freezing cold night crossed my mind a few times. But who knows, maybe another opportunity would have knocked on my door. I broke the 4 WD rule, of doing a track like that by myself. I just didn’t know, or expected it to be that bad. No excuse for ignorance though.
How these villages manage literally out whoop whoop, as there isn’t much agricultural land on this alpine desert. But they always have, and they always will, I suppose. I gave two friendly Lesothians a lift for the last 5 km’s and was happy to reach the tarmac at Sesothe.
I parked for a coffee near a waterfall, and realised that the coffee jar had opened thru all that shaking. Instant coffee everywhere. Lucky I had another jar,always one extra. As I just poured my coffee, I heard some commotion behind me. A man with two horses on a leash was trying to cross the street. The fowl didn’t like that idea and started a horse drama. With a coffee in my hand, I wanted to lead the young horse over the street. A car came around the sharp corner and scared him off. He was gone, so was my coffee. The young horse was captured eventually, as I sat down by a wee waterfall to relax. I was quickly spotted by 3 kids, asking for money straight away. Everyone knows those English words. They looked cute, but my camera was in the car and I just wanted to chill for 5 minutes. I drove off and ended up camping at Katse Dam village, no one else here. Serenity, almost like Bonnie Doon.
Another early start,another brisk and sunny day.
The idea for today was, to drive over to the capital Maseru through the middle highlands. A gravel detour showed up on the map and I thought, this might be a good opportunity to take some photos off the area, and possibly some colourful locals with their traditional beanies and blankets wrapped around.
However, whenever I stopped, someone spotted me and asked for money. Even when I thought there was no one around to go for a wee, someone came from somewhere. Interesting, in a strange, kinda way. No ‘please’, or ‘good morning’. Hands out and rather rude ‘give me some money’. I made a sandwich, again thinking I was alone, a woman came up and said ‘give me some food’. My patience were running thin, my change ran out yesterday.
The A3 road to Maseru would be an awesome destination for motorcycle enthusiasts. Driving on top of the world, ascending and descending multiple times, long or sharp bends, I am sure this would be fun. Apart from watching out for rocks and boulders on the road, and strong winds that hit you coming around the corner…oh, and herds of sheep, goats and cows, leaving their shit where they eat. Donkeys carrying all sorts of material and there were always people on the road. No pedestrian walkways. I think these are ALL the hazards on this steep road. Zimba and I cruised up and down, a lot of it in second gear, up or down. Some great views, but it was risky to stop to take a good shot.
I got to Maseru after lunch time, a smaller version of Antananarivo. Thanx to maps me, I navigated thru the city effortlessly. When I got to Maseru backpackers, security fellow opened the gate, and asked if I want to camp or a room. ‘I wanna have a look on both, but can work that out with reception’, I replied. ‘No reception today, it is Saturday. But we are busy, big party going on and I don’t know if there is a room, or space in a dorm’…???. Ok,I thought, this is how it works in Lesotho. ‘How much is the camping then?’ ‘It’s 100 Maloti per person, plus the car!’ ‘The car doesn’t sleep. How much for the car?’ ‘I don’t know, but I will call my boss, and if he comes around later you can pay him’. This conversation would have been a cracker recorded…
I ended up staying in a room, as it worked out cheaper then camping (???), according to his calculations. The function room was carefully prepared, shiny champagne glasses, and white table clothes. Seems that the haute couture is gonna show up here tonight. I asked the cleaning girl, if it is someone’s birthday? But it was the graduation from school for one girl, so I understood. It was formal, with speeches and choir like gospel, everyone showed up in shiny shirts or dresses. I chatted with a few of the younger ones, who got bored of it all. Off to bed, and the music started pumping. I slept quite well considering my room wasn’t too far from the happening.
As the alarm went on at 5 am,the music stopped. It felt like my alarm stopped the music. It was quite amusing to see them cleaning in drunk state. A young proud Lesothian, who serves his country in the army, came over and gave me a beer. No begging for money here then. He asked why I didn’t join the party. I wasn’t invited, I said. He was looking for me as the music started playing he said, but I was in bed already.
Time to go, a long drive ahead. Ha ha, I never ended up paying anything for the room, which made the conversation with the security dude yesterday just as useful as to talk to a parking meter.