Published: November 29th 2009November 15th 2009
Sunday morning was spent lazing around the hostel and we eventually got picked up by the Underberg Express and headed out for Sani Lodge. We eventually arrived at 7pm however it transpired that they did not have my booking despite me e:mailing them and Paula confirming my details on the phone. Bless her Paula panicked on my behalf but in my now relaxed traveller mode I shrugged my shoulders and said that I would sleep on the sofa in my sleeping bag if no bed was available however a bed was found so we were all happy.
Unfortunately the weather had taken a turn for the worse and it was pouring with rain so I deferred any decision for trips till the next day. However Monday morning rolled around and I was suffering from cabin fever so despite the rain I elected to go out on a walk to see some local Sani Bushman paintings. I was also contemplating on going on a three day tour of Lesotho the next day. Six of us set of on the walk with Dane our guide and for the full day the rain never stopped and when we were at the top of
the hill the wind made it very cold which was fine whilst we were walking however when we stopped for our picnic lunch we all soon became cold and our interest in the bushman paintings was not as high as it would have been if the weather had been more favourable. It was interesting to see the paintings that had been created 100's of years earlier by the shamen whilst in a trance. Unfortunately the bushmen have since left the area and there are very few left who are able to provide true interpretations of the paintings. On return to the hostel were were all soaked through so after a nice hot shower it was nice to sit in front of the real fire despite all our shoes and clothes hung up around the same in the hope they would dry before the next day.
Unfortunately my experience of being cold and wet hammered the nail in the coffin for me doing a 3 day trip to Lesotho. Whilst ordinarily I am more than happy to go basic the thought of staying in a rondavel with no heating, electricity or water when I have no winter clothes since Mum
and Dad returned home with them when I was in Malaysia. Also at this point in my trip I want to have a bit more luxury rather than truly roughing it. I would have happily coped one night but the thought pf two nights of being cold and wet did not appeal so I declined the chance and elected to do the day trip up the sani pass and into Lesotho.
The next day we jumped into the 4x4 with our guide Matthew. The weather was slightly better in that the cloud had lifted somewhat and it was dry. The sani pass is known as the road to the roof of South Africa and is the highest pass in the country. The pass going up is only open to 4x4 vehicles. And it is understandable why when you see the condition of the road. I think I can honestly say it is the worst road I have ever travelled along and certainly one I would not wish to drive myself.
We duly stopped at the border post and got stamped out of South Africa however it is then an 8km drive to the Lesotho border post and that
journey takes an hour to drive! On the way up the road we were able to get some amazing views up and down the valley however we soon entered the cloud and nearing the top we actually came across snow!! Matthew stopped the car and some of us jumped out and had a quick snowball fight...
When we got to the Lesotho border post there was visibility of about 10m (as the photo shows!) having been stamped into the country we headed inland and within 1km there was a complete change in the weather and we entered blue sky and a beaming sun. We drove through a local village and stopped at a sheep shearing station. In Lesotho young boys are allocated a piece of land by the king and they then become shepherds and often look after a flock of sheep for an elder and eventually they end up with their own herd. My understanding is that no-one truly owes the land in Lesotho and that it is everyones and no-ones. At the sheep shearing station we were escorted into the warehouse where appriximately 6 men were shearing the sheep, 2 men sorting out the wool and a
woman doing the books. Effectively the women get more education than the men as they are able to stay at school longer. All the shearing was done manually and they were using what looked like garden shears - not even proper shears! We were told that most of the wool is exported to China. We were given the offer to shear a sheep however I declined on this occasion....
We then drove further round and into the valley where we soon stopped for lunch. The view afforded to us at lunch was beautiful of the surrounding mountains. Lesothto claims to have the highest low point of any country in the world (Bolivia undoubtedly would hold this mantle if it wasn't for the pampas) After finishing our lunch we went for a brief walk up the nearest peak where we able to look across to Mt Thabana-Ntlenyana, Africas highest peak south of Mt Kilimanjaro. We then got back into the jeep and returned to the village where we were taken into a rondavel and a local woman had prepared some bread traditional style, in a pot with hot coals placed underneath and on the lid. We were also able to
sample the local beer that was a milky colour and certainly not my future tipple of choice it tasted too metallic for my liking..... Before descending the Sani Pass we stopped at the Sani Top Pub for a quick drink. This was my opportunity to buy and send postcards from my penultimate country. Bizarrely they only had South African postcards but assured me they would be posted in Lesotho so have a Lesotho stamp so fingers crossed they get home.
Wednesday morning and it was an early start as five of us were picked up for the lodge and being delivered to our next destinations, which for me was Pietermaritzburg and finding a way to the Northern Drakensberg.
There are more photos below