Published: March 15th 2012March 11th 2012
There are these two small countries on the Southern African continent that we have heard of, but most of us don't know much about them. I name the first one the Kingdom of Swaziland, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique. I visited Swaziland for 3 days back in 2011. Swaziland is peaceful, and pleaged by HIV....with friendly people and low lying hills.
The second little country is Lesotho. To the European that I am, Lesotho is even more of a weird kingdom. The country, basically a "circle" of 180km diameter is stuck inside South Africa. There is no access to the sea here, and to nothing else than South Africa....by land, or by air. Sadly, the reputation of Maseru, the capital, is way less friendly than the reputation of the Swaziland capital of Manzini. Swaziland is poor, Lesotho is very poor. Most of the population live on the North-West part of the country, around the lower lying capital Maseru, bordering South Africa.
I did enter Lesotho on the South-East, the region is sparcely inhabited, mainly due to the altitude and that not much is growing around here. There is only one road access between the
South African Province of KZN and Lesotho...and this is the road to the Sani Pass...with a border lying at 2873 meters.
The road is not really a road, this is a track. The border on the South Africa side is down in the valley, and the Lesotho side is right at the edge of the Sani Pass. You don't drive on your own here...I would have simply broke down my car by trying. Only 4x4...and you'de better have some experience. This lead to a healhty business from the little town of Underberg to cater to all kind of travellers, a lot of them young backpackers to lead one to multi-days tours into Lesotho.
I join one little day tour into one of the many Land Cruiser pounding the Sani Pass. There was with me four younger Swedish spending 6 months volunteering in South Africa...and we were drove by our great guide Stuart...he loves is nature and it showed, we had a great time!
There are not many countries in Africa where you can ski and that have some equiped ski slopes. Lesotho is one, Morocco the second, and when they are
running, South Africa has few slopes too...this is it. So if you come during the South African continent winter, you will find a lot of snow and ice around here. Stuart explained me that in winter, it does arrive pretty often that the 4x4 doesn't even make it to the Lesotho border post, and that the few hundred meters are done by foot...in the ice and snow...first to the border, next to the pub!
Snow or ice was not on our schedule. We had fresher weather up there....even some rain and fog in the afternoon....but nothing close to cold weather. Before clearing the Lesotho border post, we first made few stops to check the local fauna and flora, and for few more photo shots of the amazing views. Border crossing is pretty easy...few more stamps. After entering Lesotho at 2873 meters, we drove nearly 20km "inland" to climb few more meters to up to 3200meters. At that point, it was time to stop for our little picnic lunch. Had way too much food for me, so I traded most of it for photo ops with the local herders....at least they would do something with those sandwiches.
On our way down, we stop in a local village to try the local maize bread. You'll find those pictures on any blog doing the same tour I did...I was clearly not the first tourist here, neither the last one.
Our next stop, the "highest pub in Africa" for a little local beer before hitting down the track to South Africa and the Sani Backpacker Lodge....down to 1500 meters altitude. I stay at the Sani Backpacker lodge the night before. A clean place, but not really a great deal...but when you look around, it doesn't seem that there is much of a great deal around the little town of Underberg. We made it back to the lodge at 5pm...and my day was not over.
Ahead of me was the ride back to the area of Durban, as I had an early morning flight to catch to come back home. So in less than two days, I went from diving at 35 meters below sea level...to 3200 meters for lunch (highest point of Lesotho is around 3450 meters), down again to sea level for a late dinner in the little sea side town
of Umhlanga....and back the next morning to 11,000meters high in the air...on my way back to Leslie and Tiffany.
Next entry, coming early April, for the 10th anniversary party of travelblog.org.....even if I've been personnaly here just short of 5 years.
There are more photos below