Published: January 11th 2011January 7th 2011
1 January 2011
Happy New Year!! Today we were attempting to get to Maseru (the capital of Lesotho) in one day. Public transport isn't great, so it was going to be a challenge. Our first challenge of course was getting from our lodge in the middle of nowhere to the main town of Mothoklong. So we got up early, showered and walked out of the lodge at about 7am. Our best option was to walk along the road and hope for a car we could hitch with or a local mini taxi van. Looking around the emptiness, we really didn't have a lot of confidence. Surprisingly after walking along the road for about 10 minutes, a taxi arrived. This took us all the way into town, a lot quicker than our ute ride last night.
At the bus station, we couldn't find a van that would take us to Maseru directly (although we saw them on the road coming the other way later), but found that we could catch one to the town on the way, then we'd need to change to another van. The mini van taxis are tiny and we cram in with our backpacks, always trying
to find a good place to put them. We discovered that we had to pay for 3 seats at times in order to find room for our packs.
Our first bus ride started with a local woman singing a pray. Firstly it was just her beautiful voice, but eventually it was the whole bus singing. Beautiful, but also slightly disconcerting. The bus ride took us over an amazing road, through a number of passes, including the Moteng Pass, stated in the Lonely Planet as being at 2820 metres. I remember signs along the way showing rivers we were crossing at about 3000 metres. Either way, we were pretty high up and it was cold and no trees on the landscape. At one point, in the middle of nowhere, the van pulled over and some of the women started piling out. There were no houses in sight, so it took me awhile to realise that this was a toilet stop. So off I went and squatted with a bunch of Basotho women behind a pile of rocks at 3000 metres. Gotta love it!!
After 3 more bus rides we eventually arrived in Maseru about 8 or 9 hours after
we left. Later in the evening we wandered around town for a bit and then had a reasonable dinner.
The next day we were on a bus again to a small village called Moulamen (the lodge is pretty much the only thing there apart from the local village). It was a pretty easy ride considering the other bus rides we'd had. The lodge was a great place to do pony trekking and hikes, of which we did neither... slackers. It rained a lot the two days we were there so we just enjoyed the time relaxing at the coffee shop, playing cards (canasta). Daniel is determined to beat me (so far he has only done it once in about 10 games I guess). The views were lovely and it was nice to not be on the road for one day. The first night we had dinner at a local villages house. We ate some more pap, spinach and chicken. It was good and cheap and interesting talking to the 84 year old (I think) Grandfather. He had lots of interesting stories, although the one about how blankets came to be part of the Lesotho dress was
a bit like the record was stuck and repeating itself. Later we drank with a crazy French dude and his German girlfriend who had been living in Tanzania. Daniel pumped them for information for the rest of his trip. The 2nd night we had dinner at the lodge and sat with a couple who called themselves Aussies cause they had lived there for about 20 years. She was born in France and he in Canada and they currently lived in Botswana. They had lived all over the world working for a few years before moving on. We got ourselves a little drunk starting with a couple of beers, then onto a bottle of white wine, followed by the all important last glass to finish off. Lots of fun.
Today we left our chill out place heading back to Maseru. We had wanted to go to Semonkong where there is a beautiful waterfall, but there had been so much rain the road was closed. Not happy. So we made some adjustments to our itinerary. Today was just another short bus trip, then a 3km walk out to our backpackers. I got a little hot and grumpy because
I was worried we were walking in the wrong direction... poor Daniel. The taxis are weird in Maseru too, most of them seem to run along routes like buses, and you share them with people. Sounds like a good idea if you know what you are doing. So we walked. Once we eventually found the backpackers we got instructions for the people working there and headed back into town, catching a taxi to the market and then walking through town. It was interesting to see how the capital of Maseru worked. We had dinner in a semi fancy restaurant and then asked them to order us a special taxi to take us back to the accommodation. It was dark and rainy and I really didn't want to have to try and negotiate our way home. Cost more, but still only about $4.
5 - 8 January
Next day we headed back into South Africa - into Bloemfontein. Here we checkout out the Anglo-Boer War Muesum and walked around town a bit. Lazy night ordering pizza to be delivered to our hotel cause we couldn't find any open restaurants.... I think it was where we walked, but weird.
The next day was an early bus ride to Pretoria that took us 6 hrs or so. It was mid afternoon by the time we got to the backpackers so we spent the afternoon on the internet, planning the next day and playing cards.
Friday was our last full day together, so after breakfast we headed out to explore Pretoria. We walked to the Union Buildings which were quite stunning, then through the city centre to Cathedral Square that is home of a number of old buildings. Quite a happening place. Daniel needed to by a cable to charge his iphone (somehow he'd lost his), so we got a taxi to what has been suggested as the largest shopping mall in South Africa, Menlyn Shopping Mall. We found a nice restaurant for lunch, then wandered around for a bit.
For our last dinner we went to a pub within walking distance to our backpackers. It was full of middle class South Africans. We had a lovely steak with calamari and a couple of beers. A nice relaxing evening to finish off our trip together. I had a great time travelling with Daniel and was sad to be going
our separate ways onto our own adventures, but 6 weeks isn't really that long. Stay tuned for the adventures of my Monash/Oxfam placement and experiences at Woza Moya..........
There are more photos below