Allow me to introduce the Action Man...

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April 17th 2005
Published: November 14th 2006
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I was propping up the bar in a Durban hostel on the first night of my trip to Southern Africa. My enquiries at the hostel regarding a weekend safari at the nearby national park had reached a dead end, and it was while nursing a drink that I met the Action Man, a colourful young Alaskan guide and quite the adventurer. He dazzled me with tales of the Alaskan wilderness and encounters with grizzly bears. He would get dropped in by helicopter, he said, then wander alone camping without seeing a single soul for ten days or more before the pilot flew back to a prearranged spot to pick him up. "Why don't you come with me to Lesotho?" Action Man suggested "I've organised a hire car and you can tag along. Just chip in for the petrol." Sounds like a plan, I thought, and it seemed a new weekend adventure had just fallen into my lap.

So bright and early next morning, the lovely reader, Action Man drove us five hours to the foot of the Drankensberg mountains, and we enquired at the tourist office about getting up the Sani Pass to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho that afternoon. The pass is a precarious track rising to 3000 metres for four wheel drive vehicles only. The friendly staff informed us the last truck heading up the pass had already pulled out late that morning. Undeterred, Action Man thought we should still try and hitch a ride. Being an inherently sensible tourist I thought it would be a good idea to ring the chalet who provided the only accommodation at the top of the mountain, but the lady on the phone told me they were full and not to come up the pass today. This trivial piece of information had no effect on Action Man, who promptly drove us to the foot of the Sani pass, where we grabbed our packs and prepared to hitch a ride. "After all" he added "We can pitch our tent." Goodo" I replied, feeling somewhat mollified "Count me in!"

We locked up the car, a security guard said he would watch over it, then stuck our thumbs out while hoping for a ride. Traffic was sparse to say the least, but before too long a four wheel drive Kombi pulled up, packed to the rafters with Lesotho people of all ages piled on
Reaching the summit, LesothoReaching the summit, LesothoReaching the summit, Lesotho

Tearing our shirts off for the summit photo op. Must be a guy thing!
top of each other. The driver stopped for us without hesitation and a lift clearly was not going to be a problem; everyone piled out, we rearranged ourselves somehow, then all piled back in. How we all fitted into that Kombi I will never know! The pass is steep, winding and treacherous, we were being jolted around like rag dolls, yet everyone was smiling and friendly; this was turning out to be quite the adventure. Halfway up the pass Action Man turned, smiled and informed me almost as an afterthought "By the way, I don't have a tent!" Great, I thought, here we were heading up to the highest country in the world (which is all at or close to 3000 metres) with no accommodation and no tent for the freezing night ahead. Was Action Man worried about our prospects, not in the least...

We reached the top of the pass, all piled out again then waved our new friends goodbye. For once Action Man seemed to be strangely hesitant, and when we approached the chalet he hung back and I had to take the lead. As soon as I went in and spoke the lady owner recognized my voice from the earlier phone call, gave me a withering look, then scolded me like a child for coming up the mountain when clearly I knew there was no accommodation. She promptly washed her hands of Action Man and his hapless accomplice, handing us over to her jolly husband who seemed far more at ease dealing with crazy tourists.

He put us up in one of the horses' barns, dropped a few blankets and pointed to the hay. Action Man was suddenly galvanized again, and made a fuss of making our straw beds just so. We then went to the bar, which is the highest in Africa, and had a great evening over a meal, a few beers and good company. We were fortunate to meet a South African couple and a Belgian lad who had come up even later that night from the other direction, but in a two wheel drive sedan. He planned to descend the treacherous pass the next day and we were to tag along, despite the dire warnings about our fate from the female owner. What was it about me, I was thinking, two days in Africa and the two craziest people on the
Oops! Oops! Oops!

Car troubles on Sani Pass. There must be a reason they recommend four wheel drive only!
continent just happened to be my travelling companions!

We slept fitfully during the freezing night, but rose early for a spectacular sunrise over the Sani Pass. We then climbed local peaks and generally charged around, trying to keep up with Action Man. The scenery is magnificent in Lesotho, with breathtaking views down the pass stretching all the way to the horizon. After a great day exploring, we all piled into the Belgians trusty hire car and began our crawl down the pass. Fortunately there was no rain, but the car bottomed out with horrendous grinding noises at least a dozen times as we jolted over the rocks. I can imagine the Belgian handing the car back to the hire company with an easy smile as he and Action Man seemed to be having a jolly good time of it, they seemed to be kindred spirits and both a little crazy! We met a German father and daughter going the other way who were clearly incredulous that we descended the pass in a sedan. I almost felt like asking the Germans to rescue me from my new friends, but refrained as there was no denying they were great fun! We parted company with the Belgian at the foot of the pass, and jumped back in our hire car. Action Man drove us safely back to the Durban hostel on sunday night after an eventful and very enjoyable weekend in Lesotho where, basically all of you should be here now!

I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Mother Teresa

As I continue my travels, until next time it's signing off for now


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15th November 2006

Great writing sir, an excellent description of how crazy travels can be! I look forward to reading more.
16th November 2006

Go Action Man!!
Absolutely, count me in ur fan club!!! Great write.

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