Visit Lesotho

Dick and Irene Craig
Mon 6 Dec 2010 16:15
We went into town Friday afternoon to look for a replacement back-pack/haversack for Dick. The one that he has been using is getting somewhat worse for wear. We also need a new white board as the frame on the existing board keeps falling off.
The first Friday afternoon in December is not an ideal time to go shopping, not even window shopping. It is nearly as bad as the previous weekend, the last Friday and Saturday in the month, when everyone has just got paid.
We identified where we could purchase a whiteboard on Monday. Couldn’t bear to join a queue at any of the checkouts, we would never have got away for the weekend. We also found a backpack which seems to be quite suitable, which we bought from a street trader. One of the straps needed sewing and they both needed reinforcing so Dick did a deal and will take the bag on Monday, to the sailmaker.
Saturday morning we got up before we went to bed, at least, that was what it felt like when the alarm went off just after 5am. We got ourselves ready and went ashore to meet the tourist guide who was collecting us at the marina entrance at 6am.
It was a bright and sunny morning, most welcome after the cloudy, wet weather of the last few days as we drove to Underberg. As we approached Pietermaritzberg, we were directed off the toll road, for which the guide had already paid, by traffic police. It seemed odd that the cars had to leave the national road, although lorries were permitted to continue unheeded. Fortunately we were too early for the traffic to be heavy and we passed through the city without holdup, arriving in Underberg with just enough time for coffee and a cake before a Zulu guide, with a 4X4 vehicle, collected us from the tea shop at 9.30.
We drove through Himeville and started the ascent of the Drakensberg Mountains, via Sani Pass to the Kingdom of Lesotho. The scenery was stunning, with a mountainous backdrop to green pastures, adorned with lakes. The first 14 kilometers of the winding road was metalled although with all the chippings and stones on top, it didn’t feel as though this was the case. However, between the section of the road where tarmac had been used and the South African border post, we traveled a dirt road.
On the way to the border, we passed a lot of ruins. This was all that was left of a trading post to which, during those years before the road from Lesotho to South Africa had been “built”, the Lesotho farmers would bring their wool, receiving coupons which they then exchanged for provisions.
Once the road was navigable by 4x4’s, the farmers were able to drive to Pietermaritzberg and other towns, where they could sell their wool, for which they received money, a far better arrangement.
As we ascended the winding road, we passed many waterfalls, as well as streams which cut across the road.
The Sani Pass is regarded by many to be one of the most spectacular views in South Africa. Walls of sandstone, cascading rivers and hair-raising bends are just some of the highlights as you pass the Barrier of Spears and into Lesotho.
Around five kilometers from the top, the road became much rougher, narrower with sharper bens at angles of 45º. This wasn’t helped by the cycling rally also attempting to reach the summit.
As it happens, there were two cycling rallies taking part that morning. The circuit for one of the rallies was to the summit and back, the other rally was just half way. It was a tough
climb and not all of them were able to make it. The ascent was from 1500metres to 2874metres above sea level.
We reached Lesotho border post at noon, then formalities completed, drove to a nearby village consisting of a dozen or so rondavals. Each rondaval, a circular hut, has a floor made of a mixture of cow dung and mud. The walls are made of stones and the roof of wood and grass or reeds. There being no trees in this barren place, the villagers had to pay for timber to be transported to them. There were not any windows, nor a chimney and the door was positioned to face north so that the sunshine could help warm the hut. The lack of apertures was deliberate, to try to keep the hut warm during the long cold winter. In the middle of the hut was a large stone sunk into the floor, on the top of which a fire was built for cooking purposes and also to heat the room. Under the floor, smaller stones had also been placed so that the heat from the large central stone would permeate through the others to warm the interior.
Other than keeping sheep in this barren place, the villagers didn’t appear to have any other method of making a living. They were wrapped in blankets to protect them from the cold wind.
We lunched at Sani Top, the highest pub in Africa and then made the descent, back to Himeville where we were booked into a hotel, set in an amazing garden with a huge lake, frequented by all sorts of birds, including the red bishop, which we had seen in the reeds at the Durban botanical gardens. This seemed a million miles away from Lesotho.
Next morning, we made our way southwards through the picturesque valley of 1000 hills, where we stopped for lunch and then on to Makaranga Garden Lodge, 25 kilometers north of Durban, where we wandered at leisure around the beautiful gardens set in 26acres, arriving back at the marina around 5pm.
We had been blessed by lovely sunny weather during our excursion, which held until we left the Makaranga gardens, it then started to rain. Fortunately, by the time we reached the marina the rain had stopped but the sky was still cloudy and grey.
Monday morning Dick, along with Joe from Brown Eyed Girl and Joaquim from Chessie, took a taxi to the Customs and Immigration office in Durban, filed yet another flight plan and checked out. It looks as if we have a window from tomorrow, Tuesday 7th, which could be long enough for us to be able to reach Cape Town, without planning to stop en-route.
While in Richards Bay, the fleet had been advised by the local officials that it would not be necessary for us to undergo all of these formalities, having officially entered the country already. It would only be necessary to check out of the country when we left Cape Town on 8th January.
With just enough time to get the fresh fruit and vegetables before having lunch, we walked into town, collected the repaired haversack from Sails & Boating, a North Sails agent located in Fenton Mews, a short walk from the marina. They are also a very helpful company who had already repaired our bimini and the cover for the passarel. Bless them, they didn’t even charge for the repairs to the backpack. Contact Sandy at sails {CHANGE TO AT} wol {DOT} co {DOT} za {DOT} Ever since we moved to Spain in 2002, we have felt that the check-out girls at the supermarket tills could do with some additional training, as far as providing a service is concerned. All is forgiven. The girl who was sitting at the till in the supermarket where we purchased the fresh produce needs training before she actually starts training. She literally threw each bag containing soft fruit down onto the metal counter so that it bounced.

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