Monday, August 18, 2008

Snowboarding in Lesotho

The weekend got off to a particularly bad start. Varen's dad, who was spending the weekend at the farm as well had apparently forgotten the keys ... which meant that we had to take a detour from Randburg via Bedfordview (yes, on a Friday afternoon at around 4pm ... picture the scene!) (And for those not in the know of Joburg geography, Randburg happens to be practically on the N1 South - the road we take to the farm. Bedfordview, however, is really, really not.) This meant that out farm arrival was delayed by at very least half an hour (probably closer to an hour tho). We arrived late and tired of driving at around 8pm (keeping in mind that Varen left his office to fetch me for this "trip" at 3pm that afternoon! He'd been "on the road" now for 5 hours). But, picturing Varen's poor father stuck locked outside the farm in the cold & dark appeased my annoyance at our detour ... until we arrived and found him sitting inside the house watching TV. Even now, I'm still not sure why we needed the fetch the keys and delay our arrival. Sigh.

We had a quick dinner and an early night in anticipation of our early Saturday morning. We managed to get up around 6:30 ish and be on our way just after 7am. Luckily Varen's dad let us use his double cab 4*4 bakkie :) The morning started out okay but deteriorated rapidly. Once we crossed the Lesotho border (at the Ficksburg-Maputsoe border post. It is shockingly sign-posted in terms of what to do and where to go to get yourself stamped ... in fact I think you could drive right thru without getting an entry stamp and no one would notice or care - in fact Varen was quite keen to do just that!) Anyhoo, it was at this point that things went awry. Varen hadn't printed a map (he'd kinda looked at it and figured he knew where he was going) and Afri-Ski isn't in the GPS either. We hit a T-junction, now what. So we aimed for the mountains and Varen got on the phone with Brother Swoop (who'd been there a few weeks ago) and his mom to investigate the online directions for us. Me, I was in a fabulous mood, knowing that if we'd taken the wrong turn, our very expensive day out was wasted. After about 45mins of driving, we had confirmation we were on the right route (shoo!) but still we drove and drove and drove. Thank goodness we had confirmation or we definitely would've begun to think we'd headed in the wrong direction! It was not a fabulous start to the day.

But I will say, Lesotho is a beautiful country and if the day's snowboarding (with lesson) hadn't cost almost R900 I would've been quite happy aimlessly driving around the country enjoying the view! Brother Swoop had told us it was well sign-posted, it's not ... not until you pass the top of their ski-lift or until you get to the actual turn into their road. Eventually we got there ... it's a full 3 hour drive from the farm (when we'd planned this day-trip, we'd thought it was only 2 hours away!) .. it was now just after 10am. We went to reception, they told us to go to the Ski-shop. We went to the Ski-shop, they asked for our proof of payment. We didn't have one. Take note here folks, they only tell you that you need to bring along your proof of payment in the email where they send it to you. Varen had made the deposit on Thursday so we can only assume that the money arrived in their account on Friday and they emailed him the proof of payment (to his work email address, we realised after checking gmail) after we'd already left on Friday afternoon. So we headed back to reception in the hopes that they could find it. We came very close to printing out Varen's proof of payment from the bank deposit he'd made when the receptionist found it. They were very helpful, letting us use their internet and all ... but still, not an ideal arrival process.

afri-ski slopeSo we kitted up and got our all-day slope-pass and our lesson vouchers. But, our lesson was only scheduled for 12h30, an hour & half away. Now what? We decided to try the restaurant and have a bite to eat first. They only open at 12h30. Great. So we headed off to the slope to mess about and see what came naturally (Not much!).

Okay, let me say here, the day did turn out to be okay and the lesson is well worth it but there are plenty of things that weren't very impressive, in my opinion.

You pay R295 for an all-day slope-pass. And, I guess it's not too bad, except when you've paid another R290 for the 2hour ski-school and then the gear rental is R275. It becomes a really expensive day out. I think they should have some kind of variable rate for beginners because there is no way I could spend a whole day on the slope, and other than our lesson, I didn't use the actually proper slope-area either. And, let's face it, South Africans (for the most part) have not gronw up ski-ing and if you're starting out a) as a girl who never skateboarded or water-skied and b) at almost 30 ... it's not something that comes naturally. So most of your time is actually wasted because as fun and easy as it looks, it's damn frustrating and you don't really end up doing all that much except sitting the the snow, getting soaked. Once we'd decided we were freezing, soaked and over the snowboarding, we headed back to the car, got changed and had a drink at their bar and by the time we decided to actually hit the road again, our timing was perfect, it was 4pm ... and we had a 3hr drive ahead of us. We headed home via the Butha-Buthe-Fouriesburg border crossing.

So, I'm glad I went and tried it out. I'm now 100% certain that snow-sports are just not for me ... except maybe tobogganing or ice-skating. I don't need to go again. Well, I might give it a bash if we happen to be holidaying in a snow-covered venue where we have the opportunity, but I won't be driving all the way to Lesotho and spending a grand on one day again for it.

lovely lesothoOh, and let me tell you, we are still sore and stiff ... oh, and sunburned! My knees are so bruised - I find falling the easiest way to stop ;) So we spent a very lazy Sunday morning doing absolutely nothing! It was just what we needed :) And then, of course, we had a 3 hour drive back to Joburg. Varen worked out we drove for 13 out of 48hrs. Let's just say that Sunday evening consisted entirely of reading in bed and a hot bath for me.
Even with the truly shocking start to the weekend, it ended up being quite a good one.

It was a worthwhile experience but I won't be heading back in a hurry. Photo's to follow (hopefully tomorrow), because we were just too tired to download them yesterday evening :)


The Jackson Files said...

It does sound like a lot of driving for not a great deal of reward - and also REALLY expensive. But you are right, at least now you know that snow holidays are not for you.

Hey, you must be going off on your Europe holiday soon. So exciting.

Sweets said...

all of that done in one weekend? wow... shame man, hectic ;)

Mr Jones said...

I prefer to lie by the beach, listening to the lapping waves, sipping some cold wine and reading a good book... Never ever been tempted to ski.. and now I am far too old to try.

boldly benny said...

Oh my word, that would've been far too much driving for me - I would have been very irritable!
R290 for a day ski pass - that's intense, that's approximately what I paid in France AND I was in the Alps.
But I'm all for experiences and always think it's good to try something out. I can say that it must've been very difficult to learn everything in one day - my first day on the slopes was a bit of a joke but I got the hang of it quicker than I thought I would!
Good on you for trying ;-)

phillygirl said...

@tjf - yep, that about sums it up! We're off in Nov ... so excited :)

@sweets - it was one hectic weekend!

@mrjones - yeah, I'm not especially a beach holiday sort of person either ... but I'm definitely more that than a ski-holiday sort!

@benny - luckily I've been overlanding in Africa, I've accepted the driving ;) And eep, I did *not* need to know it cost the same as the Alps, now I feel more ripped off! :)

I think the first days are always a bit of a joke, I just lack the perseverance for this tho ... oh well :)

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