Tuesday, October 02, 2012

September Long Weekend in Lesotho

This was a totally awesome long weekend, I highly recommend it to those of you with a 4x4! It wasn't a super cheap escape tho, but we got dinner, bed & breakfast in both the places we stayed, which I'd say is pretty imperative when traveling in Lesotho (unless you are self-catering).

So, we started out on Friday afternoon, leaving Joburg a little later than we expected. We didn't have far to go tho because we spent the night in Reitz with The Trucker's mom & gran. Was nice to see them again and The Trucker made us a delish pasta dinner :)

We headed out on Saturday morn and had breakfast at Wimpy in Bethlehem. Which was quite cool for me because I don't think I've ever been there, but it's one of the small South African town's that my grandfather was magistrate of, it's where one of my Uncle's was born and it's where Daddio started school.

I didn't see much of it, tho and soon we were at the Caledonspoort / Butha-Buthe border crossing. I will say that these Lestoho-South Africa border crossings were both an absolute breeze! Easiest & Quickest border crossings we've had :)

The fun really started on the Mafika-Lisiu Mountain Pass to Lejone! There was some serious cloud cover as we headed up, up, up. Eventually (we didn't realise it until after but pretty much right at the top), we stopped. The Pajero was struggling with the uphill climbs. And we were right in the middle of a cloud. We could barely see 10m in front of us! It was freezing, but we hung around here on the side of the road at the Bokong National Park sign, waiting for the engine to cool.

When eventually it did, it wasn't a long drive till we were out of the cloud again and headed for our first view of the Katse Dam.

Shew, Katse Dam is freaking huge. We crossed over it and then drove thru some more mountains before meeting up with it again near Thaba-Tseka and heading to Katse Village. We arrived at the Orion Katse Lodge at about 3pm and after checking in we took a walk to the nearby Botanical Gardens (R5 entry).

They are not quite what you expect from Botanical Gardens, but if you find yourself with time to spare at Katse, I recommend it. It's quite a walk tho because the gardens are growing on the side of the hill, so while the down is quite pleasant there's a serious up that follows. They have an area with medicinal plants. But my favourite was their national plant, the Spiral Aloe. Stunning!

I think the walk was just what we needed after the lengthy drive. We relaxed in our hotel room before dinner. The hotel has one of those weird old-South-African hospital feels. Reminded me of a hotel I'd seen before near Gariep Dam, which also had that old-hospital feel. The sound carries and echos and  the ceilings are high and the windows are pretty small. That said, our room had quite a nice view of the Dam if you looked out.

The dining area and lounge has quite a lovely balcony area with some lovely views. The food was okay, again, I'm not a huge fan of buffet style eating.

The next morning we had breakfast (also buffet, breakfast buffets are normally much better than dinner ones in my opinion) and then headed to the Katse Dam Information Centre for their 9am tour (R10 per person) around the Dam. They do a talk on the Dam and then you get to head down to the Dam wall (in your own vehicles). It is absolutely huge. You get taken for a bit of a walk inside the Dam wall (no photos allowed) which is interesting ... having never been inside one before. And then you head around to drive across the wall itself. I'd recommend it!

And then we headed off to Sani Pass, via Mokhotlong. It was a long day of dirt road driving (although The Trucker didn't use his 4x4 at all). We even spotted some snow that hadn't melted yet, which came in super handy for cooling down the Pajero on the uphills again ;) Unfortunately supplies were running low and we literally ended up sharing a packet of Lemon Creams for lunch because they had hardly any of their shops open on a Sunday (and we're talking more the spaza type shops than anything we'd be used to in any of the small towns in South Africa!), but we eventually found one, and that was all they had that didn't require any preparation on our part. So much for hoping for a quick toasted sandwich or something. I'd bring more driving-snacks if we went to Lesotho again!

We got to Sani Pass Border Crossing after 4pm and the Sani Mountain Lodge is right there. It was freezing. I can't imagine how cold it is when there is actually snow there! Haha. We had booked a rondawel to ourselves and after unpacking, took a brief walk to enjoy the view down into South Africa. Stunning. We spent our evening in the Highest Pub in Africa chatting to some fellow South Africans (who had, oddly, both been to The Trucker's high school, but about 5 years ahead of him) and a girl from New Zealand (a geologist who'd been in SA doing a tour of some of our Platinum Mines).

We'd booked dinner, bed & breakfast again, which I was quite sorry about. They have, what looked like, a menu with some nice options (I'll admit I was craving a burger). But we had another, very similar, buffet dinner.

They lit a fire in our rondawel, but we were still freezing. I didn't even bother with a shower the next morning because The Trucker showered and found it cold (although the gas heater was working fine, obviously it just couldn't heat the water up enough from outside) ... and he likes the water even colder than I do!

After breakfast we got our passports stamped and started down the pass. Man, I am glad we were heading downhill ;) It was great fun tho :) And to my complete surprise there were people cycling *up* it! Crazy.

At the bottom of the pass, you get stamped back into South Africa. And then it was just a straight drive back home on the highways via Howick. Was not a spectacular drive home, mood-wise, as I've mentioned. But it hasn't ruined my memory of an awesome weekend in Lesotho, one I would highly recommend :)

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