Lesotho and South Africa: January 2008

 

From Johannesburg we were transported to the border of Lesotho.

 

The border of Lesotho.

 

The “Gates of Paradise” pass to Malealea.

 

View of the Drakenserg Mountains from Malealea.

 

The local weather station.

 

Our packhorses and guides.

 

We set-off for the mountains.

 

A standoff.

 

Down to the bridge to cross the river.

 

Our packhorses wade the river.

 

As we passed through villages we would mobbed by children that loved having their photos taken.

 

They were all lovely kids – and at no time begged for things.

 

Lance’s first (and last) time on a horse.

 

We were treated to magnificent views.

 

The Lesotho plateau: 1 mile above sea level.

 

Coming in to our first nights village: Ribaneng.

 

We relax after the 14 miles walk.

 

Unpacking the sleeping bags.

 

Next day we set off further into the plateau.

 

Beautiful plants every step of the way.

 

It’s not all walking – there is time to relax and…

 

Admire the view.

 

Our second night was at the village of Ha Hlalale.

 

The Chief of the village.

 

A young shepherd.

 

A short detour takes us to the Ketane Gorge and its 122m (400ft) waterfall.

 

Next day we leave the village for our third days trekking.

 

There are the occasional river crossings – this time not on horseback!

 

The national plant of Lesotho: Aloe “polyfiller”

 

More beautiful flowers.

 

Our third, and last, village night of the trek: Ha Sekoting.

 

Getting comfortable for the cool evening air.

 

Children of the village.

 

Next day we descend from the plateau into the valley back to Malealea.

 

On the last day of our trek it is time for a group photo. By this stage we are becoming rather mature, well at least as far as odour is concerned!

 

Alan and Graeme, our intrepid guides, pose at the pass.

 

After three days without running water we are starting to feel quite grubby!

 

At the bottom of the pass we come to a small, beautifully located, village. In the distance, on the right-hand side, is Malealea, our destination for the evening.

 

We pass through villages in the valley.

 

Many a river to cross – and Julie just loves them!

 

Our head guide, Graeme, crosses yet another river.

 

It’s nice to be clean again, and shaven! Relaxing back in Malealea after a trek of approximately 60 miles.

 

So it’s back on the road for us: cutting across the northern limits of Lesotho, we drive from Malealea to Sani Top on New Years Eve.

 

Our guides pose at the top of the highest road pass on our trip: 10700ft (2 miles high!)

 

We are on very remote roads, and the trip takes 11 hours to complete.

 

But finally we get there!

 

Sani Top for New Years Eve celebrations: but would you believe not one of us made it to midnight (except Sorcha, on a technicality, who had to get-up just after midnight for a pee).

 

On New Years Day we did a walk to Hodgson’s Peak – this was a most memorable day for the stupendous views from the Lesotho plateau looking into South Africa.

 

Once at the escarpment the views just got better and better!

 

And better…

 

Not a particularly long walk, we spent most of the day sunbathing and admiring the scene around us.

 

It was a glorious day…

 

We both really enjoyed it!

 

Next day we had to exit Lesotho: the Sani Pass Lesotho exit stamp in your passport must be one of the rarest

 

Time to leave Lesotho…

 

View from Sani Top: the road snakes its way down the pass.

 

Down and down.

 

And down…

 

Looking back up the Sani Pass, to the escarpment that separates Lesotho from South Africa.

 

Finally we reach the border post of South Africa.

 

Our accommodation for the last 3 nights of our holiday: Singubala, near the Royal Natal National Park. Under the thatched roofs there are tents, each one with two beds, and they are delightful! Also the food at Singubala was excellent and plentiful.

 

We did a walk directly from Singubala, taking us to Surprise Ridge, The Cannibal Cave and some rock art…

 

Not ancient, but art all the same…

 

Somewhat older rock art – this is a hunting scene.

 

The Cannibal Cave…

 

The view from Surprise Ridge: The Amphitheatre.

 

The walk went past some incredible flowers.

 

Stunning!

 

The area around Singubala has lots of wild baboons: this was our best view of the trip.

 

Our last walking day was also the first rainy day of the entire holiday. We were first driven to the Royal Natal National Park, and then walked into the Amphitheatre. The clouds were very low, and it rained a lot of the time, we therefore only had the briefest glimpses of the top rock curtain.

 

The canyon was very impressive, even in the rain.

 

And the rain did not diminish the flowers.

 

And so we come to the last evening of the holiday: time for some of us to say cheerio.

 

Paul and Elizabeth discover Porcupine Ridge Syrah.

 

Carlo delivers the thank you speech to our guides Graeme, Alan and Patrick.

 

Carlo recalls Robert saying “ have that sheep shampooed and brought to my hut”. You had to be there, to know Robert and, to appreciate the moment…

 

A big thank you to Graeme for all his efforts making the holiday a most memorable experience for us all. Graeme is forming his own business as a guide for walking holidays with emphasis upon photography: www.bup-photo.com and his e-mail, graeme@bup-photo.com

 

Not many folk on this trip came though unscathed: Julie and I were recovering from flu when we joined the trek, I had motion sickness on the 11 hour drive to Sani Top, the guides developed knee problems (and Alan developed a cold), Carlo went through Paradise Pass, and into hell and back with cold and the “Sani Trots”. We had folk with blisters, second-degree sunburn, migraine and various assortments of aches and pains. However, everyone enjoyed the holiday (I’m sure) and we were incredibly lucky with the weather – for once (out of 13 trips) Graeme, whose nickname by the locals is “Raindrop” because of his unerring ability to bring rain, brought almost unbroken sunshine.

 

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