19.11.2009 - 19.11.2009
Lesotho is the highest country in the world. By that, I mean that it's lowest point of altitude (EG: height above sea level) is higher than any other country in the world. It is a mostly wild, grassy country, home to nomadic herders and shepherds: Lesothans always do well in the world sheep-shearing tournaments. The population is a bit under 2million, though the majority are in the capital Maseru, and a few smaller towns in the North and West. It has mountains, but mostly the country is just hills and elevations (from the low point of the country): they are mountains only from down below, in South Africa.
And because they are mountains from South Africa, entering Lesotho, especially from the East and South means winding up high mountain passes. For us, this meant the Sani Pass. The Sani Pass is the only border crossing between Lesotho and KwaZulu natal, the only border in the East of the country that can be passed by vehicles: A few other crossings are passable on foot, pony or horse. Even at the Sani Pass, it is 4x4 only.
The road is an old cattle track up the Drakensberg Escarpment which has been widened for vehicles: But wide it is not - A single rough, rocky road that winds its way upwards. The border posts are an hour apart (one at the top, the other the bottom), and the road is not for the faint hearted. Steep hairpin bends and sheer drops are the order of the day, as are marvelous views, and it was for this reason that I had wanted to see it.
We had wanted to go the previous day, but it hadn't been possible. Neither had a pony trek. But it worked out brilliantly, because it had been miserable as hell whereas we had the most glorious clear skies and views: For once our weather luck was changing.
There is not much more I can say: the trip up the pass was great, despite one landrover breaking down and needing to be replaced at the border, and the second one having difficulties halfway up meaning we had to push-start it. Not always ideal on a steep road with sheer drops. The scenery was brilliant.
In Lesotho, we didn't do much: Watched some herders in the distance, marvel at the stark beauty of the place (no trees or bushes, just constant grassy rolling hills and gorse type flowers), look at the highest point in Africa south of Kilimanjaro, get a little look inside a traditional hut, watch some sheep being sheared (WooHoo!) and have a drink in Africa's highest pub.
It would transpire that on this trip at least, this would be my only visit to Lesotho. Short, and fleeting, but leaving me in the mood for more.