Lesotho

This whole trip started off with my deep desire to see Clarens. A small, quaint little town, about 4 hours away from home. I started doing a  bit of research and realised how close Lesotho is to Clarens. I immediately suggested to husband that we should go to Clarens via Lesotho and make a massive road trip out of it. Sad to say that although Lesotho is a small country, it takes days and days to travel through it. Days we didn’t have. So we decided to leave Clarens for another trip on its own, and put our focus on Lesotho.

We did minimum planning. The biggest planning was getting our gear in order. But for the rest of the trip, we just kind of went with the flow. We had a basic route of where we wanted to go, but that was about it. It’s the best way to travel in my opinion. It gives you freedom to come and go as you wish and you are never pressed for time. Of course, when entering a new country, always do a bit of research in terms of border posts, documents required, those general kinds of things. Always read up about the country too.

I’m also happy to report that we’ve come a long way from our last camping trip and have quickly upped our status to ‘pros’.

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Day 1:

We decided to stay just outside the Lesotho border in Matatiele. More specifically, Cedarville. I was pleasantly surprized at the beauty of that side of the world. We stayed at Cedarberg Guest Farm. A beautiful little farm tucked away in a quiet little corner. This was our first opportunity to test out our new camping gear. This place has power points so charge whatever you can here, because if you are camping in Lesotho – good luck in finding power points.

I won’t lie. I thought we were prepared for the cold. We bought thermo clothing, brought extra extra blankets for us to lie ON and underneath. But no. This side of the world has a special kind of cold. The kind of cold that seeps through your bones and almost freezes everything within you. I didn’t sleep on the first night of our trip due to the cold. Husband is like a heater all on his own so he was feeling a bit better than I was. We made a lovely fire however, and watched the most incredible stars. It was a good first day.

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Day 2:

Husband and I were up and about rather early due to the lack of sleep. We kept brekkie to a minimum and quickly got ourselves packed up and ready for the big trip ahead. There are a few border posts / passes to enter from this side. Qachas Nek, Ongeluksnek and Ramatsiliso. Qachas Nek is ideal for travelers with cars as its tarred. Ongeluksnek is for more experienced 4x4ers and with us being on our own we decided it would be rather stupid of us to go up there, so we settled for Ramatsiliso which is a pass less traveled, but easy enough for amateur 4x4ers, i.e. us. The entire road before and after the pass is accessible by car, except for a tiny 10 meter stretch at the border post itself where you literally go down a mountain. No car will make it out alive.

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The people were extremely chilled and friendly at this border post.

We were heading to Sethlabatebe National Park which is mind blowingly beautiful. That’s the place you go if you want to hike. But having said that, we didn’t have such great experience there but I think it would’ve been a lot better if we were in a group. We arrived late in the afternoon to this beautiful place tucked away in the mountains. When we arrived, I think we were lucky enough to bump into the only staff member in the entire camp. She was very friendly and helpful and showed us around a bit but once we left to have a look around, we never saw her again. Or any one else for that matter.

There’s two areas where you can camp: one by the lodges, and if you drive further on there’s another, more secluded spot. The place was a bit creepy in the sense that there were absolutely no people. The dorm, which I guessed is the only place you can shower and use the bathroom, was locked up and completely baron. We decided to drive back to where the lodge was and rather camp there. The wind picked up and the sun was setting so we quickly started putting the tent up. By the time we got everything out, the wind had picked up to hurricane levels (this all seems very familiar from our last camping trip). We literally couldn’t get the tent up and husband was in the most joyful mood as you can imagine. We stuffed everything back in the car. No shelter. No food and the sun is setting. We took a quick walk around looking for a sheltered area to set up camp, and this was the best we could find:

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Once we set up camp the moods ligthened up, the wine came out and we were able to relax a bit and enjoy ourselves.

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We made a little braai and put on the chicken when we suddenly saw this person walking towards us. Being new to the country and not knowing what the vibe is here with the people, we got a bit nervous. Turns out he is the guard. I was so relieved to find out that we weren’t completely alone! But then he wouldn’t leave us alone. He didn’t really talk to us either. It got really weird after a while. And then we saw flashlights on the side of the mountain next to us: local soldiers making their way to a soccer game. That was a good conversation starter with the guard but died out quickly. And there we stood. In silence. For about an hour. Watching our chicken cook away. Maybe he wanted food? Eventually he just snuck off without saying a word. I was so relieved. We enjoyed a little dinner and went off to bed. I couldn’t really sleep again. I felt so vulnerable being in this place completely by ourselves with absolutely no power. Pitch darkness.I must’ve dozed off as I remember waking up to severe winds outside. Our tent had lost all its pegs and was hanging on for dear life. The wind was so extremely hectic and this with us in a sheltered nook. There we lie, watching our tent blowing from one side to the next. Suddenly a flash of light. What was that?? At first I panicked that it was a fire from our braai we made earlier. It was very dry there. No. The light is too white. Not orange or red. Then it flashes again but in a different spot. I stick my head out the tent. Nothing. I did however see that all our stuff that was outside blew over. I get back into the tent. Flash again! Husband sticks his head out. Nothing. We retreated to bed. With the wind howling over our heads, lights flashing next to us (still no idea what it was) and completely alone. We did not sleep. Eventually the sun came up and I have never been more happy for morning to arrive! Until I popped my head out the tent. The guard was back. We asked if there was anyone to take us hiking as there were no maps / brochures available to enquire about. No one. I was so disappointed. Here we are in this beautiful park and there was no one to take us hiking. We decided to pack up and head to our next destination. All the while with the guard standing there the entire time, watching us pack up.

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We hit the road again. We had to ask a couple of locals if we were heading in the right direction as there are no road names or area names, which makes maps kind of pointless. What lied ahead was an 8 hour trek through mountain passes, canyons, riverbeds and lots of tiny little towns. It was an exhausting drive, but definitely worth it and one I will always remember.

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see that snow way up high – next thing we knew, we were literally driving right next to it.

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We had just driven up – you can see the tiny road in the middle.

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We made it! Now. What goes up, must go down.

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We finally arrived in Roma, where we stayed over at the Trading Post. We decided that we didn’t care how much the accommodation would be – we are NOT camping tonight! This place is super awesome and we really enjoyed staying here, but if you have the time, do yourself a favour and take the extra 30min drive to Ramabanta and stay there instead. Breath taking. Back to Roma. Turns out the accommodation is actually really affordable with choices of a room, rondavel or camping. Rondavels are always the better option.

 

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We woke up feeling so refreshed, having our first night of proper sleep. We made delicious breakfast and eventually hit the road again. We planned on staying at Ramabanta but when we realised how close it was to Roma and to our next stop after that, Semonkong, we decided that it would be a bit of a waste to stay there. We were a bit disappointed actually that we didn’t stay there, because it was so incredibly beautiful. So we decided to spend the morning there and go for a little hike. Finally.

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This drive was a lovely quick one and before we knew it, we arrived at our last destination: Semonkong. What a place. There is so much to do here, so I would definitely suggest staying at least 3 days. We are planning on coming back here just to do the Donkey Pub Crawl!

The owners are amazing and so laid back. Being the 5th generation in their family to run the place, we really enjoyed hearing all their stories over a couple of drinks at the bar. Our favourite was the ‘highway’ going through the lodge for all the locals with their sheep and donkeys.

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Our first night we decided to take it easy and just relax. We made a yummy potjie and enjoyed a couple of drinks at the bar whilst it was cooking away. The next day we took an early morning horse ride to the famous waterfall in Semonkong. This was a slow walk on a horse, and I think we would’ve preferred to do the actual hike to the bottom of the waterfall instead of the horse ride. Another reason to go back. I tried finding the spot where my special friends got engaged but all the spots were so amazing, so it was a bit difficult to spot the right one. I asked the local guide to take a picture of us with our polariod. This guy was so blown away by this ‘magic’ and wished to take the polaroid camera to one of their local parties. We spent the rest of our time there relaxing and unwinding.

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trying out vetkoek for the first time

 

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And with that, our trip came to an end. I have fallen inlove with Lesotho and can’t wait to go back to see more of this beautiful country!

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