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Beer and Biryani :: The Travelling Adventures of Matt & Donna  
Child from a village in the Lesotho High Lands
 
 
 
 
   
   
   
   
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
April 07, 2007

Shake, Rattle & Roll



The six day pony trek was an excellent way to see Lesotho. After spending six weeks in South Africa it has been so refreshing not to have to worry about safety or security. It's amazing, but by simply crossing a border the local people are so much friendlier than in South Africa.

We took a rest day in Malealea to just relax and enjoy our wonderful surroundings, before taking the mini bus trip from hell. In order to get out of Lesotho before our visa expired we had to get all the way to the east of the country. Unfortunately the only road to the east was from Maseru, and in fact traveled first to the very north of the country, before climbing up to the Sani Pass at around 3,000 meters.

We started out early, getting a bus from the lodge gate at 6:30am which ran us quickly into the capital Maseru. This was probably the most I have worried for my life on the trip so far. The driver was in a mad hurry and at times was overtaking on blind corners and hills. On arrival at the market place in Maseru the driver arranged for one of his mates to walk us through the crowd to a connecting bus to Mokhotlong, a town on the eastern side of Lesotho that would allow us to rest before crossing the Sani Pass.

Unfortunately after boarding the bus, and chatting to the locals, we found this bus was only going two hours north, to Maputso. We had missed the direct bus so now we had to get around the country bit by bit.

Instead of a mini bus we were now in a big old school bus, which meant a wait until it was full. Unfortunately Africa full means we were once again cradling our backpacks, and people were crammed into the bus, not even standing room was available by the time we finally left. By 10am we were on our way north, and the sun was now high in the sky, temperatures climbed but you could not tell by looking at the locals. They were rugged up with jumpers and blankets and insisted on closing the windows that were letting a little cool fresh air into a stinky bus.

At Maputso we were grabbed by a local guy who transferred us into a small mini bus, this time we were four in the back seat with all our gear, for the one hour drive north to Butha Buthe'. We were now in the north of Lesotho, and it was 12:30 in the afternoon. Consultation with the locals revealed we had once again missed the busses to Mokhotlong and would have to wait for a mini bus taxi. This time we signed up onto a list for the long drive east. After hanging around for two hours, 16 of us crowded into a small bus. Unfortunately I checked out the vehicle before climbing in, aside from a fantastic stereo system, I noticed a shiny set of mag wheels, covered in very very bald tires, not good with the rain clouds coming in.

The next three hours were just agony, crammed into a small place, our bags on our laps, extreme heat, then thunderous rain. At some point along the way I remember passing the Lesotho Ski Fields, I may have been hallucinating from the pain. Let me just say on arrival at Mokhotlong I was so relieved that we were able to find room in the local Hotel (we had not booked because of not knowing just how far around the country we could get in one day).

After a short nap, we were up again at 5am to cross the Sani Pass, famous in South Africa as a 4x4 road linking the remote kingdom of Lesotho with KwaZulu Natal. After standing around in the cold at the local bus station (a field in the middle of nowhere) we were treated to the sunrise, the mountains turned from a murky grey colour, to a pale red, and finally to green. For the bus trip we bought our standard meal, locally made bread (with no toilet stops we normally dehydrate ourselves for long trips so no drinks today).

I now have a newfound respect for the Toyota Hi Ace 4x4, especially imported to provide a taxi service across the Sani Pass. While South Africans were driving the road in their fancy 4x4's with GPS and all their gadgets, we sped, and I mean sped, over that road in a way that should not be possible. We reached the Lesotho border post in an hour, driving over rough windy gravel roads that climbed up to the summit. After getting stamped through, the road immediately degenerated, big rocks and ditches covering the road, hairpin bends winding backwards and forwards as we rapidly dropped downwards. By the time we had reached the South African border at the bottom of the pass we were all in excellent moods. Other than smelling our bags for weed, we were let back into South Africa without a second glance. Our stop for the next few days being the Sani Lodge to enjoy the Drakensberg Mountains.

Over the last two days we had managed to complete a mission journey, totally unplanned on public transport over some of the most amazing roads and landscapes I have ever seen (even if Donna did sleep through some of the best bits).

     
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