Go in peace. This blessing resounds throughout the kingdom of Lesotho, posted on road signs and reiterated by the citizens whose warmth of heart and caring community spirit shines through the smiles on their faces. This trip was designed by the Outdoor SA team shortly after our last visit to Lesotho when we ventured up Sani Pass, our interest was definitely sparked and it was decided more of this beautiful country had to be explored. Our journey began from a humid Durban and we were later greeted by rain on our arrival in Underberg.
KarMichael Farm hosted us with outstanding hospitality, who can ask for more than a comfortable bed, feather pillow and a great breakfast the next morning. Day two greeted us with perfect weather conditions and after filling our petrol tanks in Himeville, we headed for the boarder. They say life begins where the tar ends and Sani Pass is true testament to that fact. Although all three vehicles headed up the pass with ease, there has been a definite decline in its overall condition, with certain sections boasting impressive rock fall and serious soil erosion.
Cheesy tourist photos at the Highest Pub in Africa complete, the real adventure began. Headed for a town called Mokhotlong we were filled with excitement, this excitement fueled further by the fact we were driving along a gorgeous tarred road, however this came to an abrupt end after making a left turn about 10 kilometers before Mokhotlong onto a more rugged dirt road. The A3 would lead the way to Thaba-Theska, the next closest town to our destination, Katse Dam. We wound our way up and down the sides of mountains, around hairpin corners, over fallen rocks and through rivers, if you are looking to test your car’s 4×4 ability, I highly recommend Lesotho’s unmaintained road network. Although, it must be said, there is a definite charm about the simplicity of life that the locals experience and witnessing their culture surrounded by the beauty of their country, was like a breath of fresh air. A solid six hours later, Thaba-Theska came into view, don’t be alarmed be the corrugated iron shacks, it is considered a well-established town. I believe petrol is available from the right locals if push comes to shove.
We enjoyed a few hundred meters of tar on our way through the town and all too quickly made a right turn onto another dirt road that would deliver us to our overnight stop. Having underestimated how long our journey would take, the darkening sky pushed us towards Katse Dam with more speed than was comfortable along a very bumpy road.
As the lights of the dam wall came into view, a collective sigh of relief was palpable amongst our team. Katse Lodge, is an unusual concept, they have merely taken the accommodation built to house all those involved with the construction of the dam wall and turned it into somewhat of a resort. Fondly known as Katse Village, we spent the night in 65B on Mohale Street, where neither the oven nor microwave worked, the shower had only one temperature – scorching hot – and no more than two lights could function simultaneously without tripping the electricity. Negatives aside, the sheets were clean and the bed was comfortable. And it was all worth it, to wake up in the morning and be greeted by both an engineering feat and a marvel of nature. The Katse dam is truly spectacular and if time had allowed, I believe the tour of the damn wall, costing a whole R15, is completely worth every cent.
The last leg our journey was by far the most beautiful, on our way to the Caledenspoort boarder post before entering the town of Butha-Buthe, the A25 or Mifika Lisui pass guides you out of Lesotho. Although some serious climbing and equally challenging descending took place, the view of the dam was breath-taking and if this magnificent country had not already stolen your heart, it was sure to win it with the landscapes surrounding the pass.
Back on South African soil, we popped out 8 kilometers outside Fouriesberg and made our way through an almighty thunderstorm to our last overnight stop. Baris Guest Lodge, ten kilometers outside of Clarens welcomed us with open arms. A family run lodge with every possible detail thought of, this was by far the best accommodation we visited on our adventure. Clarens is an absolute gem in the middle of the very chilly Free State, it’s old world charm and quaint uniqueness means it ranks near the top of the list of my favorite places in South Africa. Of course, we recommend for those traveling back to the coast, head through Golden Gate National Park, and allow our beautiful country to boast a little bit more stunning scenery.
Although it’s safe to say, we got more than we bargained for on our bundu bashing adventure, I don’t think a single member of our team would trade their experiences and fond memories we now hold of an exquisite journey into the Kingdom of Lesotho.