Thursday, 27 October 2016

Travel Log: Lesotho

I recently travelled to South Africa on business and had the fortune to journey to both Lesotho and Swaziland whilst doing this.

All in we drove over 2500km starting/finishing in Johannesburg.
Clarens is an attractive town the Free State.
2016-09-28 Clarens 11.50.51
It is full of craft shops, cafes and relics from the past.
2016-09-28 Clarens 12.46.37
We drove through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park twice - stopping there the first time.
2016-09- 28 Golden Gate National Park 5.43.14
The rocks turn gloriously gold at sunset (just use your imagination).
2016-09-28 Golden Gate Park
Not a shabby place to pause and work.
2016-09- 28 Golden Gate National Park 4.53.39
After business in Pietermaritzburg, in which we didn't linger, we overnighted at Himeville and then drove up the wonderful Sani Pass into Lesotho.

My first border crossing of the trip. Many more to come.
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 09.41.06
The going got tougher as we ascended.
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 09.32.07
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 09.48.34
And the views got more spectacular.
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 10.06.11
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 10.20.24
You are only allowed entry to the Sani Pass if you're in a 4x4 or on a motorbike (non pillion).    However we did also see someone jogging up it and I'm sure it'd be a wonderful mountain bike route too.
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 10.22.38
It's a popular tourist outing: a run (in a 4x4) up the Sani Pass and back with lunch at the top.
2016-09-30 Sani Pass 10.17.50
At the top of Africa ... pub wise at any rate.
2016-09- 30 Sani Mountain Lodge 12.06.59
The view from the balcony shows a series of white cairns which Martin's team surveyed in some years ago. They mark the South African/Lesothon border. You can make out one in the left/mid distance side of the image.
2016-09-30 Sani Mountain Lodge  11.13.42
After tea and soup at the Mountain Lodge we headed on into Lesotho. Lesthon humour.
2016-09-30 Sani Mountain Lodge  11.18.29
Martin's team surveyed this road a few years ago. It was the first time he'd driven it since it had been tarmaced so I took lots of photos to show our surveyors in Swaziland. It was the first time our Swazi surveyors had woken up in their tents, thought it was a tad nippy, then had to dig themselves out of the snowdrift.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 11.30.17
The Chinese bequeathed their rock crushing equipment to Lesotho when they finished road construction. Saves having to dismantle it...
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 11.46.54
The Sotho population live in these high mountains, tending sheep, cattle, goats and surviving on what they can. I saw few plants and I suspect most of their crops have to be frost hardy. The topsoil is only centimetres deep.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 11.52.20
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 11.54.27
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.25.19
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.07.11
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.12.59
There has obviously been investment in some areas such as these solar panels.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.39.30
Once the Chinese road had finished, we were onto dirt track for the majority of our journey.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.14.58
Dry, desolate with zero road signage. We sort of followed our nose and hoped we were heading the right way.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.56.56
Maps are rare, our sat nav was pretty hopeless (it had no differentiation between "A" roads and village tracks) so occasionally we found an English speaker who'd point us onwards.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.13.19
Parts of the road had inclines of 20% and were strewn with rocks. And this was the A road.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 13.50.09
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 13.00.33
Occasionally we'd follow a set of survey markers ready for the next upgrade of the road.  Here we were 9600m to the next road junction.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 13.04.51
Satellite dishes appeared further down the valley.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 12.25.14
As did the ubiquitous tin-shod drop toilets which adorn the hillside villages.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 13.31.59
After hours of bumping and jostling our way over the rocks, zigzagging our way up and down valleys, we spied tarmac. Yay! Sadly it was short-lived and only covered the bridge span.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 14.16.59
We met the Orange River. This is the lowest Martin has ever seen it which reflects the longest drought that southern Africa has had for 35 years.
2016-09- 30 Driving Lesotho 14.11.04
Great views as the sun set that evening.
2016-10-01 Mohale Lodge 16.24.56
When we left Lesotho we took the quick route out - tarmac roads towards the northeast and the capital, Maseru. Look - smooth - straight.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho07.14.14
And wonderful views as the plains stretched out before us.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho07.02.02
Still plenty of z bends.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho06.52.59
Martin stopped to show me an armco culvert: part of my ongoing survey education.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho06.43.53
Travellers too.
2016-10-02 Driving B.  Through RSA 10.30.14
And then we hit lampposts. Not literally of course.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho07.10.06
Maseru has a nicely labelled roundabout.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho07.39.13
At a quick coffee stop I found Lesothon cake?
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho07.57.12
And then it was through the border back into South Africa. This is the no-mans-(no womans?)-land.
2016-10-02 Driving A.  Through Lesotho08.36.34
We drove over 12 hours across the north of Lesotho and through KwaZulu Natal province.
2016-10-02 Driving B.  Through RSA 15.17.52
We eventually entered Swaziland at Golela then drove with the setting sun up towards Vuvulane.
2016-10-02 Driving C.  Through SWZ 16.45.41
A few days business in Swaziland passed smoothly, give or take my eternal frustration at gaining reliable access to the internet.  We did manage some chilli shopping though.
2016-10-04 Mbabane 47.21
Our route back to Johannesburg took us to this wonderful service station.
2016-10-05 Back to Jburg 4.03.44
2016-10-05 Back to Jburg 4.03.10
You don't get this on the M5.

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