The first thing I notice is the hats. This is not Ascot, so there are no ladies in ostrich feathers, but a ragged crowd of men wearing everything from gumboots and jeans to big patterned blankets. We’re gathered along a track curving through stubbly fields, with a hazy backdrop of blue mountains. It’s a big race day at the Morija cultural festival, so you might expect the headgear of choice to be the Basotho hat, the woven cone traditionally favoured by herders (and adapted as lampshades in tourist lodges). But I can see only one man in a 150-strong crowd wearing a Basotho hat, and I think he’s doing it ironically. It certainly doesn’t match his T-shirt and jeans.
Archive for Off the beaten path
Yes, it snows in Africa, and in 2011 it snowed a lot ! It is also a little known fact that people have been skiing in various Southern African mountain ranges since 1929. One of the most ideally suited locations are the Maluti mountains in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Not far from Clarens lies the Mahlasela Pass and the location of the Afriski – Ski & Mountain Resort.
A lot has changed since 1929 and the introduction of modern snow making facilities and lifts to Afriski in 2002 have allowed skiing and snowboarding to flourish in this little know corner of the Lesotho Mountain Kingdom.
Along the entire length of the pool, fish dimpled the surface. In the riffle water, subtle rises, apart from a mere flattening and silvering of the surface, were barely discernable. On the far side of the stream beyond the current, a perfect reflection of the new day shimmered and broke as a large tail creased the surface.
Twenty minutes trickled by revealing little of the cycle happening below. I relented, attaching a small Baetid emerger not far beneath a sparsely tied Klinkhamer. Stifling a sudden gasp, the cold water reinforced that I was closer to the stratosphere than I had ever previously cared to venture.
I took great pleasure in noting that – as lightly as a broken spider web riding a morning breeze – each cast landed where it ought to. The fish continued to rise with purposeful bearing. As the sun rose higher, shadows of several feeding fish became obvious and although a fewer smaller feisty freestone rainbows accepted my offerings, it was clearly apparent that I had not yet unravelled the mystery below the riffled surface. Several fly changes, lengthening and down-sizing of leader found me none the wiser. I began to chuckle and it was then that I realized that it was moments like these which, to me, define the very essence of why I fly fish. Deciding it was time to sit back and reflect and more importantly, check if my toes were still intact, I began to reel in. Not far upstream, a good fish showed. A quick flick and a mend covered the rise nicely. Read more
Lesotho is without doubt a hiker’s paradise.
Although very few dedicated hiking trails exist, the face that the entire country is a network of bridle and foot paths. You will also not find a single fence in the mountains, meaning that you can hike pretty much anywhere you like.
A typical hike will include:
• Riverside walk, swim, caves, gorges and rock formations
• Bird and wildlife sightings
• Stunning views
• Bushman rock art sites
• Picnics and packed lunches can be provided on request
Some wonderful trails can be found in the various Lesotho national parks and nature reserves.
Sehlabathebe National Park is rough, rugged, yet incredibly scenic with rolling grasslands and wild flowers, perfect for bird watching and hiking. Accommodation can be booked with Jonathan’s Lodge. Read more
It was a week which started with surfing the Durban waves and ended with skiing in Lesotho. And neatly sandwiched in the middle was a close encounter with a herd of elephant. There are not many holiday destinations where you can spice up your life with such variety.
It started with a perfect winters day spent on the Durban beachfront, surfing the waves on my long board which others disdainfully call “the ship.” The next day I made the two-and-half hour drive to Nambiti Reserves to visit Umzolozolo Private Game Reservewhich is near Ladysmith in Northern KZN. This hidden gem of 10 000 hectares boasts the Big Five and is right here on our doorstep.
This was, of course, a business trip and I was there on a site inspection for our new Bush/Berg package. That afternoon I found myself sipping a gin and tonic, having just seen a herd of elephant, a serval and an abundance of general game. Africa is hell. Read more
While Ice Climbing may not be on everyone’s list of things to do during the winter months, the popularity of ice climbing as a sport is on the rise from both local and international climbers alike. Ice forms every year and is usually climbable from mid June till mid August.
With more peaks per square kilometre than any other country in Africa, Lesotho is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa” as it is blessed with spectacular cliff faces, ridges and chimneys.
Ice climbing in the Drakensberg was first properly probed by British climber, Jeff Ingman while on a work contract in South Africa. Ingman and various partners made the first ascents of some of the major water-ice routes of the Giant’s Castle area. From that time until the late ‘90s only a handful of enthusiasts continued climbing these routes. Then towards the end of the millennium the shorter and more accessible routes of the Sani Pass area were climbed. This development coupled with the publishing of all the winter routes in an addendum to the Rock Climbs of the Drakensberg, sparked a big interest in the sport. Read more
Through one of the off-road forums, I heard that Maliba Lodge wanted to investigate the 4×4 trails in their area and offered my assistance. All was set up and pretty soon I headed for Ts’ehlanyane National Park to boldly go where no vehicle has gone before. At the time I did not know how true those words would be!
The original plan was to explore the tracks in two vehicles, but due to an unfortunate mishap, the second vehicle had to be withdrawn. This meant taking extra care not to get into trouble on these trails, as there was no vehicle to assist should there be a recovery situation. It has been an extra-ordinary wet season and rained almost every night during my stay at Maliba. It made for some interesting off-road driving the next few days, but the driving conditions were probably at its worse and should only improve in dryer conditions. Read more
Lesotho may not pop up on many people’s radar as the most obvious ski destination. Africa, is after all synonymous with the big five and open savannahs, not snow capped mountains. However, as the only country in the world that lies completely above 1,000m and with more peaks per square kilometre than any other African country, Lesotho is indeed blessed with fantastic topography. Does it get snow you ask? Yes it does, sometimes even year round on the very highest peaks.
Skiing is now one of the main tourist attractions for Lesotho, seeing thousands of enthusiasts streaming in from surrounding South Africa. Lesotho has only recently started to develop its commercial skiing and snowboarding, even though the first ski club (Club Maluti) was founded as far back as 1968, when the first hut was built in the northern Lesotho highlands. Read more
Among the different adventure sports enjoyed in Lesotho, mountain biking occupies an important place. Lesotho takes bikers amidst the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges in Southern Africa. It has therefore become one of the more popular activities among the young adventure loving tourists who visit the mountain kingdom on a regular basis.
The terrain for starters is great, with wide valleys and mountain passes making for a varied and exciting riding.
Second, its network of bridle paths and tracks, usually only passable on horseback and 4×4, covers much of the countryside and provide bikers with predefined paths with which to navigate the countryside.
One of the most visited mountain biking trails of Lesotho begins from Underberg, a world heritage site located in Ukahlamba Drakensberg Park. The trail follows the Mkozama River and passes through the Sani Valley. While passing the Sani Pass, bikers can get a panoramic view of Hodgon’s Peak and the Giants Cup.
There are a number of popular MTB races held in or around Lesotho during the year. Here are just a few to wet your appetites. Read more
One of the many highlights of Lesotho is a visit to Katse Dam, centrepiece of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project which channels the water of the Lesotho Highlands via an incredible series of dams and tunnels through the mountains eventually coming out of the Ash River Outfall near the town of Clarens in South Africa’s Free State province where it gravity feeds to supply Johannesburg and Pretoria with water.
It was touted as the greatest engineering project in the southern hemisphere in the 1990’s when it was under construction. Nowadays the sight of the massive dam hemmed in by the mountain valley is well worth beholding!
For visitors, there is an information centre, which features a model of the whole project, showing all the phases. You can also go on a tour of the dam wall which is arranged by the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority Visitor Centre. The Katse Botanical Gardens is an added attraction. Read more