Rugged Mountains & Cow Dung Huts

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Lesotho, where is that? Lesotho is not a mainstream tourist destination and despite being surrounded by South Africa it is relatively undeveloped and sparsely populated making it a mecca for 4×4’ing, hiking and pony trekking in the Drakensberg and Maluti mountains. After conquering the Sani Pass and travelling through northern and central Lesotho, we spent two days trekking with Basotho ponies in the Maluti range with an overnight stop in the village of Ha Hlalele. Although the chief was not in the village, we visited with his wife and family, who were most hospitable. We slept in a cozy rondavel insulated with mud and cow manure falling asleep to the flicker of a candle and a slight concern over the spiders that may be lurking about.

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This was the first time that we’ve ponied trekked and found it to be anything but easy. Having to put our trust in a four legged creature while scrambling up and easing down steep, rocky embankments that would have required intense attention if hiked, was anything but relaxing. Although Michel was glad to have been supplied a helmet he felt it would have been more appropriate to sport full dirt biking gear for he was sure his horse would take a fierce tumble and crush him to bits. However to our surprise the ponies did extremely well in the rugged mountain terrain.

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Each pony had their own distinct personality which at times proved to be a bit challenging. “Francis” Michel’s pony did not like to get wet or muddy and would hesitate at every river and muddy slough crossing while Tamaira’s horse “Morapeli” continually had to be pushed to carry on because all he wanted to do was eat, eat and eat some more. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our pony trekking by the end of the trek, Tamaira felt like she was sitting on a pile of sharp edged rocks and Michel could no longer bend his right knee! Camping next to the river at Semonkong Lodge made for a great base camp to explore the countryside and the homemade cheeseburgers and gourmet pork sandwiches at the lodge’s Duck and Donkey Tavern and Restaurant were spectacular! Both came with delicious homemade chips and dense, almost sour dough like Lesotho buns. What a treat!

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We left for the Qacha’s Nek border crossing on Tamaira’s birthday to make our way down the long awaited Garden Route to the beautiful metropolis of Cape Town before launching north into Namibia. Faced with the brutal realization that we had misunderstood our tourist permit expiry and rather than having 34 more days on the clock we now had 4 days remaining as legal visitors in the Republic of South Africa. The border official permitted us back into South Africa with a warning of the steep over stay fines of R3,000/person. We were frustrated that our misunderstanding cost us the last 2 weeks we needed in South Africa to cruise down the Garden Route and dive the shores of Cape Town. All the more reason to return. On the other hand we knew we wanted to get to Nepal ahead of the monsoon season and this gave us the little nudge we needed to get to there in time. We made a run for the Namibian border and arrived after 37 hours in the cockpit. On the way we managed to book our flights to Nepal departing from Windhoek in 10 days. We were caught off guard forcing our hand to revise our plans but we’re excited to head in a new direction and play in the Namib Desert on our way to Windhoek. Now we just have to figure out what to do with the Yster Ratel during out temporary hiatus from Africa and hope it doesn’t suffer a mechanical breakdown from now until departure…

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Cheers, Tamaira & Michel

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