We tried again to venture into the tiny kingdom of Lesotho. We spent a week circling around the outside, exploring the ring of mountains which cradle it. We moved most every night, a wandering path that gave little time to catch our breath or even venture much into the outdoors we were awestruck by through our windshield. Single night stays may give the advantage of covering a lot of kilometers, but also wastes a huge amount of time each day finding a place, checking in, schlepping bags.
We made a tour of the South African National Parks that are scattered throughout the Drakensberg, ranging from remote outposts to stylish resorts. Most are actually run by the KwaZulu Natal Wildlife, the equivalent of our state department of fish and game. Many offer cottages with kitchens in mountain canyons, complete with jaw dropping views and naughty baboons.
In Golden Gate Highlands, a window left unlatched had been forced open and the sugar and creamer packets for our tea in the kitchen had been eaten, only a few shreds of chewed plastic wrappers and some white powdery footprints were all that was left for us when we arrived. In Royal Natal Park, several baboons used our land rover as a jungle gym, sniffing and licking the windshield where a box of crackers sat tantalizingly behind glass on the dashboard. The only casualty was a broken radio antenna, victim of a sample bite and misplaced step.
We made our first hikes without crutches for Marlie. At giant’s Castle we visited a cave full of San Bushman Art. As we arrived the thunderstorms which visited every afternoon dropped a load of rain, stopping again long enough for us to walk back to the cottage. Another torrent hit just before dinner, extinguishing the fire our neighbor had built (with our help) in his braai (bbq with wood instead of briquets) completely.So, our last stop in the Drakensberg was to be Sani Top Chalet, just inside the Lesotho boarder, at the top of a high mountain pass on a rugged jeep trail. We were out of cell or internet range for the last couple of days, but being Sunday night, we took our chances on their availability and started up the pass. We had our electronics list compiled, no monster unpack job awaited us this time.
Part way up the four wheel drive road, we pulled into a view area where several people were looking up at the pass through binoculars and cameras. As we took in the view, a bakkie (pick up truck) full of South Africans pulled in and told us the pass was closed due to a rock slide caused by one of the torrential thunderstorms that had rolled though. Knowing what we were looking for, we peered through binoculars at a chute of rock crossing the switchbacks at the top, a large yellow backhoe, and a handful of parked cars.
Late afternoon was approaching, and we turned back in search of a place to spend the night. Not in Lesotho. Again.