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DIARY  2            2015    

 Map + Plan


Photos   Diary 1 + 2

From Diary 1, I head through the central part, then to the north-eastern corner of Lesotho and finis off down in the remote south-east.

19/12 A perfect night's sleep, and when I wake up, most of the other campers are gone. The plan is to see the Katse Botanical Garden nearby, and I doubt they open this early. The area is not that appealing; eaten-down grass and small patches of farmland. I finish up with tent and breakfast, then go for a walk anyway. Here are a few Boophane disticha with leaves and a parasitic Convulvaceae. Despite it is not nine o'clock yet, it feels like the sun is almost vertical. Within a hour, you can't tell the north by the sun. Then it is time to make a back-up photos - which I ought to do every evening. While it runs, I tag the rest of yesterdays pictures. Realising how many photos I can't delete, I make yet another slideshow. Now, I just need some good internet connection.
Ten to nine, and I head for the botanical garden. On the way, I spot what turns out to be a nursing dassie. Funny little rabbit-like creatures, related to elephants!
The Katse Alpine Botanical Garden dates back to 1995, when they build the dam. Plants were rescued and relocated here. Since then, they have started a collection of Lesotho plants. I meet the daily leader, who is passionate. We agree to talk later, and I do the paths in the 18 hectare garden. It is situated on a slope towards the lake, and is a mix of the natural occurring grass habitat and beds with groups of plants. Here are several of the names I have been missing, and many plants I have not seen - yet. Their main concern it the Spiral Aloe; Aloe polyphylla, the national flower. Despite the early hours, it is getting real hot. Due to the watering, here are numerous species of birds. Bright orange weavers, magnificent blue sun-birds (Africa's hummingbird) and many more.
After I have seen at least most of the garden, I meet up with the boss. He tells me about the garden and which difficulties they are fighting. I am able to come up with some solutions, but not all. I see their seed-collection, their nursery and several other parts, while we talk. Then he show me some of his fantastic photos of the plants I can't find. Mainly the orchids are not really flowering this year, due to the missing rain. His pictures show flowering orchids in 25-35 centimetre grass. I can only find grass with the same length as on a golf green - or green for that matter. I had hoped for a hint to where to see the Spiral Aloe in the wild, but it is only found in so remote areas - the rest is sold on the local markets.
After three hours, I get restless, and leave my email address for further inquiries. Right outside, I meet two young South Africans, I know from a camp. Small world.
The next sight is more or less the road to the 3090 meter high MafikaLisui Pass, on the way to the north-eastern corner of the country. A long time, the road follow the huge Katse Lake's shore. One of the only interesting plants is the small euphorbia, which here forms a sphere. The hills are more green than earlier, but still grasses down to a average rug.
At the 2510 meter Nkaobee Pass, the views are fantastic. A bit further down on the other side, I find some awesome, green stones, mixed with white crystals. Where the road is cut into the hill - which it seem to be all the time - one can see the 15-20 centimetre soil on top of the sandstones.
It start to drizzle a bit, as the road leads even higher. A new road-sigh, warning about gazelles seems a bit optimistic, but a national park is found at the top. Another sign warns about ice and snow, but unlikely this time of year. Here, the hills are practically green, but still grassed to a green, all the way to the park.
Another stop reveal some interesting alpine plants. One is the tinniest heather I've ever seen. The entire plant is less than three centimetres, but it is flowering nicely.
The drizzle gain strength, and the next stop is in the company of some huge rain drops. The wind picks up too, and I have to turn on the heat, when I return to the car. Then I spot some real interesting plants, and run in-between the drops - rather unsuccessful. The raincoat might protect me against the water, but not the rather intense lightning. And the photos lack light for sure.
When I reach the MafikaLisui Pass at 3090 meters height, it is raining cat&dogs. The view is astonishing: A enormous valley and other mountains, the lover parts covered in sun. I spot some interesting plants from the car, but have no intention of giving them a closer inspection in the heavy rain.
I passed some signs, offering beds in the village of Ha Lejone, sixteen kilometres back. I will head on to morrow, but I hope for better weather in this pass. They lodges seems to be closed, until I reach a entire holiday village. Here, the cook and receptionist watch football, while the ubiquitous 4GS watchmen are at each their post (Even the botanical garden had two, but only one employee today. Weekdays, they are three or four). I guess here are room for hundreds of guests in huts, houses, rooms and luxurious cabins, but I got it all to my self.
They offer a small house for 300 LSL. Overpriced, but not much to choose from, and I don't feel like challenging the tents waterproofnes today, especially not in this high altitude. My room is too depressing, and I start working in the bar, where the boys are watching football. I get a pot of tea, and they can watch football.
Half pass five, the weather improves - at least down here. I hope for some better weather in the heights to morrow, not only for MafikaLisui Pass, but also the next two passes. At least, there are only 165 photos from the day, and the major part are from the botanical garden. Downside is; what do I do, when I'm through them, and the posh place have no internet???
I make some additional pages for my Caudiciform site, delete some more Lesotho photos and enjoy some excellent Marinated Lesotho Lamb Chops. More tea, more work on the internet site of mine. The rain continues, although light. The boys ask, if I'm going to have breakfast. I did see the English with bacon and all for 70 LSL, and was tempted, but I'm not cruel enough to force them up that early on a Sunday morning, to feed me. At nine, I have even done the back-up, and I head home - by car. The area is that big, I wouldn't even consider to walk in a sunny day. My house is at the lakeside, but that is not the attraction to me: The warm shower and cosy bed are.

20/12 By accidence, I get a look at my self in the body-sized mirror - and get quite a chock! I am aware; I not one of the fattest, but I didn't realise I was that skinny! It turns out to be a real magic-mirror, easy demonstrated by turning my computer around. It is same size, both sides one way, and 1:2 the other. Guess fat South Africans love it?
At half pass six, I sneak out the huge holiday village, only disturbing two 4GS men. One get the key, the other open the gate and check me out. The first stint is back to the MafikaLisui Pass once again. To day, the weather is perfect, and I find some interesting plants around the top. Some areas are clearly the home of some rodents. The grass is only millimetres high, and here are holes all over the place.
The next site was planned to be Tlaeeng Pass, but I have not seen a gas-tank the last 860 kilometres, and I guess seeking a bit closer to the capital and the larger cities surrounding it, would be considered a plan. Further more, I don't get to drive the same way back. New target; Moteng Pass. I drive through a National Reserve, which have a "BO" and a "G" in its name, and the grass is significantly longer.
Within long, I spot an animal on the open field. It is a Secretary Bird - a long-legged eagle, praying on snakes and other reptilians. Then I start seeing new plants, quite some familiar from the photos which were shown to me at the botanical garden. A few birds tweets, and I see a thrush bird.
As I do several stops down hill, more and more plants turns up. Many are still in the shadow of the mountains, and it is like the sun only exposes around eight - three hours delayed. Here are Impatiens, Asteraceaes, Ericaceae, Oxalis and much more. I try not to make more pictures of those I have see previous - unless they are even more pretty.

The city - or at least large village - of Pitseng have several supermarkets and a gas station. The last one have no diesel, but recommend one, ten kilometres further down the road. I try the supermarkets to see if I can find some special softdrinks - to re-use the bottles with large openings and drinking-dispenser. It seems like all the shop owners are Chinese (like in so many other poor countries around the world). I find the bottles in the last shop, along with a electrical plug. It seems like at least South Africa and Lesotho are quite consistent with their huge British plugs.
The forth supermarket is the posh Pep, but it seems to be closed, perhaps due to the fact it is Sunday? I get a real bad picture of two boys with their steel-cable cars. I have seen them before, but I hate when they approach me, and say "give me money".
From Pitseng, the landscape flattens, and red farm fields dominates. Here are lots of houses along the road, all the way up to the almost white mountains. The next town have a filing station WITH diesel, and I buy 91,8 litre. The tuck have managed almost 10 km/l in these steep mountains, not bad, considered the weight. A well-dressed man tells me, he is going to drive along with me - why not?
Pretty soon, the road meets the Masuru-Oxbow road in the big city of Hlotse, then comes Bhuta Bhute and Kala. Both are rather large cities, but I don't stop. One does not have to go out of the major cities to see cows and sheep. They are almost as numerous within the cities.
The landscape is real dry and not much vegetation is left in piece. A few probes reveals nothing interesting, except a flowering Aloe. The police have some security stops from time to time, but they are smiling, and just curious about where I am from.

A sign show off to Liphofung Rock Shelter, another to Liphofung  Cave Cultural and Historic Site. It might not be interesting, but the area might. A long, concrete road leads down to a dry river. A big visitor center, and a single employee, who don't understand English. Another turns up from the canyon, just as boiling as the two South African white tourists. She turns out to be the perfect guide: After she got my 30 LSL, she ask, if I mind going by my self?
The path leads down towards the river, passing several signs, telling me, it is mandatory to have a guide. At the bottom, the river have first cut it self down through the soft rock, then meandered. That have created some fifteen meter deep caves. In some places, there are ancient paintings of spear hunting and dancing.
The convenient lack of guide let me explore the surroundings, and here are some interesting plants and a grumpy lizard. I get back to the office without breaking a sweat at all.
The soil further down the road have the most wicked color. Real rich orange-red. The houses are more scars now, and it turns a bit greener. The road towards Moteng Pass is surprisingly flat - the first 65 kilometers. Then it raises significantly the last five, and the truck need to gear down into first, several times. The road serpentines wild, and the flora turn Alpine again. A few new ones, but just as many herds man as always. They are a bit annoying, asking all kind of questions and asking for cigarettes and money. Worse it the youngest boys, not more than five or so. Here, they want their photo taken, and are just happy to see it on the screen.
Before I reach the pass, a viewing area make the perfect spot for a cup of tea. Somehow, I manages to drink it, without being addressed by anyone.

I reach Moteng Pass at the expected 2820 meters. Here, the red heather dominates along with some herbs the sheep don't like. The vegetation is rather tall, but the grass and alike has gone. Another lizard escapes, but is way to curious to stay inside. The next time I stop, some grayish herb dominates. The panoramas are, as always; astonishing - and impossible to capture.
The "Rocket-flower" is fund in the high altitude. Here, it is not a single plant for each hundred meters; it is a cluster of hundred meters! While I try to capture that, a blue sunbird passes bye - just as impossible to get a dissent photo of!
The next pass it the 3222 meter high Mahlasela Pass. Behind it, the huge and posh Afriski Resort lies, in its own valley. The advertises with the highest bar in Africa, and why not? It is only two, and I don't need to get to
Tlaeeng Pass today. In a mater of fact, I am so full of impressions, I'm gladly saving a pass or two for tomorrow.
It is indeed a fancy place with everything from a huge, modern bar in light wood, paintball, canoe, skiing (in winter) 4x4, mountain bike and much, much more. I settle for a cup of tea and a chocolate cake. Then it occurs to me: They might have Wi-Fi? And yes they do. I upload the pages I've been working on lately, check the news, up-load photos to former friends at Facebook and do some banking.
It is four o'clock before I leave, and it is tempting to overnight here. But it is not right! Way too posh for me and the truck. There must be another place within the 70 kilometres to the next pass. A huge diamond mine it its own society. Brand modern buildings, huge trucks and enormous artificial hills.
As I walk around to botanize the next time, an huge bird of pray circles me several times. The fifth time, it must admit: I am still breathing.
Somehow, I manages to pass Tlaeng Pass at 3255 metres, making photos of the sign, but not reflection over it. At least, I do take some pictures of the astonishing view. The botanizing reveals no any new species, just the cold wind.

A sign show to a lodge, 1,6 km. That sounds perfect, here at five. The next sign show off the road, and I start a steep decent on a rough gravelroad. Here is nothing, but the summer quarter for the herds-men and their bomas. After fifteen kilometres (and given up several times), I meet a bit of settlement. And then the first building that is not a small rondawel. Same style, but bigger.
It is six o'clock, and I had hoped for something looking a bit more alive. The clouds are gathering, and distant thunder closing in. I cross the gate, and look around. Despite it look so deserted, the beds are made in one of the large rondawels, and huge gas-containers stands behind the huts. Some boys tell me; the caretaker is on his way, and I start finding my cooking gear.
It is 240 LSL for a single person, but the drizzle is a good salesman.  I gather my stuff from the truck, while it start to rain, then hail. The thunder and lightning is all over the place, and I'm fund of my rondawel! It have a nice bathroom and a little kitchen. Then it turns out; they have no water. Later, it turns out the tiny generator won't start. On top of that, the caretaker complains about how hungry he is, and I offer him dinner. Rice with can-meat-bowls, soya and salt. Apparently, he likes it a lot! He leaves with the remaining rice and a filled plate, and I start working. I hope he return with my plate, pot and spoon.
The thunderstorm continues to eight, and just as the computer runs out of battery, it stops. Suddenly, a weird sound and some flapping occurs right behind me. It is a poor sparrow, which apparently have been trapped in the rondawel. Now it is fainted, and when I pick it up, it weight next to nothing. I place it outside the window, and it dies free at least.
I continue working in the car, and it is not as cold as I feared. Just at is started to rain, I gathered some firewood from the outside braais, and placed it in my fireplace. I figure it would be easy to ignite on the gas stove.
Somehow, someone have been able to take additionally 300+ photos with my camera yet again. It is almost midnight before I'm finish.

21/12 The pot, plate and spoon is outside my door, when I wake up.  The caretaker returns with a receipt and a guestbook - most unexpected! It is only a bit passed six, when I drive off. The road, which was a challenging the way down, is really a obstacle the way up. The rain have spoiled it in many parts, and the slippery surface on steep assents, causes for speed. That does the exposed boulders not. A couple of well-dressed women want a lift, and I can't say no.
Several times, I have to give it yet one more approach on the most slippery and tricky parts, but my hitch-hikers take it nice. The low sun is perfect for photos, but I'm afraid; I have seen it all by now.
We finally reach a village after 45 kilometres, and the women get off. This is their "big city", although it is mainly made up by tinplates and mud. Unlike them; I find it not worth a second look.
The further south I go, the more barren and dry it seems to be. Senqu River however, it swollen with the rain from last night. The brownish river look like chocolate milk. A single dassie flees, but else here are no wildlife. Well, a lot of locos and other grasshoppers along with a few lizards and dung beetles.

Mothotlong is a bigger village with several supermarkets and official offices. My toothbrush broke this morning, and I need a second 12V plug. Both the computer, the GPS and my camera need charging. Further more, I would like to be able to charge without the ignition being on, and it would be neat to be able to use the secondary battery for this.
A chop-shop have the 12V plug, and a TV repair-shop the core and tin-welding stuff. It actually works!
The plan was to drive slowly towards Sani Pass, and explore the botany along the road. But here are none! The grass is eaten to the roots. Further down south, it turns a bit greener, but still with a significantly lack of interesting vegetation. Then the assent starts. Sign warn about 1:9 and then 1:6. I use second and third gear - unless I'm forced down in first. Despite I do several stops, I don't manages to find any new plants. I had heard Sani Pass should be so fantastic - but it is fantastic disappointing. Here, yesterday's rain have also fallen, but to no use for me.
The views are general smooth hills with few exposed rocks.
The highest point is, accordantly to the sign; 3240 meters. Here is so dry and barren! I do a few walks, but the wind is so violent, it almost throw me over, several times. The scenery is enormous. Endless soft hills and a fantastic sky.
A bit further down on the other side, it begin to be more green. A swamp reveals a few new plants, but not the abundance I was expecting. The day I have set aside, was too much for sure. Sani is a river, way up here, and it have a bit of water in it, from the nights rain. A small gathering of rondawels are fond along it, but I still don't get the fuss?
I reach the border control station at half pass eleven. It is, just as the pass turned out, rather dull, but at least real fast. One look at me, one stamp, "have a nice trip".

AND THEN! I turn a corner and pass a small hill, and the most amassing view I ever seen, reveals below me. It is like overlooking the entire Africa! This is the Sani Pass everyone have been talking about! There is only one natural thing to do: Park the car, and start taking photos. The road is for 4x4 only, and that make sense: It is extreme steep, real rough gravel and washed away in some parts. Here are way more plants then on the other side, and the few hundred kilometres one can see below, are real lush green. I make ridicules many photos, and I don't care. This is a once in an lifetime experience, and I'm here on the perfect time of the perfect day. Sun in my neck, few white clouds and Africa! A few other cars and a motorcycle make stops as well. Unfortunately, making photos of it, is like observing the world through a straw.
After I have adopted to the view, I start looking for plants as well. First, it is the familiar ones, but soon, it is brand new ones. I might make more stops than the others, but I also see more! And none have as many photos as I!
Pretty soon, it is a whole new line of plants. I did not plan to photo them, but these huge Asteraceae trees, Banksias and  - plants screams for it.
The road start to follow a stream, and I do a long walk along/in it. Here are even orchids. The sun disappears, but at least is was on, at the peak. Two hours have gone between the border controls, but it has been one of my best experiences ever! And I did it the right way and on the right time for sure.

Now I am at the South African border, and the tour continues in South Africa but only for a short time.

I have driven around 1700 kilometres and taken just as many photos. A truly great tour in a mountainous and dry country, with some nice habitants and great plants and animals.

Slideshows with Animals, Plants, People, 75 best photos and the tour in general

1/6 of flight 1.046  
7 day 4x4 3.346  
Food 550  
Hotels 475  
1/6 gadgets 1.100  
Diesel 1.000  
Entrees 40  
DKK 7.557 €960





   Diary 1 + 2  Map + Plan  Photos