I had an invitation to visit a project in
South Africa, I have done some pro-bono
work on in the past. Now, it
should be launched commercially, and I'm asked to give my input, and
hopefully work on it, in the future. Realising how little I actually
know about South African highland and tropical plants, I figured I might do a
tour around the premises. Lesotho offers some absolutely unique
highlands with a flora of its own.
While studding the
flora, I will try to
sell some assistance to the parks I meet on along the road. I
also hope to be able to collect
material for DNA-tests for Dr. Tanja Schuster, who is mapping
Oxygonum. I will visit the wild and
unspoiled nature scattered around this area. I plan to do a quick tour
from South Africa
through Lesotho, Swaziland,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe and
Some facts about the country.
(Jump to diary)
The Kingdom of Lesotho is a rather small
country within South Africa. It covers 30,355 km²,
measuring roughly 200 times 200 kilometres, although it feels
significantly bigger, driving its roads! It is a mountainous
country, actually the only country where even the lowest parts are
above 1400 meters. Everything is found from 1400m to 3480
meters above sea level. That is why it is known as Kingdom in the
With a bit more than two million citizens, here are quite some
nature. 80% are different Christians while the rest worship
indigenous beliefs. They Sotho-Tswana people originates from a
nearby part of South Africa, but fleet there from the Zulus and
Voortrekkers. In 1824, King Moeshoeshoe had established himself as
king and Thaba Bosiu as his mountain fortress. He allied with the
British in the cape to fight of the Dutch. It was granted
independence from the British Empire on October 4th, 1966.
MONEY: The currency is Loti (LSL), fixed to the South
African Rand. They do not have much of them! 1DKK= 2 LSL.
Lesotho has 300 days of sunshine. The rainy season extends from
October to April in which Lesotho in average gets 70mm of rainfall, mostly
during severe thunderstorms. I'll hit that period, perfect for
botanizing. The temperature should be from around 20C to 32C.
Unfortunately, the country have had a drought the last 10 years, and
is suffering badly.
ANIMALS and PLANTS:
Here are the familiar animals from highland South Africa; Cape
hyrax, Chacma baboon, Cape porcupine, Cape hare, Southern African
hedgehog, Forest shrew, quite some bats, several members of the cat
family, otters, Black-backed jackal, Brown hyena, Zebras, Antelopes
to name a few.
The vegetation in Lesotho consists largely of grasslands and
bushveld. Forests cover only 1% of the land area and are found in
some areas in the north and south of the country. Trees that are
indigenous to the land include Cape willows, cheche bush, and wild
olives. Soil erosion and overutilization have severely changed the
About 17 vascular plant species are found nowhere else including the
national flower, the Spiral Aloe Aloe polyphylla. Other
endemic plants include Glumicalyx lesuticus, Manulea
platystigma, Delosperma holzbecherorum, Delosperma parentum ,
Delosperma adamantinum, Malotigena frantiskae-niederlovae,
Hesperantha crocopsis, Hesperantha exiliflora, Rhynchosia
dieterlenae, Gnidia singularis, Jamesbrittenia beverlyana, and
From South Africa it went smooth through the border, and this
beautiful country reveals itself. Table mountains with
small huts on. Several are rondawels with grass roof.
Farmers are walking their three to five cows home, one
is pulling his cart with them. Donkeys are everywhere,
and here are an relaxed feeling. I think the speed limit
is only 50 - at least, that is what people drive. Here
are mainly taxis with yellow sides and only a few
private cars and trucks.
The sun is in my face most of the time, and I got a
distinct feeling of, many motives are in the review
mirror - except it is blind.
It is a bit more than 110 kilometres to my first sight,
and despite I could make it, I don't go for it. It is in
a real remote area, and I rather have something to eat -
someone else have made. Here are signs to a few B&B and
lodges, and I go for one. Way to nice (meaning
expensive), but I had been driving 600 kilometres to
day, after have been woken up at 03;00. Further more, I would
love to see the landscape I drive through.
They charge 550 LSL, and if I haven't spend a small
fortune on the geared out car, I would have gone for it.
We talk a bit about it, and I can camp and use the
bathroom for one of their rooms, for 150 LSL. I offer to
buy supper, short ribs from a calf for 70 LSL, and we
have a deal. I forgot to include breakfast, but I have
five bags of my favourite stored away in the truck.
My computer runs out of power, and I don't have the
energy to find the 12V charger in the trunk - nor run
out of battery on the car. It charges a bit while I
shower, and I get the main impressions down.
Quite diner; I'm all by my self. It is nine, and the
combination of having nothing to do, and being worn out,
makes me go to tent. Some dogs barks, but my earplugs silence
16/12 After almost nine hours,
I feel fresh and ready for adventures. I cook water in the room, and eat my own breakfast alone the truck. The
tent is a bid harder to fold back, but at seven, I head
out for adventures. A gas up station tempts: You never
know when the next turn up. It have manages 11km/l on
the rather fast tour from Johannesburg. Pretty good for
a heavy loaded truck.
The area is astonishing! One big hill after the other,
carefully sprinkled with small huts and herds with their
cows, sheep and goats. It is surprisingly dry, but I'm
told they suffer from drought.
A lady I give a lift
they haven't got their normal summer-rain the last ten
The first target for the day is Teya Teyaneng with
the Kome Caves. The GPS leads me right to the sign, after
an hour of great sights.
Here, I kind of know, I make a bad turn, but the area
causes for a further investigation. The locals return my
greetings, and I stop numerous time to photo them, their
houses, animals and entire area. Here are some
red-headed Ibis, White Crows and a few other birds. The
plants are suffering badly from the intensive grassing,
and I fail to find anything interesting. Well, the fern
is a surprise in this arid area. The "tidsel-looking"
poppy are numerous in some areas, but is it local at all? Here are
numerous blue Agaves and several big cacti which
defiantly are not natives.
The rivers are
just a few scatted billabongs. Despite I know it will
fail, I still make photos of the waste landscapes.
fields in the valleys are red and dusty, and it look
like the middle of the dry season.
A marked draws me in, but beside from all the people,
here seems to be nothing of interest: There are nothing
on the ground. Back in the countryside, I find some women, washing
their laundry in an almost dry river, others are collecting water
with oxen, donkeys or horses. I return after fifteen
kilometres. A couple from the market get a lift back to
the sealed road, and have a hard
time figuring; I'm
turning back. But I should have followed the sign
to Ha Kome, to get to the caves.
They have their own visitor centre. It is five times
bigger than the actual site, but only charges 43 LSL for
entrance and guide. A couple of Aloe polyphylla grow
in their garden - it is indigenous for Lesotho. It is a
nice walk, and it offers several great motives. The
small "Hobbit-huts" in the huge, rather open cave,
rather disappointing, just as the ancient drawings. It
look a bit like a man and two cows.
cliffs and sky on the other hand are fantastic! The
first pigs I have seen in a long time, try to find shadow
under a huge bolder, and some other Aloes look
interesting. I have to go several pages back in the
visitor-book, to find someone not from Lesotho or South
Africa. Then there is a American, one from Cuba and one
It is only ten, and I'm up for more
adventures and great sights. The next planned, was for to
morrow, but it is 130 kilometres away. The sealed road
changes fast into a real rough gravelroad. The views
make up for that, and I head on.
Then is start to be sealed again, and small villages are
it. The landscape start to raise, and the
vegetation changes into Alpine, while the humans
disappears. Here are several
interesting plants with everlasting flowers, tough grass
and some flowering lilies, Asteraceae and others. The
key is no animals at all - not even the farmer's, except
from a frog. The minerals are interesting too, and I
find some fine crystals. On the other side of the pass,
small villages are once more found. They have a
city-limit sign for five to twenty huts.
I pass through Roma, which best of all can be described
as a large village. I don't need anything, and it does
not look that entreating. Actually, it seems like only
one road leads through - not what I had heard!
At Semonkong, another market with little to sell, takes
place. People are gathered round in a circle. Inside a
are dancing by them self - not that impressive at all,
but apparently real entertaining. Here are many horses
and donkeys, and a few primitive shops. The General
Store causes for a visit, and it is busy. I buy yet
another bottle to recycle as drinking container. I have
filled the first one 6-8 times today, and it is a task,
the stuff locked up in the back of the truck.
A fancy lodge is found near by, and I figure, I could use
some time sorting out the 350 photos of the day along
with some nice food. They have camping - one lot vacant,
and for 100 LSL, it is fine with me. Here are the first
white people I have seen in Lesotho. Some Frenchmen but
the major part South Africans. It is a public day off in
South Africa, and many make it a long weekend.
The famous waterfall; 192 meter tall Maletsunyane Fall
is said to be dry, but most are here for the bar anyway.
After the tent is sorted out, I head for the restaurant
for tea and work. The computer is fully charged from the
car, and it is needed!
Before it darkens, the temperature drops, and I hurry to
the showers. Then supper is served, and I go for the
lamb chops. Excellent, but I think they came from a calf
though. Warm pudding with ice - who can say no? Bit
expensive, but I can always cook myself, when none else will.
Continues the work on the photos, now with external
power, which also feed the camera. I plan to go late to
bed, and order a pot of tea for the evening. Here are way too many
photos, and way to many are actually quite good. The
little restaurant is dressed up for Christmas. The tree
is a dry branch, painted white and filled with colourful
bowls, imported from South Africa. Goes fine with all
the old farts, sitting around the restaurant. Guess there
must be some posh rooms around the lodge.
Due to the fantastic views through the day, I am forced to make one slideshow right away;
Day 1. The photos
don't in any way reflect the awesome views - but that is
what I have. At half pass nine, I'm done, but the camera
is not, and it is prioritised. I got a bad feeling of,
the waterfall - or at least where it use to be - is in
the deep shadows tomorrow morning.
17/12 It is a cold morning,
and I wished I had brought the other sleeping bag up to
the tent. When the sun peeks out, I do it too. That does
improve the climate significantly. Breakfast behind the
truck, then a small tour down the river. Here are some
interesting plants like Asparagaceae, Araceae, Lilies
and a Cucurbitaceae.
Then it is time to visit the Maletsunyane Fall. It is a rough
path, worn down by numerous donkeys, horses and people
on their way from the remote huts to town. Here are
many side trails, and I check several of them,
just to see what is there. Mainly awesome views, small rondawels with grass roof and partly
brown hills. The
farmers use their biggest cows to pull the plough in
narrow terraces, and a few of them have gambled and
planted some corn.
Besides from a few birds, here seems to be no original
animals left, and only depressing few plants. The
heavy grassing set its mark. Two hours walking while the
temperature rises, and I wished I have brought my heavy
boots, sunscreen and water
The gorge with the fall is enormous! It is a big crack
through the else smooth hills, and it is hard to see the
button. On the side I'm at, several small tax-trees seems to
do fine, and I am able to find a few other interesting plants.
The fall is, as I expected, in a deep shadow within its
own, rather big but narrow gorge. I try desperately to capture it,
but besides from it is real narrow due to the drop, it
is also covered in mist and shadow.
I find a few lizards - even a blue male - and plants, but after half a hour,
I start on the hour and half tour back. The plough-man
is out on his terraces, and I try to get some good pictures.
At ten, I head out for for the
southern part of the country. I start with a real rough gravelroad, but the views and plants are so familiar, it
don't seems to be worth the difficulties. Back through Semonkong and down the newly opened road towards A4 from
Qacha's Nek to Quiting. Despite the village-name signs,
the biggest gathering is less than a hundred huts. Most
are only a handful rondawels.
Despite the road is from 2014, and it is perfect sealed,
it does cause my truck problems. Several times the
assent is too steep for second gear. Most of the 50
kilometres towards Seforong is dominated by two high
passes. First up is the other end of the enormous gorge
the Maletsunyane Fall is found in. It can't be seen from
the road, but the gorge is fantastic.
Besides from that, the area looks like most other
places, most vegetation have suffered severe. It is only
in the highest places I find interesting plants on. A
total black grasshopper indicates how high it is. A bit
down the next valley, the huts re-appears, and the sides
of the road is made of real short grass and herbs.
The next plateau reveals something interesting. At
first, I hope for a wild Aloe polyphylla, but is is a
slightly bigger, but still stem-less Aloe. Here are a
few dry, spear-like flower-stalks, but no flowers. One
of the many herds-men, walking the fields and roadside
ask, if I am searching for diamonds. I doubt I get him
convinced, I'm only looking for plants.
The further south, the more dry. Both high and low - if
you can call any of Lesotho that. Seforong lies next to
the intersection of this new road and the older A4.
Besides from rondawels and huts along with the huge
views, here are little of interest. It have taken me
more than two hours to drive the 50 kilometres, and I
turn around. It seems like here is less and less to see,
further down south.
Here are quite some local hitch-hikers and real few cars. I
think I have seen 5 cars and four trucks in two hours on
this perfect road.
A few desperate attempts to capture
the landscape on the way back, along with a few plants.
I reach Semonkong at two, and a bit too early to call it a day.
The next lodge is 138 kilometres away, and I might miss
a sight along the way. I choose to drive up north near Roma again, to see
the plateau Thaba Bosiu to morrow.
Roma has as little to offer this time, except a sign
with camp, lodge and more. It is the old colonial
trading post of Roma, and I try. The old sandstone
buildings look like hundreds of years old, but well
maintained. Camp is 100 LSL, a back-packers rondawel
175. And it is so cosy with own tea kitchen, sink,
towels and soap. Not hard to choose, especially not, when
they tell the nights are cold.
The only other guests are some real great, young
Germans. We meet in the common kitchen and living room
and chat. I grab a shower before it get too cold, and
cook some noodles with some powder. Not gourmet, despite
the print on the bag. Here are even internet at the
While the kids watch Avatar, I work my way through
photos and diary. I rather watch the movie, but I get to
stay firm. But; I do shorten some corners, and finish up
at ten. Here are just too many motives!
18/12 It is fare from cold at
night - at least not in a rondawel. After a good night's
sleep, I'm up early to finish the work from last night.
The sun is already up, and I ought to start exploring.
But the internet caught me, and I upload diary and the
The first sight of the day is the Thaba Bosio plateau,
not that fare away. Through part of Roma and out in the
country side. The area is famous for the tombs of former
kings, but I'm here to see the nature. I find a narrow gravelroad, only used by the locals, and head out of it.
A steep hill next to it have the classic volcano-cone
top, and I try to get the sun right. To do so, I have to
cross a dry riverbed and here are some bulbs. Besides
Agaves and Yuccas dominate the area. I walk
into the hills, but it have been grasses way too much
for revealing anything interesting, but the views are
fantastic. Thinking about it, here are not even spiders!
Back on the sealed road, I continue a bit, just to have
a look. A bridge over a almost dry, but former big river
offers a good view to the locals. Laundry and cattle
watering. Further out, the farmed fields are red and
barren. A horse is tied up to one of the few tractors I
have seen - or at least half of it. When I finally make
it to the top of the plateau, it is just farmland!
The next sight is Mohale Dam, or at
least the road leading to it. Here are several larger
villages along the road, and I stop at a little marked
in Nazareth. Cloths, kitchen ware and shoes are the main
products. People are really dressed up for the occasion.
Besides from the marked, here are little to see, and I
It seems like Lesotho is made up by huge hills - on top
of an enormous mountain. The
roads leads around one after the other, day after day.
Here are still so many breathtaking motives. Hills,
canyons, small rondawels, cattle, people and some
plants. I try to restrict, and focus on the plants. I
stop time and time again, and do walks around the truck.
Besides from those plants I previous have found , here
are a few now.
When I pass Bushman's Pass at 2263 meters height, the
landscape changes a bit to the greener. Almost at the
top, a little cousin-forming Euphorbia is found. It look
so much like the tiny Opuntias, except from the needles.
Further down, it turns even greener. At one stop, some
enormous rose bushes dominates. The minerals are
interesting, and here are a few new plants as well. As
the greenery improves, the next pass turns up; God help me
Pass at 2281 metres.
The rivers have a bit of water in them, and huge willows
grow along them. On the other side of the road from the
river, I spot I weird looking plant. It turns out to be
a flowering terrestrial Orchid. It look so much out of
place among the dry bushes and barren soil. Here are
also clovers, but not any other interesting vegetation.
Next stop have bulbs, tiny succulents and the strange
Apiaceae, looking like a canorous plant. Several
ever-lasting flowers indicate the height, and the soft
The next pass is Blue Mountain Pass with its 2633
meters. Around it is some ruins and a tiny cemetery. The
rocks in this area is clearly of volcanic origin.
Despite I get around only a few new plants seems to be
Long before I reach the dam, the lake of Mohale suddenly
appears. It is significantly reduced in size, but still
wet. The Mohale Dam it self is rather small, and straight. A
young guy in perfect ironed 4G uniform greats me. I got
a clear feeling of, he is bored to death! (Yes, before I
came!). Behind it, the river offers some great motives. A
road leads pas the dam, and into the heights. A viewing
point offer little new, but a great place to try the
gas-burner: Tea with a view.
After quite some walking, it is pass
noon before I head a bit back, and then towards Katse
Dam. It is 150 kilometres through the central Lesotho,
and it is slightly greener than the north and south. Two
road-signs have to be photoed: One of a cow, one of a
sheep. They ought to have one of a donkey as well. The
cows tend to stay on their side of the road, so do the
sheep, but the donkeys seem to come from fare in the
fields, and then cross the road running.
When the road is seen from high above, it look like the
perfect motorcycle road to me. One long curve after the
other. Here are no straights at all! It is not the same
with a overloaded, top-heavy truck - at all! Where the
lower parts are filled with villages, although small,
the highlands are pleasant vacant. Unfortunately, the
grass and other plants have still been grassed, but not
as heavy. Time and time again, I either see a great
motive or what I hope is a new plant. Either way, I do
yet another stop. Now, the hills are smooth and almost
When I pass the first "Rocket-flower", I can even
stop. Else, there are kilometres between parking
possibilities. Well, I only see a car or truck every
fifteen minutes, but the narrow road and endless curves
make it a bit hazard to just stop. One time, I just stop
on the road to make a photo of the black cracks in the
almost white grass.
As I take the "scenic route", the GPS leads me into a
gravelroad 60 kilometres before Katse. It is fare from
smooth, but nor too bad. But 60 kilometres is quite a
distance. I hardly see any cars, but the locals are
dressed up for Friday evening. The herds have bright
coloured cloth on - underneath their usual brown
blanket. Some have even dropped their wellingtons.
Strange how fun they are of these wellingtons, despite
everything are so dry and dusty?
Some white figures way out on a field turns out to be
White Storks. Then the big river reveals it self in a
broad valley, and with partly clouds over the area, it
look out of this world. Unfortunately, it does not work
on photo - and I have 25 to prove it.
The almost endless gravelroad are surprisingly dense
populated. Along most of the road, the fields are
farmed, although in small patches. An old bus is
bringing the last ones home - and gathering those on
their way out again.
My plan was to find a lodge close to the dam, and spend
the night there, eating some good food. I have some
notes about one close to, and another 20 kilometres
from, and I hoped there would be more. It might be
caused by the "back-door" entrance to the area I took,
but I fail to see a single opportunity.
The GPS, on the other hand, leads me directly to the dam
- via coordinates I found on aerial photos from Google.
Here, several other groups of white have camped under
the supervision of a black 4G security man. Here are
toilets and a shower, so why look further?
I start with the shower, and only afterwards figure,
there might be a water heater? Then some real basic
cooking: Almost boiled rice with butter beans and sweet
Soya. It is surprisingly tasty!
I bring up the extra
sleeping bag, just in case. Then it start to be a bit
cold, and I retire to the car to work. Here, it actually
get pretty warm. One more day with 300+ photos - will I
ever learn!!!! The computer runs out of power at eight,
but I still got a bit energy left, and hook it up with
the car. I might have to jumpstart the car with the
fritz battery in the morning - if there is anything left
on that? At ten, I'm kind of finish. The rest of the camp
is surprisingly quiet, considering it is mainly young
and Friday evening. Well, we are only eight here,
along with the security guard.
The Lesotho adventure continues in