Sometimes it snows in April…in South Africa

Last weekend we traveled high into the mountains over the Sani Pass and into the nation of Lesotho (“Leh-SOO-too”).  It is funny to see this country on a map – it looks like an island surrounded entirely by South Africa. You can find the Sani Pass in the lower left quadrant of the map at the top of our blog.

When we drove out of Pietermaritzburg it was a rainy and dreary afternoon.  By the time we arrived at our backpacker hostel located at the base of the pass, the skies were clearing to reveal snow covered mountains!

IMG_6814

How lucky we felt getting to see the first snow of the year!  The excitement seemed to be shared by all – staff at the hostel, drivers, guides, and of course the other guests.  We found ourselves in the company of people from France, England, Switzerland, South Africa, and Canada.  There were also more Americans than we’ve encountered all year, including three Peace Corps volunteers serving in Swaziland.  I’ve written about it before, that these backpacker hostels are an inspiring place to stay.  I love that the kids get exposed to people from all over the world, people traveling on a budget and often serving the local community.  When we asked a British fellow about the challenges he’s found as a rural doctor in S.A. he said, “No running water.”  What one loses in privacy at these hostels is more than made up for in meaningful conversations!  Here are Scott and Elsa Ruth enjoying a cozy read by the fire in the common room.

IMG_6816

We appreciated the hot water bottles to keep us toasty in our bunks.  The bird bath had even frozen overnight.

IMG_7071

IMG_6820

We headed out in a convoy of three 4x4s carrying other day trippers. The road conditions are rugged causing considerable wear and tear on the vehicles. One from our convoy broke down before we even started our ascent! As it was the perfect day, no one complained about the wait for the replacement vehicle as we all admired the stunning Mkomazana Valley.

IMG_6823

IMG_6825

IMG_6835

IMG_6838

The South African border post is located at the bottom of the road.  Gotta get those passports stamped!

IMG_6841

Underway, we began to the climb the pass which rises to 9,400 feet.  On account of the perfect weather, there was some other traffic – two cyclists, some motorbikes, and a couple dozen 4x4s.  “Ascending traffic gets priority,” our guide told us, though I’m not really sure what that means when it’s mostly one lane wide!  Several descending drivers were not aware of that protocol and we passed within inches. We also encountered the “Lesotho Special,” which is the once-a-day public transport vehicle that goes between the two countries.  I asked the South African woman in our car about it.  She had taken it several times and told about how it is packed full of people, all silent, “saying their own prayers,” as they travel along the 27 hair pin turns.

IMG_6877

IMG_7004

IMG_6849

Arriving at the top we checked in at the Lesotho border post with our guide.

IMG_6884

The road from here is beautifully tarred and snakes across a rolling plateau.

IMG_6965

Traffic is almost non-existent, except for periodic herds of sheep and their shepherds.

IMG_6901

IMG_6917

IMG_6926

We stopped for lunch in view of the highest peak in Southern Africa (one of the not-very-impressive peaks in the top of this next photo).

IMG_6955

I must say we were more enthused about finding a little snow still left on the ground!

IMG_6943

IMG_6944

IMG_6946

Part of our tour included visiting a village.  Our guide explained that most people leave the high plateau in the wintertime.  This woman receives income from welcoming visitors to her home and talking with them about the culture of Basotho people.

IMG_6977

Their homes are circular with very thick walls of stone and sealed with mud on the inside.  We learned that the most important value Basotho people teach their children is to respect their elders.  We tried the sorghum “beer” and the bread baked on coals in this heavy pot.

IMG_6973

Traditional clothing is changing but once included this style of hat and heavy, colorful, wool blankets.

IMG_6971

IMG_6979

Time to descend.  We all agreed it was a little more nerve-wracking on the way down!

IMG_6997

Here’s one of our companions who was even more excited than we were to have a picture taken by a frozen waterfall!

IMG_7011

Looks like we’re going to make it!

IMG_7015

That evening we were treated to a sunset that rivaled North Dakota’s.

IMG_7063

Monday was the day off for the previous day’s holiday on May 1st, “Workers’ Day.”  As the children had no school we enjoyed a gorgeous autumn hike in the lowlands.

IMG_7079

IMG_7081

IMG_6828

IMG_7084

IMG_7088

IMG_7102

And when we found a waterfall from an icy stream coming right out of those snowy mountains, Simon surprised us with this!

IMG_7131

IMG_7152

IMG_7160

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “Sometimes it snows in April…in South Africa

  1. Dear Amy, What an amazing trip! I agree with you about how terrific it is to stay in hostels especially with the opportunity to meet people from around the world. It seems that it will take years to fully absorb all the wonders of this year! Hugs,

    Kristen

    Please forgive iPad brevity!

    >

    Like

  2. Hi all What a great adventure to Lesotho!. I learned so much. Great pictures and information. Keep it coming Grandma Nancy

    On Thu, May 5, 2016 at 3:15 AM, sevennorthdakotas wrote:

    > sevennorthdakotas posted: “Last weekend we traveled high into the > mountains over the Sani Pass and into the nation of Lesotho > (“Leh-SOO-too”). It is funny to see this country on a map – it looks like > an island surrounded entirely by South Africa. You can find the Sani Pass > in the ” >

    Like

  3. we’ve been thinking of you and your travels back to Fargo…readjusting to these united states, getting settled back into your home, catching up (in person) with family and friends, and heading back to schools! so much happening in your transition — how are you all???

    thank you for your blog, which loved so much and want to copy for our next trip to Costa Rica. maybe we could skype sometime to hear and see you. we have been doing lots of dome improvement projects as well as contract (G) and volunteer (n) projects. good stuff : )

    sending you all hugs and love…and would love to connect some where in the world! n

    *If you want to walk fast, walk alone.If you want to walk far, walk together. African Proverb*

    Nancy B Potter, MS 607-591-5811

    On Thu, May 5, 2016 at 4:15 AM, sevennorthdakotas wrote:

    > sevennorthdakotas posted: “Last weekend we traveled high into the > mountains over the Sani Pass and into the nation of Lesotho > (“Leh-SOO-too”). It is funny to see this country on a map – it looks like > an island surrounded entirely by South Africa. You can find the Sani Pass > in the ” >

    Like

We welcome your public comments to our blog:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s