Fully rested and (mostly) recovered from our baboon encounter of the previous day, we prepared for the drive to Lesotho. We were touring with Intreprid Travel, an Australian company that specializes in small group tours that “get off the beaten path”. Our tour leader, Emma, and driver, Alfred, were simply amazing. Their extensive knowledge of South Africa, careful planning, and concern for our safety and comfort could not be surpassed. We were traveling in the 12-passenger bus shown here – our home away from home for nearly two weeks.
The baboons were there to see us off. We said goodbye to Cavern Resort and began our trip to the border crossing at Maseru, Lesotho.
We passed through Golden Gate Highlands National Park on our way to Lesotho. Named for the eroded sandstone cliffs which take on a deep golden hue at sunset, the Park offered picturesque views of sandstone formations and wildlife. While I wasn’t able to capture a photo, we saw Secretarybirds soaring above and at least one standing in tall grass. Amazing!
We were greeted by a chaotic scene at the border crossing, but things actually went quite smoothly. After several minutes on line, we were stamped out of South Africa and had walked approximately 20 meters to Lesotho. We filled out forms, stood on line, and then delivered the forms to officials who barely glanced at us as they stamped our passports. A quick vehicle inspection and we were in Lesotho.
Our destination, the Malealea Lodge, was accessible through the “Gateway of Paradise” pass. Named by Mervyn Smith, who founded the Malealea trading post in the early 1900’s, the pass offered a breathtaking view of our route.
The Gateway of Paradise Pass in early afternoon light was a sight to behold. This pass was at the beginning of 7 kilometers of, shall we say, some of the most challenging roadway we were to experience on the entire trip.
The road to Malealea was little more than a muddy pathway hugging the hillside. Alfred did a masterful job simply keeping our bus on the road. It was slow traveling from here.
Before we continued on our trip, we found ourselves surrounded by children. I have no idea where they came from, but they appeared in an instant from all directions. Some of them simply smiled and waved, but most shouted “Give Me Sweets!”, in nearly perfect English, for the entire time we were stopped.
After a long day on the road, we finally arrived at Malealea Lodge. This was our private lodge – a Rondavel en-suite built to resemble a traditional Basotho dwelling.
Our thatch-roofed Rondavel was rustic but comfortable, offering all the comforts of home. We tossed our bags inside and headed off for dinner of mutton, vegetables, and papa, a Lesotho staple made by boiling corn meal until it becomes thick.
After dinner we sat around an open fire and talked into the night. Our trip leader, Emma, outlined the various activities offered by the Lodge as well as opportunities to explore the village of Malealea and interact with people who lived there. A generator was used to provide electricity to the Lodge and, because of the high cost of fuel, it was turned off promptly at 10PM. In total darkness, we settled in for the night.