Lesotho Day Tripping
Sometimes in the mad rush and stress of my working life, I get the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary. I was asked to make a day trip to a customer based in Maseru, Lesotho. Amid the angst of work related issues I was just a teeny bit excited to see part of South Africa that I’d never seen before as it involved a passport and crossing the border into the Lesotho mountains.
I’m not sure what I expected exactly although I did have a picture in my head of snowy capped mountains. That may seem ridiculous to you as this is Africa, but it does snow here and there had been snow on the Drakensburg mountains as recently as the week before my trip.
The reality was completely different. To start at the beginning, this trip involved a 3:00am wake up call to be at King Shaka International Airport in Durban by 5:00am to make my 6:30am flight to Bloemfontein. The twin engine plane was so small there was only one seat down the one side and twin seats down the other with baggage compartments only on one side. This made for a rather cramped flight, although the pilot was excellent and so the flight was smooth and easy.
Landing in Bloemfontein about an hour later, I then had an estimated 1hr25min road trip from Bloemfontein to Maputo. Renting a car for the day was easy and after making sure I had my letter to take the car across the border I was all set to begin…I did make a stop for chocolate and chips. Padkos is mandatory on any car trip longer than 30 minutes.
Nowadays with GPS and apps like WAZE, there is no reason to get lost going anywhere as long as you have cellular service right? So heading off into the wide blue open spaces of the Orange Free State I felt quite confident I’d find my way.
Munching on chocolate and listening to a mix of my favourite metal bands, I headed down the highway (N8) looking for adventure (if you get that reference then you get some brownie points).
Once on the highway I realised this may take longer than I thought…Roadworks ahead! A one lane road almost 60% of the way. Filled with busses and construction vehicles and bakkies so old they were held together with rust, the road took it’s toll. By the end of the construction and after the last stop and go, my legs were sorely in need of stretching.
I pulled over into a picnic viewing site and decided to take some pictures. The landscape was flat and dry and the heat oppressive as I got out my car. The images are starkly African though and although I was still in South Africa, you could see the mountain range in the distance…no snow.
It was another 30min before reaching the Lesotho border post. After being warned about taking cash with to offer as bribes to those manning the border post, I was a bit concerned about what to expect. This is a usual practice in Africa when crossing borders. I had no cash on me as I decided to be positive and believe that this would not be necessary. Maybe I’m just naïve.
There was a short wait at the bridge, not sure where to go I just followed the car in front of me…A Toyota model I’d never seen before. Once at the window I presented my passport and offered my border letter for the hired car…the confused look on the man’s face made me feel like I needed to explain myself so I launched into a detailed explanation that the letter was for the car to prove I wasn’t trying to get a stolen vehicle across the border…his response? “I’m not the police ma’am”. Alrighty then.
After paying my R30 toll fee and with a new stamp in my passport, I made it over the border into Lesotho (no bribes required!).
Straight over the bridge and you’re in Maseru. Nothing but dust and traffic circles. With mansions being built next to what appears to be development housing and a few upscale townhouse complexes, the mishmash of building sites covered in rubble and lack of vegetation presents an overall effect of chaos. With donkey carts and cows stopping in the road, and what appears to be a 40km an hour speed limit, I felt like I was in another world, not just 5 minutes from the South African border.
On my return through the border there was no check on the South African side and I managed to go through without a re-entry stamp in my passport. I’m not sure how that works. Clearly I had the right number plate or they liked my smile.
The trip back to Bloemfontein seemed longer and more tiring but I think that is the way with most trips. Just over the border I struggled to get my music going again and after a 10 minute stop to figure out why my sound was on mute and restarting my iPhone a few times I realised I had turned down the volume on the player at the border post…I blame it on the heat and dust.
Finally, with my tunes loudly keeping me company and sane on my return through the same stop and go’s, construction vehicle nightmare and interesting driver tactics, I made it back in one piece to the airport.
As the twin engine plane once again took off into the setting African sun on my way home to Durban, I was relieved to have ticked off this little spot on my list of places I’ve visited. It may not be the most glamorous or prettiest spot, but it is uniquely African.
Posted on 18/11/2015, in Local Tourist, Rainbow Life, Uncategorized and tagged Adventure, Africa, Bloemfontein, daytripping, heatwave, Lesotho, Maputo, mountains, passport, solo. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.