October 1, 2006

LesothoWe had a long day of driving scheduled for today, so we were up at about 6:30 am to pack, with breakfast at 7 am. By 8:30 am the trucks were packed and we were on our way. Paul was still feeling unwell so he sat in the front seat the whole day. First we headed back to the main road from Malealea and went almost all the way to Maseru, where we stopped to fill the trucks with diesel. Then we turned away before entering Maseru and went up the Roma road, turning east before we reached Roma and starting to climb uphill towards Thaba Tseka.

At first the road was paved, but later the paving disappeared and the roads were dirt. We wound up hills and along ridges and down into valleys, over and over. Each time we went through a village the small children would run out to the road with their hands out asking for treats or money. None of them waved at us. We were rather disgusted with this behaviour. And we passed a boy trying to sell us crystals from the side of the road; he jumped out in front of the truck so that Charl had to swerve to miss him, then he threw a rock at the truck and cracked the back window quite severely.

About 1:30 pm we stopped for lunch atop a ridge, and a Lammergeier (Bearded Vulture) flew over. Then we carried on as before. We went down to the Orange River, or the Senqu as it’s called in Lesotho. Then we climbed up again, and down to another river. At this point Craig realized we had missed a turn, so we back-tracked for the best part of an hour. Up and down we went; the scenery was wonderful but there was far too much of it.

After another missed turn, this one being caught almost immediately, the sun set, and it got dark, and on we drove. One final 3200-metre pass and then down into Sani Pass and the Sani Top Chalet, finally arriving at 7:45 pm. The plan was for us to have dinner first, so we waited at the lodge while they organized it. The dinner was chicken, shepherd’s pie, and gem squash, but it was preceded by celery and leek soup that didn’t sit well in Paul’s stomach.

Our group was too large for the main chalet, so they put us up in the “backpackers’ accommodation”, which for some reason is nearly 400 metres away down a rocky track that is far worse than any public road in Lesotho. Sleeping rooms were in one building, and a sort of kitchen/bathroom facility was in an adjacent building that could have been an aircraft hangar in the days of the DC-3. It was very unwelcoming in the cold, windy weather we were experiencing.

Paul had gone over there first to lie down, and he had picked one of the two-person rooms. Apparently it had been some kind of storage room in its earlier life, so when Rosemary arrived she used a blanket as an improvised curtain and we both went to bed.

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