October 2, 2006

LesothoThe day dawned reasonably clear, and we trekked over to the main lodge for breakfast at 7:30 am. They had something that looked like what we would call Cream of Wheat, and Rosemary had two bowls of that.

There were two hikes that were on the schedule today. Rosemary opted for the long hike, to the summit of Thabana Ntlenyana (which is the highest mountain in Southern Africa, at 3284 metres above sea level). Also in that group were Brenda, Heather, Beckie, Ben, Gary, and Sean, led by a Basotho guide named Mato. The other option was Hodgson’s Peak, which was a shorter hike, but Paul chose the third option, which was to sit and rest at the lodge with Kim (blisters) and Sally (stomach bug).

Outside the chalet the wind was blowing strongly and there was cloud below the pass. There was a small patch of ground that attracted a lot of birds, mostly Cape Sparrows. Paul sipped on oral rehydration salts throughout the day.

Craig drove the Thabana Ntlenyana group over to the start of the trail, where the wind was really blowing hard and the temperature was not very warm. The trail started out by going up quite quickly, then after a while it levelled out and side-hilled around a knoll and through a pass. Basically that was the way the trail went for most of the morning. The views were good despite the threatening clouds. At one point it started to snow, but that didn’t last very long. Rosemary had some difficulty keeping up with the group on the uphills, but they were good at waiting.

After a while the trail began to go fairly steeply downhill, and it was clear that it would then go back up the other side of the gully. Sean checked the elevation on his multipurpose watch and determined that there was 400 metres to climb to the peak.

The wind on the summit was really strong. As Rosemary passed the camera to Ben the wind blew her over into a sitting position. They had lunch on the summit, but Rosemary could only drink her juice box and finish off her chocolate bar because of the effects of the altitude. Sean measured the temperature at the top, and it was only 5° Celsius—not including the wind chill!

Shortly after noon the Hodgson’s Peak group returned to the lodge with surprising news: Neil had proposed to Christine on the summit. They had met several years earlier on an Explore trip, and had enjoyed each other’s company so well that they had been on several other Explore trips together. Rosemary’s group got back about 4 pm, after which she had hot chocolate to try to get warm again and then went over to the sleeping place to change.

Later at the lodge, we went into the little curio shop and looked through the collection of woven wall hangings. We sorted them into piles that we liked and didn’t like, and once we had worked our way through the whole collection we narrowed down the “like” pile until we had settled on one hanging that we bought. We also bought a poster depicting wild flowers of Lesotho.

We were eventually called to dinner at about 7:30 pm. It started with the same celery and leek soup as yesterday, then the main course was beef stew with gem squash, roast potatoes, and green peas, and dessert was apple crisp with custard sauce. Tonight Paul managed to eat a whole bowl of the soup, and some of the main course, which was an improvement over yesterday.

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