Travelblog - short English version of our blog "Afrika ruft - Reiseblog"
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English Version: Zambia
Thursday, September, 28th 2017 – October, 27th 2017
After 2 exciting months in Namibia we cross the border to Zamibia at Wenela in Katima Mulilo. The Namibian side takes us about 10 minutes, yet the Zambian side is a bit more complicated. You have to pass various official desks, pay entry fees, taxes, road fees, for the visa, etc. in both Kwacha and US$. After some time we are being granted a stay for 30 days and we are on the road.
Our first stop is at Ngyonye Falls, where the Zambesi has to overcome rocks that are about 20metres high. A small National Park offers some information on the history of the falls. What a pity that we can’t take a refreshing swim in the Zambesi, at this is „only for those who are friendly with the crocodiles“. A small campground nearby is our first overnight spot and we experience Zambian hospitality at its best.
Along the road to Mongu we pass many little villages, almost each one has a school for the great number of children that are running around. It is there where we meet men in masks, and as one of the organizers invites us to the Cheke Festival (=Festival of Light) in Limalungo, we decide to attend it.
The park of a Catholic Mission in Limalungo is our place for the following nights and offers refuge from the loud, busy, impressive and exciting festival that we experience. Just look at the pictures – they tell more than 1000 words!
Full with the sound of drums and the blessings of the friendly people at the mission we venture to cross the so – called Luena Flats. This is the area near to the Zambesi River that gets completely flooded in the rainy season and can therefore only be used for farming in the dry season. This is also the time when it can be crossed by vehicle on certain pads that lead to the many settlements in the Flats. Most of them are only inhabitated periodically and have to be left when the rain comes. It’s a bit of a challenge to cross the Flats, as there are still some swampy parts that are too deep for Cappuccino. Yet, a young couple that we take with us (they have to walk 7 hours to see their relatives) guide us through the complex system of paths and pads and they know exactly which ones are safe. We stop at a little village right at the Zambesi for the night and have to learn that this is a country where you’ll never be alone. Children with hungry eyes and stomachs „conquer“ our site and we think of Gerhard’s words that he quoted from his time as an Aid Worker in Zambia: „If you can’t eat your piece of bread next to a hungry child, don’t go to Africa!“.
Via Lukulu, a little village where we buy some bottled water and get some fuel, we reach the Watopa Ferry that takes us across the Kabompo River. From there we get to Chitokoloki, where the Mission „Christian Missions in Many Lands“ has been running a hospital for almost 100 years. They have won an excellent reputation across Zamibia. It’s amazing what they are doing here in this remote spot of Zambia! We are invited to park Cappuccino within the Mission’s area, are invited to dinner and can even swim in their swimming pool. What a treat at 40°C!
About 60km North we cross Chinyingi Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in Africa. It’s rightly called „Swinging Bridge“ as the 200m walk across the Zambesi is not for the faint hearted!
At Chavuma, the last settlement before the Angolian border and „the most remote spot in the (former) British Empire“(quote former British govenor) we again meet Christian missionaries by chance and experience their hospitality.
Our next destination is Manyinga. We’d like to attend the Lukwaka Festival there, which celebrates the tradition of how the tribe plus their chief were kept safe in times if war. We are again heartily welcome by the Senior Chief and invited as his official international guests. This means we can park next to the „palace“ and are looked after by the officials. Again we are wrapped in the sounds of the drums, the colours, the dances and the smiles and friendliness of the people.
After having been exposed to all sorts of music, sounds and dances for almost 3 days, we decide to seek some peace and quietness. We leave the Western Provinces and head for the Copper Belt. Approximately 60 km south of Kitwe, the Nsobe Game Camp and Farm offers a recreational area at a lake with self-catering lodges, a campsite and a restaurant. The farm is situated in a huge area of woodland with some game, which we enjoy during a game-drive on our bikes.
After a few days of rest we are on the road again. We take the “Great North Road” down to Lusaka. We are not used to the amount of traffic anymore, and it's especially the lorries which worry us. Some are in extremely bad conditions, and we see a lot of broken down cars and accidents on our way.
We experience Lusaka as a very controversial city: poor, loud, dirty, chaotic on the one hand and clean, chic, rich, very Western + Chinese on the other. We only buy a few essentials and are on the road again.
The “Great East Road” follows wooden hills, mountains and riverbeds along the border to Mozambique and the South Zambesi Park. From Petauke we take a pad to Mfuwe, the entrance to South Luangwa National Park. On the way there we are shocked by the amount of devastated forests we pass. We hear that this area has only just been opened for settlements and these poor villages have only just been built. Lots of children crying for sweeties approach our car, which has never happened before.
The Wildlife Camp outside the park is the perfect base for exploring the park. It is situated right at the riverbank of the Luangwa. Hippos, elefants and monkeys visit the camp regularly. The Park itself is beautiful. Woodland, riverbeds, open spaces with a lot of game and also overgrown bush areas – we experience all of this on real 4x4 trails. Elefants, buffaloes, zebras, wonderfully coloured birds, but especially hippos and crocodiles on the riverbanks are fascinating. It's definitely one of the best parks we've ever been to. It's only the costs that we find too high: 1 day in the park costs us 90 US $. Obviously the authorities know what treasure they have here, yet they don't do much to preserve it – apart from asking money from visitors. At least this is our impression.
After a few days of rest we are on the road again, heading back to the Great East Road. The pad leads us to Msoro, an old Anglican Mission Station that still runs a cathedral, a hospital and a school. Yet, there seems a terrible lack of money, as the conditions in the hospital are very poor, the cathedral's windows are broken and the lack of money is apparent at every corner. Nevertheless we meet very a friendly and optimistic staff. We are deeply impressed.
After an afternoon and over-night stay in a little village on the way, where we experience pure village life and great hospitality, the Great East Road takes us to the path that leads to one of the gates of the Lower Zambesi National Park. A friendly guard, who seems to be happy about having some company at this lonely place, offers us to stay overnight right at the gate. The next morning we again pay a lot (75US$ for the day) and are off. An incredibly bad road awaits us, yet it is the only way to get to the Zambesi Valley and to the West Gate, which we have to reach before 18:00. We climb steep hills on a track that is partly only a single track, we dive down into “jungle” valleys and cross dry river beds on broken bridges or over bumpy stones. After 4 hours we finally see the Zambezi on the haze and finally the track and the landscape change. We enter an almost paradise-like scenery: high trees, lagoons, green lush patches along the river. This is where all the animals are: a huge number of elefants, zebras, all sorts of deer, warthogs, waterbirds and hippos in the water. We are completely alone among all these animals and enjoy their company. After a few hours we take the “main road” out of the park, which is again a rather bumpy pad. We have to wake the disinterested guard at the gate, who doesn't seem to be too busy at all. After another 2 hours , just before the sun sets, we finally settle at Gwabi River Lodge, which is perfectly situated at the banks of the river Kafue, just 6 km away from the confluence Kafue – Zambesi. A river cruise and the company of a Swiss couple, who travel also in a Bremach, are the treats for the following days.
Relaxed and keen on new experiences we set out to see Lake Kariba, one of the greatest man-made lakes in Africa. In the “harbour” of a small fishing village we find a beautiful spot under a tree, and we get permission from the headman to stay. Fishing is still done in a very “old-fashioned” way here. Again we are welcome among the very friendly village people and learn a lot about their way of life.
Our last destination in Zambia is Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. Although there is not too much water now at the end of the dry season, we are impressed by the size and height of the falls.
After 4 weeks in Zambia we have to leave the country, as our permit is running out. We are very grateful having had the chance to travel here. We met so many friendly people, who expressed their true joy when we told them that we were really interested in how they live and what worries them and not only in the expensive beauty spots. We travelled trough marvellous landscapes and saw a lot of animals in paradise-like surroundings.
We only hope that the great number of young people (60% are under 20 years!) will find a way out of poverty into a better future.
Friday, October 27th – Thursday, November 23th
The ferry boat at Kazungula carries us to Botsuana. It takes us about 50 minutes to get a permit of stay for 3 months and to pay all necessary entry fees. In the first few days we'd like to explore the North, which seems to consist only of national parks. Yet first, at Senyati Safari Camp we experience wildlife at its best: the camp has its own hide out and waterhole, and we see about 100 elefants within 2 hours walking past almost our noses. What a sensation!
Finally we decide to skip Chobe Nationalpark, as there are strict regulations for tourists driving their own cars, which makes a visit not very interesting. Chobe is well known for its elefants and hippos, animals which we have already seen in spectacular scenery (and without too many regulations) in Zambia. So we head for Linyanti Gate hoping to be able to pass the 7km through the park to the cutline without having to pay. On our way there we stop at a waterhole in the middle of nowhere and are again rewarded with visits of elefants all night long.
At Linyanti we are told that we have to pay full park entry fees, no matter where we go. So we decide to take the pad through the park to Savuti and to leave the park via Mababe Gate. The pad is very sandy and tiring, we hardly see any animals. On our way to the South, which takes us about 5 hours, we meet one more camping car and a few gamedrive cars from various lodges. Where are they all? We were told that all camps are “fully booked”, yet we only see empty pits...
Outside the park a family of 7 giraffes greets us and we meet many elefants enjoying their evening meal.
Along the River Khwai we find quite a few empty and run-down small camps, although they are located in beauty spots, the scenery is more than beautiful and wildlife excellent. We are told that many concessions have been sold to private companies and wonder if there could be a connection? Botsuana's strategy in tourism is to encourage high–end tourists, who are willing to pay up to 1600,00$ per night per person in one of the luxury lodges. “Tourists must leave a lot of money in our country – you have to go to a campsite! ” - this is what a strict lady tells us who finds us camping somewhere at the river. This explains why we've met so few individual travellers here. Strict regulations, high entrance fees, a complicated reservation system, authoritarian staff – all this makes travelling rather difficult and excludes people like us, who are not only interested in animals and nature, but also in close contact with the locals. It also excludes the locals, as the villagers don't profit from tourists that are carried in cars to expensive lodges and don't stop at their small camps or don't buy anything in their small village shops.
Well, we'll have to come to terms with all this.
In Maun, the center of the Okawango Delta, we find a good place at a campsite of a local hotel. This is where we meet travellers from Switzerland. Together we decide to spend a few days in the Moremi Game Reserve, which is one of the few areas that can be visited by car and which is described as very beautiful. And this is really true. We cruise through a landscape changing between pans, grassland, woodland and lagoons and we see many different animals, especially giraffes, buffaloes, gnus, waterbirds. We are very impressed by 2 lionesses observing zebras and who finally try to hunt one. Yet they are not successful and the zebras escape in a cloud of dust.
In our camp the full moon rises over the yellow grassland while we are enjoying a tasty braai.
Our next destination is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of the largest National Parks in the world and home to the famous Kalahari lions. Originally this area was meant to guarantee the San People a place where they could live according to their traditions, but more and more tourists are attracted by the unique landscape and animals and diamonds were found in the Southern area. This is why the government tries to encourage the San to settle elsewhere – without success till now.
With a Swiss couple we spend 2 wonderful days in the park. On our gamedrives we see all sorts of game, but no lions. We experience a tremendous thunderstorm with heavy rainfalls during our first night in the camp and are happy to have Cappuccino as our dry and safe home. The rain changes the colours of the pans from yellow and grey into light green – a wonderful transformation!
We say good-bye to our Swiss friends and head for the Makgadikgadi Pans, huge salt plains North of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
In Rakops we meet John, who invites us to stay with him in his garden at the Boteti River, as he loves having travellers around. He is a missionary, founder of a pre – school for orphans (HIV is everywhere!) and a perfect partner to discuss politics in a country that is seen as truly democratic, yet has still very powerful chiefs and wants to lead their people into the 21st century as quickly as possible. In long discussions we find answers to some of the questions we have been asking ourselves while travelling through this impressive country. We learn, for example, that Botsuana is desperately trying to meet „Western Standards“ in everything, which leads to many complicated regulations for small businesses. John had to close his bakery that had been making bread for his pre-school and the village people, as he couldn’t meet the standards that where imposed on him. Now the kids have to go without bread and in the village 5 people lost their jobs. And this is only one of many examples we hear. We admire the patience and endurance of such people like John, who don’t give up and follow their missions.
We finally reach Lebkhubu Island in the Makgadikgadi Pans, a small rocky “island” in the middle of huge salt pans. We camp under huge African Chestnut Trees and enjoy the impressive view over the flat, white and yellow pans. The sun sets in an orange – red – pink lightshow and later lightning in the distance creates an almost unrealistic sky.
On our way back to civilisation we spend a day in the middle of nowhere, right on the pans and are rewarded with very impressive colours in the sky. The way out leads over “muddy islands”, which are already a bit wet from rain during the night, but Cappuccino manages every challenge bravely.
After a few relaxing days at the Sedia Hotel Campground in Maun we are on our way to D’Kar, a small San village near Ghanzi. At D’Kar the Dutch Church, now supported by the government of Botswana, has been running community projects with the locals focussing on education and on improving their financial situation. One of the projects is a lodge plus campsite, the DqaeQareSanLodge, which is run by San people. This is where we spend 2 wonderful days, enjoying the animals that we see at the waterhole on the game farm and the swimming pool at the lodge (which is a real treat at 43°C!). We also visit the Kuru Arts Project, where San artists are invited to produce their pieces of art and exhibit them in an adjacent gallery.
In our final few days in Botswana we’d like a feel the Kalahari once more. We travel South towards the region north of the North Gate of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Nationalpark, to an area outside the park, but especially beautiful and remote. This is absolutely true, as we find an almost parklike landscape, with grassy flats, woodland and only a few shrubs that scratch Cappuccino. Pans interrupt the rolling dunes that are made of yellow or red sand. Wonderful! We only see a few shy animals (Oryx, ostrich, deer), but we don’t mind.
Yet, we are a bit disappointed as even here, in this remote area, we are asked to pay just for using the sandy paths or for camping outside. Not even the transit route to the North Gate of the National Park can be used for free. This policy might be the reason that nobody visits this area, although it is especially beautiful. We camp beneath huge old trees, enjoy the pans and the plains without meeting one single person. This is where a “true Africa feeling” emerges in our hearts.
After 3 lonely days of tender morning light over light – green areas that look as if a landscape gardener has designed them, and of overwhelming sunsets that colour the sky red – orange – lilac – greyish blue, we return into civilisation.
We cross the border at Mamuno, say good – bye to Botswana and re- enter Namibia.
Back in Namibia
Friday, November 24th 2017 – Saturday, January 6th 2018
Our first night in Namibia we spend at Zelda Guest Farm. The campground resembles a beautiful flower garden and the two tame leopards have an impressive appetite when being fed in the evening.
After a few hours we are in Windhoek again. Here we get in contact with the people we already know and especially with Bente and Hans from Germany, who have been patiently waiting at Walvis Bay for their Toyota to arrive safely from Germany. We meet at Henties Bay and spend wonderful days in the Damara region. We travel the Omaruru Riverbed Trail once more, enjoy the sunset at Brandberg, elephants in the Ugab Riverbed and venture a rather bumpy and adventurous trail to the Rhino Trust Camp. We cross a stony plain and enter “Desolation Valley” (I couldn’t find out why a beautiful green valley has such a name 😊). There we find traces of the black rhino, yet we do not see one. We all enjoy the beautiful riverbed, where we meet elephants once more. Suddenly we hear a metallic click and one of our spring leaves is broken. Hans and Martin fix it so that we reach the next village. As there is no garage we drive on to Khorixas, very carefully, of course. There a friendly crew at a garage fixes the leave so that we can move on to Windhoek. It takes quite a lot of phone calls and tries at various garages till we find a place that will replace and fix everything before Christmas. Till then we have to be patient and wait a few days. We hope that our Christmas present will be new spring leaves and a Cappuccino that can master river beds and 4x4 trails again. These few days we enjoy browsing through the shops that offer outdoor equipment, camping stuff and sports items in Windhoek.
Bente and Hans finally leave for the North again, as they want to get to Etosha and Epupa before the South African Christmas holidays start, which would mean “fully booked” campsites. Martin and I treat ourselves with a few days of mountain biking at “Farm Windhoek”, where we find a great number of wonderful trails. After so many days of sitting in the car we thoroughly enjoy this exercise.
After almost a week in Windhoek we finally leave -with new spring leaves - for Lake Oanob, where Namibian friends invited us to a party in their holiday resort. We thoroughly enjoy these few days at the lake with water skiing, swimming and good food.
Refreshed we meet Bente&Hans again and travel via Gamsbergpass and Kuiseb Canyon to our Christmas destination, Farm Hauchabfontein. In the shade of huge Akacia trees we celebrate Christmas. The special treat of this place are the cool waterpools of the Tsauchab River.
On our way South we stop at Sesriem and are impressed by the famous dunes of Sossusvlei and the picturesque Dead Vlei. The National Park Campground is extremely hot, and we feel almost like in a bakery 😊.
The road takes us further through the Tiras Mountains, a region with colourful dunes, plains and rocks. We are deeply impressed, yet fences prevent tourists from staying longer in this area. Lonesome farms offer a few pitches for campers, but we are informed that only pre – booked guests are welcome. What a pity!
After the enormous heat of the mountain desert we finally reach Luderitz. The fog and the cool wind from the Atlantic Ocean is wonderful, and we love the seafood restaurants and little cafés. A tour through Kolmanskop, the former diamond city, takes us back to the 19th century. The houses still render the atmosphere of that time, although little sandy dunes fill sitting rooms and kitchens.
We would have liked to spend New Year’s Eve at “Singing Rocks”, a formation of rocks that was formerly used as instruments. But a locked farm gate blocks our way, and so we stay in a river bed, try to protect ourselves against the strong wind. We keep the fire going till long after midnight.
Lake Naute is the perfect place for a swim – at 48° C a real treat. Afterwards we move on to Fish River Canyon, one of the largest canyons in the world. The Fish River has worked its way into the mountain desert over millions of years and we look down into geological history. As the Fish River is dry, we proceed to the Oranje, the river that marks the border to South Africa and that has permanently water. Here, in the Ai-Ais/Richtersfeld Transfontier National Park we spend our last few days in Namiba. We look for places at the river bank where we can swim and so escape the heat.
Here we also find time to prepare ourselves for our next destination: the Republic of South Africa.
Our last destination on our journey: The Republic of South Africa
Sunday, January 7th 2018 – February 14th 2018
The small ferry takes us from Namibia to Sandlingsdrif, the border post in South Africa. The border police are more interested in our cars than in us and, after granting us a stay for 90 days, inform us that we should leave them our cars as they would need them: Bente and Hans’ car for work, Cappuccino for holiday trips. We all laugh a lot –what a good way of starting to explore a new country!
We say good-bye to Bente and Hans, as they want to reach the coast as quickly as possible – crayfish is what they are longing for. Martin and I want to spend a few days in the Richtersveld Park, as it is home to the world’s largest variety of succulent plants and an impressive mountain desert. A rather heavy 4x4 trail takes us back to the Oranje River, now on the RSA side, where we find a beautiful spot at the river at an official campground. Some challenging pads lead us through the mountains and in gorges, and we really enjoy this beautiful scenery. It is not until Springbok that we get back to civilization where we can purchase a SIM Card, get money and can do some shopping.
After all that sand, heat and wind we also want to breathe ocean air. We cross the Namaqua National Park and finally reach the West Coast at Hondeklip Baai. One of the many ship wrecks that stranded here can be visited (all the others can only be visited with a special permit as they are in the diamond region). Like an iron sea – monster the left-overs lie on the beach.
We have to give up our plan to follow the coastline South as most of the pads are in a terrible condition and fences – either from farms or private nature reserves – prevent cars from getting to the coast. So we take a route inland via Vanrhynsdorp and Vredental, and find ourselves in an exclusive wine – region. We follow the coast again from Lamberts Bay to Doringaai and Elandsbaai, from where we finally head towards the Ceder Mountains. We start our “mountain tour” at Traveller’s Rest, a small farm stall where we walk the Sevilla Rock Art Trail. Within a 2 hours’ walk we visit an open air gallery of San paintings, which are partly hidden under huge rocks that have prevented these faint paintings from fading. We are deeply impressed by the artistic quality of these paintings that are up to 5000 years old.
The campground at Sanddrif is the best location for a wonderful mountain bike tour, as it offers natural rock pools to cool down afterwards. We also enjoy a wine tasting at Cederberg Cellar, where we especially go for the light Rosé.
Slowly we have to plan our shipping home. This is why we meet Duncan from African Overlanders at Kraafontain, near Cape Town. He is an experienced agent and will organize a container for Cappuccino to be shipped to Rotterdam on April, 1st. We also book our flights home and now we know that even our long journey will end. Yet, we still have almost 3 months left, which is a luxury!
As we will finish our wonderful journey in Cape Town, we quickly head for the South Coast. Our target is Cap L’Aghulas, the most southern point of Africa and the place where the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean meet. This is where we park our car next to a German Iveco, which belongs to Kerstin and Schorsch, two travellers from Hamburg. Near the beacon and a shipwreck we find an overnight spot and finally decide to travel together for a few days. We follow the coast, although rain and wind make it difficult or us to really admire the beautiful scenery of the famous “garden route”. In Knysna, a posh holiday village, we finally leave the coast north hoping for better weather inland. We are lucky and find at least some sunshine in Baviaanskloof Nature Reserve. In this impressive mountain region we climb up a gorge and enjoy our “canyoning tour” thoroughly.
After a few days together, Kerstin and Schorsch leave for Durban, whereas Martin and I want to explore the Addo Elephant Park. We observe a few elephants playing at a waterhole, but don’t see many animals as they can hide in the thick vegetation that covers the landscape.
As Cappuccino makes noises we can’t identify we drive down to Port Elizabeth, where we are helped in a friendly garage. After 6 months of travelling African pads, Cappuccino needs a bit of attention 😊.
We finally continue our trip along the coast, as the weather is better now. In Kenton on Sea, a lovely holiday village at a beautiful sandy beach, we spend a few days and are heartily welcome by the local people. This hospitality is really heart-warming.
As the weather changes again, we spend the day in East London in the local museums. The Anne Bryant Gallery is a place where young local artists are encouraged to present their works of art. The East London Museum boasts to have a 124 000-year-old human foot print and a fish that was assumed to have been extinct 70 Mio years ago.
Again we have to find a garage, as we are not sure if everything was correctly fixed in Port Elizabeth, and we don’t want to travel fearing a break down. Some further welding is being done at the IVECO garage in East London. Now we hope that everything is okay again.
We cross the Transkei, a former homeland and densely populated. The little houses and huts are painted in various colours, depending which tribe the family belongs to. We enjoy the lively sceneries in the villages and feel “black” Africa again.
In Coffee Bay, at the Wild Coast, we meet again with Bente and Hans, the German couple we celebrated Christmas and New Year with. They were travelling through Lesotho and we are very interested in their experiences, as we want to go there as well. Coffee Bay itself seems a bit run down, and we are rather disappointed as we had expected a flourishing beauty spot. Yet, the bay itself is wonderful and we enjoy not only walks along the beach, but also fresh crayfish and oysters.
Bente and Hans finally head south, whereas Martin and I travel north to Port Edward. We stop at Mhatata, where we are deeply impressed by the Nelson Mandela Museum.
North of Port Edward we are invited to visit the Ithuba Wild Coast Community College. In 2010 Clemens, one of our sons, went there with other students of the Technical University of Graz to plan and start to build this school. Now - 8 years later - more than 300 pupils visit the school and since then various other students have built classrooms for each grade, a kitchen, a staff room and a sports field. As we arrive students from the FH Carinthia are busy building a meeting hall and a building for the administration. We are welcome by one of the heads, Jackie du Toit. We spend almost the whole day at the school and experience a happy atmosphere of learning, laughing and playing. Thanks to the Austrian organisation „s2arch“and „Ithuba Community College” this school can thrive. The head’s aim is to get some funding from the South African government soon, as even local politicians have realised that the quality of education at Ithuba is very good, and they all want their kids to be accepted. This might help a bit 😊.
For more information: www.ithuba.org
Enriched we leave the coast now as we want to get to the “Roof of South Africa”, the Drakensberge. In Underberg we get everything we need for a few days in the mountains. At the campground in the Lotheni Nature Reserve we meet Kerstin and Schorsch again. Together we hike across the grassy fields, climb rocky hills and admire the waterfalls. Martin and I enjoy some mountain biking routes. It’s a pity, but the weather is rather moody, and we never know, if we get home to our “home on wheels” without getting wet.
After a few days Kerstin and Schorsch decide to travel North, following the Drakensberge. Martin and I want to get to Lesotho.
We wait for good weather and finally venture the road up to the Sani Pass, one of the highest passes in Africa (2.874m). Cappuccino climbs the steep path like a mountain goat. When we arrive at the Lesotho border we are welcome by friendly officers, who are very interested in our car. A group of Sotho musicians, clad in rags and animal skin, welcome us in the “Highest Pub in Africa”. This is where the beer tastes especially good.
A perfect tar road (built by the Chinese) awaits us in Lesotho. We cruise over passes and through green valleys, always at a height of about 3.000m. The nights are cold and windy, the mornings usually sunny, yet in the afternoons we experience terrible thunderstorms and lightning. This really is an impressive country!
As the weather forecast promises more rain, we decide to return to South Africa again for a few days. We pass through the stunning landscape of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. At the edge of the Royal Natal National Park, at the Sentinel car park, we meet Kerstin and Schorsch again. We want to hike up to the plateau of the so-called Amphitheater, one of the most impressive mountain ranges in the Drakensberge. And we are lucky! We start our hike at 7 o’clock in the morning in beautiful sunshine and with a perfect view. When we finally reach the iron ladders that take us up to the top of the plateau, fog emerges from the valley. As we arrive at the 2nd highest waterfall of the world, the Thukela Falls (more than 900m), we see the impressive scenery only for seconds. We are very happy to get back to Cappuccino just in time before a terrible thunderstorm starts. On our way out of the mountains we seem to be driving through waterfalls. At least Cappuccino gets a good car wash 😊.
Thursday, February 15th 2018 – Thursday, February 22th 2018
Slowly the weather is getting better and after a few dry nights in Golden Gate Highlands National Park and on a “Ranch” near Clarens, we pass the border to Lesotho again. We are greeted with the words „You’ve kept your promise – you are back! Welcome“ – and we are happy to be back.
Our first destination is the Katse Dam, a huge dam in the centre if Lesotho. On our way there we stop at a small primary school. The teachers and the principal tell us a lot about their work and that they feel “forgotten by the government: we have no electricity, no heating and no kitchen to prepare the meals for the kids”. Yet, the children smile and laugh and the teachers are happy about some small gifts we can give them.
We would have liked to get more information about the Dam, but we are a few minutes late for the official tour at the Visitor’s Center, and no one knows where the CD for the digital presentation is 😊. At least we get some brochures and are told that some of the water is exported to South Africa and some is used to produce electricity for Lesotho. Perhaps they think of the small school just a few kilometres away?
Our route leads over passes as high as 2.600m and higher. This is the “kingdom” of the shepherds with their sheep, cows, donkeys and horses. Like stone figures they stand still on top of the mountains and look down on the world to their feet. In Mantsonyane we are told that the direct route to Semonkong is not possible as the heavy rain has washed away the track. So we stay on the tar road and reach the waterfall Maletsunyane Falls via Roma.
Just like many locals who want to celebrate the weekend, we stop at the viewpoint and enjoy the impressive falls. With 194m it is the 2nd highest waterfall in the whole of South Africa. The sun is shining and casts a beautiful light on the falls. We observe a courageous group of tourists “enjoying” an abseiling – experience next to the falls. The place boasts to be the highest point for abseiling on earth. Well, it’s definitely no place for people who are afraid of heights!
We just walk down into the canyon to get a closer look.
Among the young people enjoying the weekend is also a member of the Royal Family. She tells us a bit about the political situation in Lesotho, which is very interesting for us.
On the 2nd afternoon of our stay a terrible thunderstorm hits the area and on the next morning we know, why Semonkong is translated as “place of smoke” – fog is hiding the falls completely and we can only hear the sound.
Our next destination is the Malealea Lodge, where we want to explore some San paintings on horseback. Even though we both have none or little experience with riding, we really enjoy this trip. Our guide and our horses carry us patiently along meadows and to the edge of a canyon, where we finally walk to the paintings. They are very delicate and almost faint, hidden in caves and under rocks.
We take the track along rivers and through villages to Mohale’s Hoek and to a place called “Reverend Ellenberger’s Cave House”. In the middle of the 19th century Mr. Ellenberger came as a missionary, built a school and a cave house and was not only a successful missionary, but also a capable mediator and political adviser.
We want to leave Lesotho via Ongeluk’s Nek Pass, a border that is not frequently used. A track takes us up to 2000m, where we find an almost paradise like scenery around Letseng-La-Letsie Lake. Horses, sheep, cattle and a few shepherds live here.
The track down to the RSA border post is scenic, yet very steep and rocky. Cappuccino and Martin are a perfect team. Just a few 100m before the border post the track is completely washed away and we have to “build” a new track to be able to pass successfully. The officers at the border post applaud us when we arrive at the gate, as only very few people have entered RSA in the last few weeks here.
We travel on only a few kilometres, as we want to stop at Mariazell, a mission school run by the Marianhiller-Mission, which is also based in
Austria. We are welcome by Father Bernard, who shows around. More than 600 students study and live here, the Highschool is know for its excellency in the whole of RSA. When we are invited to
attend Holy Mass with the students we are deeply moved by the music and the intense singing that fill the church.
Our personal view on Lesotho (10 days)
We really enjoyed the “land without fences” – as Lesotho is described in one of the leaflets we got. We have the impression that “without fences” not only means freedom of travelling, but also between people. Whenever we passed through a village or settled area people smiled at us and greeted us with “How are you?”. We never felt not welcome.
We are deeply impressed by the variety of landscapes - high passes, steep canyons, waterfalls – but also by the villages that lie up on steep hills and by the shepherds, who sometimes looked like stone statures overlooking the world underneath.
“We’ve got all the potentials and possibilities, we still have to develop them” – this is what a university professor says to us when we are all admiring the waterfall of Semonkong. One can only agree and hope that the Chinese investors are not too quick for the local people!
Friday, February 2nd – Thursday, March 7th 2018
From Mariazell we travel to the Drakensberge of the Eastern Cape, an area with only few tourists. Cappuccino crawls up and down high mountain passes, among them Naudes Nek (2.500m), one of the highest that was built by manpower only .
We stop at Rhodes a little village at the foot of South Africa’s only skiing area “Tiffindell”. The former primary school has been turned into a restaurant and B&B “Rubicon” and we are invited to stay on the lawn. It’s a good place to be, as on the following day the temperature drops to 6°C and the rain prevents us from doing anything but stay indoors. As the sun comes out again, we travel on, passing through farmland. Yet we see quite a lot of deserted or derelict farmhouses. It’s the terrible drought that has been holding the area in its grip for some years, and now everyone is hoping for good rain.
This is also an area with quite a lot of San Rock Art. It’s not easy to find them as most are on private farmland. At Dordrecht we finally find friendly people who help us and we are welcome at the Farm Featherbed, where we are taken to some impressive paintings in a cave. We are also invited to stay at the farm and thus experience genuine farm-life, which we thoroughly enjoy. The owners’ hospitality is truly amazing, and we are very grateful for their time – and the tasty treats and recipes we can take with us!
We also feel their deep concern about the political future of South Africa. The new government has opened the discussion about a land-reform again, and some populists express rather radical ideas that worry especially white farmers. We can only hope that it’s not the populist who win, but politicians with rational thinking and wisdom!
Whatever we need for the following days we get at Queenstown, a busy place on our way to Cradock. This is where we meet Patricia and Peter again, the Swiss couple we met at Maun in Botsuana and with who we spent a few wonderful days in the National Parks. Together we drive to the Mountain Zebra National Park. On our game drives we see these graceful animals, among some ostriches, wilderbeests and others. We exchange travel experiences and give each other hints and tips. After 2 days together we part again, as they want to head Eastwards, whereas Martin and I have to go West, in the direction of Cape Town.
We stop at Nieu Bethesda, a little village in the Karoo mountains. An artist lived here, who created rather strange figures and animals made of concrete. Her house was converted into a museum after her death and it is now a tourist attraction. What we find even more interesting is some San Art in the Art Centre, where artists work together creating huge tapestries. All their images are rooted in their mythology. “We are modern San artists, our forefathers painted in caves, we try to find new ways of expressions” – this is what one of the present artists told us after having explained some of the complex stories behind their pictures.
Only a few kilometres South lies Graaff-Reinet, a town where the past is still very present. Most of the houses, private and public, are still as they were in colonial times, and one feels transferred to the old days. High up from the rocks in Desolation Valley in Camdeboo National Park one has a stunning view on the town and its townships.
As the weather forecast promises sunshine, we want to try the 4x4 trail in Baviaans Kloof once more. This time we enter the valley from the East and enjoy the scenery, the passes, the green valley and the trail itself. Once we even have to cut some branches – Cappuccino is just a bit high sometimes 😊. We stop again at the campsite in Uitspan, where we already stayed 6 weeks ago. Blacky, the campsite dog, seems to recognise us immediately.