Trip Start Aug 26, 2012
129Trip End Dec 22, 2013
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Where I stayed
Amphitheatre Backpackers Lodge Jagersrust
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Our trip into to Lesotho was unique in that we visited the northern remote part of the country that only the Ampitheatre tours take people too. After about a two hour drive we entered the country via the Monteng pass where there was a South African border control but no Lesotho boarder control. There was at one time, but with no money and the harsh weather conditions it’s been pretty much abandoned
We stopped at the village school and learned about the education system in Lesotho which is much like all the other African countries in that it’s free up until high school and then they have to start paying. So unfortunately not many kids go on to high school but that is slowly changing as they realize that education is their only way out. We also learned that R85 of the money we pay toward the tour goes to support this school and with that money over the years they have been able to build another three classrooms. After visiting the school and picking up a few kids (school holidays are on) we set off for a 4km hike up into the hills that looked over the small village
Coming back down into the village, we went around in search of the traditional local beer made from soya gum or at times bananas. Locating a house with beer is easy in that when a family has some available they raise a white (for soya gum) or yellow (for banana) flag above their house. We found a house with banana beer and went to meet the family and have a taste. Unfortunately my second try (first being in Tanzania) of banana beer did not make me like it any better. Then it was off to visit the traditional healer where through translation we learned about how she became a healer, the ceremony involved and how they go about treating the sick
Our last stop before heading back was to try some local Lesotho food which was pap (maize meal not unlike the Ugali I’ve had in Kenya), braised spinach and a drinkable Lesotho beer called Maluti. The people of this Lesotho village were very welcoming to us but also reserved and protective of their culture. Most of the men would not allow us to take pictures of them in their traditional dress much to the dismay of some in the group. Regardless it was still a really unusual experience to have visited this small remote village in the mountains that can have very harsh weather conditions, especially in the winter, and see how the people live.
The Tugela waterfall tour was a completely opposite experience in that it was all about being one with the mountains. Again after about a two hour drive we reached the base of the Ampitheatre in the Royal Natal National Park which sits at 2500 ft above sea level. During our drive we could see sun over the mountains but by the time we arrived the clouds were starting to roll in. Unsure what we were getting ourselves into off we started our climb, with the first 2kms being fairly easy as it was a path with very little elevation. The next 2kms got a little more aggressive in terms of elevation and terrain as the path was a combination of dirt and rocks to navigate through.
From the top we then had a nice leisurely walk across to the top of the Tugela Falls on the west side of the Ampitheatre, which is the highest waterfall in South Africa and the second highest in the world. At this point we had probably covered 7kms of the total 12k hike. While the weather was improving it was not really ideal to take a dip in the river (before the falls), though some braved it to say they did it. Then it was time to head back down, so across the top we went to get to the east side, viewing across the valley, Mont-aux-Sources(3282m) which provides water to the Tugela, Eland and one other river and then the Eland Falls. Next up was the task I was not looking forward to, descending down two chain ladders, one 25m and the other 50m
I had another day to enjoy the mountains but the weather was not in my favour with thunderstorms happening most of the day so I just hung out in the lounges of the backpackers, reading n’ writing, and chatting with others over some beers. All in all the Drakensberg Mountains was a great place to spend my last few days in beautiful Africa.
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