Budget Lesotho a snowy 4×4 adventure

Winona Griggs

Budget Lesotho: A Snowy 4X4 Adventure

Hey, are you interested in an exciting snowy adventure? Well, buckle up and join me on a budget-friendly trip to Lesotho, an African country known as the Kingdom of the Sky. I recently visited this stunning destination, and let me tell you, it was an experience like no other.

Lesotho, with its breathtaking mountain landscapes and snow-covered peaks, offers a winter wonderland that will leave you in awe. But before we dive into the details of this incredible journey, let me share some important tips to make your adventure unforgettable.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

When it comes to exploring Lesotho in winter, it’s essential to choose the right vehicle. Since the roads can be challenging, a 4X4 is your best bet. These rugged vehicles will help you navigate the snowy terrain and reach even the most remote areas. So, make sure to rent a reliable 4X4 to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure.

Understanding the Weather

Before embarking on your snow-filled escapade, it’s crucial to understand the weather conditions in Lesotho. The country experiences cold winters with temperatures often dropping below freezing. Snowfall is common, especially in the highlands, so be prepared with warm clothing and appropriate gear to stay cozy during your trip.

Interpreting the Road Signs

When someone is driving in a foreign country, it’s essential to understand the road signs. In Lesotho, road signs may differ slightly from what you’re used to. Take the time to familiarize yourself with the local road signs to ensure a smooth and safe journey. This small step will make a big difference when navigating the snowy roads of this stunning country.

Exploring Sani Pass

If you’re up for an exhilarating drive, don’t miss out on the famous Sani Pass. This treacherous mountain road connects Lesotho with South Africa and offers stunning views along the way. The route itself is an adventure, with steep ascents and hairpin bends. Just make sure your vehicle is up to the challenge, and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and unforgettable memories.

Embracing the Local Culture

Lesotho is not only about snowy landscapes and thrilling drives. Take the time to embrace the local culture and interact with the friendly Basotho people. Visit traditional villages, try the local cuisine, and immerse yourself in the rich heritage of this unique kingdom. Connecting with the locals will provide a deeper appreciation for the country and its fascinating history.

Conclusion

So, if you’re seeking a snowy adventure like no other, Lesotho is the place to be. With its stunning landscapes, challenging roads, and rich cultural heritage, this budget-friendly destination has it all. Just remember to choose the right vehicle, understand the weather conditions, interpret the road signs, and embrace the local culture. By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared for a snowy 4X4 adventure of a lifetime.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Throughout history, storytelling has played a vital role in human culture, serving as a means of communicating ideas, experiences, and emotions. Stories are powerful. They have the ability to captivate our minds, touch our hearts, and inspire us to take action. But have you ever wondered what makes a good story? What elements are necessary to create a narrative that resonates with its audience?

Well, it turns out that there are a few key ingredients that contribute to the success of a story. First and foremost, a compelling story needs a relatable and engaging protagonist. This is the character that the audience connects with, someone they can root for and invest their emotions in. Without a relatable protagonist, a story can fall flat and lose its ability to connect with its audience.

Another important element of a good story is conflict. Conflict creates tension, which is essential for keeping the audience engaged and invested in the narrative. Whether it’s an internal struggle within the protagonist or an external obstacle they must overcome, conflict provides the necessary stakes and challenges that drive the plot forward.

In addition to relatable characters and conflict, a strong story also requires a well-developed setting. The setting is the backdrop against which the story unfolds, and it plays a crucial role in establishing the atmosphere and tone of the narrative. It helps to create a sense of time and place, transporting the audience into the world of the story.

Furthermore, a good story needs a clear and coherent structure. This includes a well-defined beginning, middle, and end, as well as a logical progression of events. A solid narrative structure helps to guide the audience through the story, ensuring that they can follow along and understand the plot.

Lastly, a successful story often incorporates themes and messages that resonate with its audience. These can be universal truths, moral lessons, or thought-provoking ideas that provide deeper meaning and insight. By exploring these themes, a story can have a lasting impact and leave a lasting impression on its audience.

So, next time you’re crafting a story, whether it’s a simple bedtime tale or a complex novel, keep these key ingredients in mind. Remember to create relatable characters, incorporate conflict, develop a strong setting, establish a clear structure, and explore meaningful themes. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to creating a story that captivates and inspires.

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Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

I couldn’t believe it when I learned that I had the chance to take a Fortuner into the snowy mountains of Lesotho. The idea of Africa and snow together seemed so unlikely. But I was eager for an adventure, so I hopped on a flight to Durban’s King Shaka International Airport.

When I arrived, my friend Glenn Jones was there, ready to join me on this exciting journey. Glenn, being a local from Lesotho, knew all the ins and outs of the place. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Hey there! Did you know that even in the most remote parts of Lesotho, roadworks are a common sight? It’s pretty incredible!

So, I was talking to this guy who told me that the Sani Pass border closes at 6 pm. No time for chitchat, right? We hopped on the N2 and then onto the N3, swerving through Hilton and taking a left towards Bulwer, Underberg, and Himeville. Finally, we made it to Sani Pass, breezing through the border with little time to spare. As we stepped into the Sani Mountain Lodge, I couldn’t help but feel the crunch of snow under my feet. Ah, warmth!

Our mission? To find incredible driving roads and maybe tackle a snowdrift or two. And let me tell you, we did plenty of research. We chatted with locals, fellow travelers, studied maps, and played around with the Tracks4Africa app. Here are the absolute best routes we came across:

Top of Sani Pass to Oxbow Lodge (3 – 4 hours)

The road between Sani and Afriski and beyond has always been terrible. It used to take forever to make the journey, and if your car broke down, you were stuck for days. But things have changed now. You can leave the lodge in the afternoon, zoom along a smooth road with snow-covered mountains all around you, and still have plenty of time to go skiing. That’s exactly what I did. Our first stop was a little town called Mokhotlong. It’s not very big or fancy, but it’s a reliable place where you can get supplies. There’s a real fuel pump where you can fill up your tank, and next door there’s a general store that sells everything from bread to shovels. If you need a SIM card or airtime, just go one door down. Back on the main road, we passed by Letseng Diamond Mine and drove over Tlaeeng Pass, which is one of the highest drivable passes in Africa, sitting at a whopping 3255 meters above sea level. The drive was absolutely stunning. Maybe that’s why they call this road the A1.

Imagine this: I’m standing at Afriski Mountain Resort, gazing up at a sign that proudly declares their restaurant as ‘The Highest Restaurant in Africa’. It hit me then – I’d already been to Africa’s highest pub, the Sani Mountain Lodge, and even driven along the continent’s highest motorable pass to get to this place. All of this in a single afternoon. Afriski is nestled in a natural bowl, with cabins huddled together on the hill above the mesmerizing ski slopes. It looks like a picture-perfect scene from a winter wonderland, complete with cozy cabins and frozen ‘lakes’.

Now, here’s the thing: We didn’t have the time or money for a skiing adventure, but that didn’t stop us from having a blast. We satisfied our craving for excitement by hopping on bum-boards and sliding down the kiddies’ slope. We may have left with sunburned noses and aching muscles, but our faces were plastered with enormous grins.

Our journey wasn’t over yet. We hopped back onto the A1 road and made our way to Moteng Pass, eager to catch a glimpse of the breathtaking views. The winding road unfolded before us, revealing the majestic landscapes that stretched out as far as the eye could see. It was a feast for the senses.

As the day came to an end, we retraced our steps and arrived at New Oxbow Lodge, ready to settle in for the night. It had been a day filled with adventure, laughter, and experiences that would stay with us forever.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

I had so much fun on Afriski’s kiddies slopes. It was like a thrilling adventure, teetering on the edge of disaster, but in a really exciting way!

From the New Oxbow Lodge to Orion Katse Lodge (2 – 3 hours)

So, we started our journey by heading south from the New Oxbow Lodge on the A1. We reached the Tlaeeng Pass and then turned west when we saw the Katse sign. The drive to the Kao Diamond Mine, which is about 32 kilometers away, was pretty smooth. The gravel road was in good condition and it didn’t give us much trouble.

But after we passed the mine, things started to get a bit more challenging. The road became rough, with steep descents and slippery sections. It was quite a thrilling experience, but unfortunately, by the time we got there, all the snow had been cleared away. I guess we missed out on the chance to drive in the snow, but the adventure was still worth it!

Well, let’s make do with the amazing views of the mountains, the winding roads, and the smooth gravel. We reached a little bridge near Motebong Village in Ha Lejone. It’s a nice spot to take a break, stretch your legs, grab a bite, and refuel. You can only get fuel in water bottles by the roadside for R20 per litre. After Ha Lejone, we continued on the curvy A8 road that loops around Katse Dam, the highest dam in Africa. We ended up at Orion Katse Lodge, which was originally built to accommodate the dam’s construction crews. It’s a great place to call home while we explore the area.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Let me tell you about Moteng Pass, a place that’s usually chilly and windy. So if you plan on visiting, make sure to bring a warm jumper and enjoy the breathtaking evening views.

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From Katse Village to Makhangoa Community Camp (1 – 2 hours)

The next morning, I started my journey towards Makhangoa Community Camp. We took diesel from a cooking-oil drum and set off on the road heading west. The gravel road runs alongside the dam wall, with steep cliffs on one side and the narrowing Bokong River on the other. It was a leisurely drive, interrupted by occasional stops for livestock and cheerful herdboys. After an hour of pleasant driving, we arrived at Makhangoa Community Camp, a secluded wilderness haven. The camp offers simple stone bungalows that overlook the Bokong River, abundant with trout and yellowfish. What’s unique about this place is that the community is involved in running the camp, gaining valuable experience and earning income from the activities available, such as hiking, biking, and fishing. During dinner, I had a conversation with Rob Scott, the co-owner of Makhangoa Community Camp. He summed up my experience perfectly, saying, “It’s mind-blowing that Lesotho is not a massive tourist destination. It’s so diverse and unlike anything else around us.” He also shared information about an alternative route that takes you back to Katse Village while avoiding the dam.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

When I think about the Makhangoa Community Camp, a vivid image comes to mind. I see a young boy riding his Basotho pony, making his way home after a night of tending to livestock in the beautiful hills of Lesotho. It’s a scene that captures the essence of this incredible place.

A Scenic Journey from Makhangoa Community Camp to Katse Village (3 – 4 hours)

Let me take you on a journey along Rob’s route, which starts by crossing the Bokong River, leading us into the hills above Katse Dam. The road we’ll travel on is a dirt road, and while it’s mostly manageable, there are some steep and loose sections, as well as the occasional eroded washout. I should note that it can get a little tricky if it starts raining, but in the cold and dry conditions, it’s not too difficult.

After about two and a half hours of driving, we reach Ha Lejone, a delightful little spot. From there, we hop back onto the A8 road and enjoy the thrill of winding through the twisty roads, eventually bringing us back to Katse Village.

The Makhangoa Community Camp is truly a special place. Not only does it offer some of the best trout and yellowfish fly-fishing in Lesotho, but it also provides a unique and unforgettable experience for anyone who visits.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

In Lesotho, the locals rely on wild-grown rosehip as a source of income. They sell it to traders who use it for tea and oils.


The Journey from Katse Village to Mokhotlong

The next day, I made my way back to Ha Lejone on the A8 road. When I reached Ha Makopela, I took a left turn onto a dirt road that follows the river. It’s not an easy road to find, but if you spot the village of Ha Palama just before the river crossing, you’re on the right track. There’s an old chart that indicates this route as a bridal path, and another one labels it as a 4X4-only track. The road goes over a river and climbs up the hill on the other side.

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Whenever you’re on the road and need directions, it’s always a good idea to ask multiple people for help. This way, you can get a variety of perspectives and ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

The road surface itself is quite diverse. It winds through the mountains, following the course of rivers far below. Sometimes it can be rocky and bumpy, while in other areas, it’s relatively smooth. Out of all the drives we’ve been on, this one is by far the most breathtaking.

During the first half of the journey, we pass through areas with plenty of houses and people. But once we reach the halfway point, it feels like we’re in the middle of nowhere. There are no huts or people around, and it’s just the raw, untouched wilderness.

As the landscape flattens out, we start to see familiar Basotho horsemen along the side of the road. It’s a comforting sight, knowing that we’re not completely alone out here. Eventually, we reach the A1 and reluctantly say goodbye to this beautiful adventure. We’ve met incredible people and witnessed some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes in all of Africa.

And as for driving in the snow? Well, besides taking some detours to snap photos, we didn’t encounter many opportunities for snowy 4X4ing. But that didn’t detract from the overall experience. This journey was an incredible mix of wonder and tranquility that will stay with us forever.

Well, I have to say, it was a bit of a letdown. But you know what? There might just be a silver lining to this situation. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to explore all the amazing spots in Lesotho without any trouble, regardless of the kind of car you have.

Discover the ultimate Lesotho 4X4 guide

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

The A1 road in northern Lesotho has undergone significant improvements, making travel much easier and quicker than before.

When is the Best Time to Visit Lesotho?

Lesotho’s beauty is evident year-round, but if you want to experience snow, your best bet is to visit in July or August.

Important Information to Keep in Mind

If you are a South African citizen, you do not need a visa to enter Lesotho. Currently, there are no vehicle documents required either. The border is open from 6am to 6pm, and the entry fee for vehicles ranges from R30 to R50. However, please note that in February 2016, it was still necessary to present unabridged birth certificates for children. It is recommended to check the latest requirements before your trip. Additionally, it is advisable to come prepared with enough supplies to be self-sufficient for a few days. Take every opportunity to refuel, including at your last stop in South Africa. Avoid stocking up on food and supplies in South Africa, as you can easily find what you need at general stores in larger towns. By doing so, you will be supporting the local economy.

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Costs

The cost of your trip to Katse Dam will depend on various factors such as the route you take, the type of accommodation you choose, and the length of your stay. For our four-night stay, the total cost per person, including fuel, food, and accommodation, was approximately R5000. If you opt for backpackers accommodation and self-catering, you can significantly lower your expenses.

Activities

One of the must-do activities is taking a boat trip on the Katse Dam, which is run by the local community. This experience not only allows you to get close to the massive dam wall but also offers a unique perspective. The boat trip costs R330 per group for a 15-minute ride. Make sure to book your trip at Orion Katse Lodge.

Another activity you shouldn’t miss is walking on the Katse Dam wall, which happens to be the second tallest dam wall on the entire continent, standing at a height of 185 meters. Before you embark on this exciting walk, there will be a short presentation that provides insights into the sheer scale of the project and reveals some mind-blowing facts. The cost for this activity is R20 per person. Don’t forget to book your walk at Orion Katse Lodge.

Hey there! Ready to explore Lesotho? Let’s start with a visit to the Katse Alpine Botanical Garden in Katse Village. Trust me, they have an amazing collection of succulents, including the famous spiral aloe which happens to be Lesotho’s national plant. The best part? It only costs R10 per person!

Now, if you’re in the mood for some adventure, Afriski is the place to be. They offer skiing lessons during winter and a range of exciting activities in summer like downhill mountain biking, enduro trails, and even abseiling. For the ultimate experience, go for their four-day package. It’s the best bang for your buck, covering all passes, equipment, and expert instruction. Kids can join for R2420 per person, while adults can join for R2900 per person. Accommodation is separate and starts at R295 per person in backpackers.

Looking for a place to stay?

Budget Lesotho a snowy 4x4 adventure

Look at the snow outside Sani Mountain Lodge. It’s a beautiful sight. The lodge offers cozy en-suite rondavels and family rooms, complete with warm fireplaces and plenty of blankets to keep you comfortable. Don’t forget to have a drink at the highest pub in Africa while you’re there. The lodge also has a restaurant that serves delicious buffet meals. You can book a room at Sani Mountain Lodge for as little as R1260 per person if you’re sharing. If you need more information, you can call 0786347496. The lodge’s coordinates are S29 35.087′, E 29 17.295′.

New Oxbow Lodge may not be the newest place, but it’s still very comfortable, and the staff is amazing. It’s only a short 16-kilometer drive from Afriski, making it a great choice for skiers who want a quieter base for their skiing adventure. The rooms are heated with gas and come with en-suite bathrooms. The best part is that it’s more affordable. In fact, you can stay at New Oxbow Lodge for just R490 per person if you’re sharing during the low season (December to February). For more information or to book a room, you can call 051933247. The lodge is located at S 28 46.263′, E 28 38.440′.

When it comes to accommodations near the dam, Orion Katse Lodge is the absolute best option. They offer a wide range of activities, and their restaurant serves delicious and generous meals (you have to try the trout). If you choose a room with a view of the dam, you’ll be treated to a gorgeous sunrise every morning. Prices range from R350 per person for a dorm bed to R1799 for a house that can accommodate six people. You can reach them at 08611488869. (S 29 19.823′, E 28 28.875′)

Makhangoa Community Camp has recently built bungalows that overlook the Bokong River. If you enjoy fishing or birdwatching, don’t forget to bring your fishing rods and binoculars. The rooms at Makhangoa Community Camp can accommodate multiple guests, and you have the option of self-catering or pre-booking dinner. Trust me, the Wonderbag stew we had was absolutely delicious, so I highly recommend pre-booking at least one dinner. Prices start at R500 per person, and you can contact them at 0333422793. (S 29 16.909′, E 28 23.035′)

Where to eat

If you’re looking for a tasty breakfast in Motebong Village, you should check out the restaurant there. They serve a delicious breakfast for only R100 per person. And if you’re in the mood for lunch, you can try their pork chop main course for just R90 per person. It’s a generous portion that’s sure to satisfy your hunger.

Now, let me tell you about a local treat called Lesotho Vetkoek. They call it makoenya here, and it’s absolutely delicious. These deep-fried dough balls are filled with all sorts of deliciousness and only cost R5 each. You can find them almost anywhere along the roadside, just look for bowls overflowing with these greasy, doughy snacks. It’s a great way to taste the local flavors and maybe even meet some friendly locals.

By the way, this article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Getaway magazine. If you’re interested in more great holiday ideas, you should get yourself a copy. It’s packed full of fantastic suggestions for your next adventure. Don’t miss out!

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