Tagged Lesotho

Wild Weekends book gets recalled to include Lesotho Adventure

This book was already en route to the publishers by the time Marianne and Claire from the Sunday Times came to do our Lesotho Tour – they immediately called a stop to the publishing so this Lesotho Horse trails adventure could be entered and included in it.

Wild Weekends book gets recalled to include Lesotho Horse trail adventure Need to get out of the city? Looking for an exciting weekend adventure? Wild Weekends brings you a collection of 34 weekend destinations where you can try out adventure activities from mountain biking to bungee jumping.

Visit Waterval Boven and try rock climbing, a mountain bike trail or learn to fly fish. Take your children on a hike to explore the pools and sandstone pillars of the Cederberg, or go horse riding in the Drakensberg. You could take to the skies over the Karoo or tackle an urban adventure and bungee jump from a cooling tower or swing above a soccer stadium.

Decide where you want to go and we’ll tell you what adventures are waiting for you; or decide what activity you want to do and we’ll tell you the best places to go. And when you really can’t get away, we’ll give you some new ideas for adventures in the city.

There are weekend destinations from all over South Africa, as well as Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe. You could go rock climbing, cycling, hiking, caving, horse riding, scuba and shark diving, snorkelling, sea kayaking, surfing, sailing, whitewater rafting, croc diving, paragliding, skydiving, microlighting, sandboarding, desert 4x4ing, rollerblading, fishing, snowboarding, skiing and ice climbing.

Horse riding in the Mountain Kingdom

By Rosh Sewpersad | nirvanafynbos@gmail.com | www.nirvanafynbos.co.za

Traversing the southern Drakensberg into Lesotho is one of the great horse treks in Southern Africa.1

The Kingdom of Lesotho is a small, mountainous country located in the heights of the Drakensberg mountain range that forms an escarpment dividing the east coast of South Africa from the interior. These majestic rolling hills and mountains reveal varied landscapes from gently-swaying grasslands to rocky cliffs and plateaus to giant boulders and overhangs and, always, the all-encompassing sky.

Winters are bitterly cold, bringing much snow that turn into many water courses, steeps and rivers in summer. At this altitude, the air is bracingly pure, the landscapes loom large, and the feeling is one of wide open space, where time stood still.

Tony and I, both experienced horsemen, first heard of Khotso Horse Trails from our fellow horse lovers Isabel and Lloyd, who successfully undertook a cross-continental horse ride in aid of horse welfare. We mentioned our love of trail riding to them, and that all our holidays, when we can afford to take one, involved horse riding. Lloyd immediately recommended Khotso. This idea was put on hold for at least 2 years due to our own constraints running our nature reserve on the West Coast when, by chance, we came across an article in the Sunday newspaper mentioning Khotso again. Serendipity.

From Cape Town, it’s a 2 hour flight to Durban, and then a straightforward, ever-upward drive to Underberg. At Khotso, we were welcomed by our engaging host – strapping, young English adventurer Adrian, who is brimming with interesting anecdotes and facts. The sense of excitement was palpable as the penny dropped for Tony and me – we were here and we’d be setting off in the morning!

TThe following morning, clear and warm, saw us driving to the South Africa-Lesotho border with Eric, our local guide, and horses in tow. Excited to meet our horses nose-to-nose for the first time, I must admit we were initially a tad disappointed at first sight. But our opinion of these hardy Basotho ponies would soon change. After our passports were stamped, we mounted, secure in trail saddles, with our belongings packed in saddlebags, and off we set.

3 2

The change in landscape and sensation was immediate. A paved and fenced off border control point gave way to grass-covered hills ringed by mountains, with no signs of other humans in sight, save for our well-worn footpath. And the horses knew exactly what to do – crossing fast flowing streams strewn with loose boulders and tackling steep ascents and descents. It soon became apparent to us to entrust the decision-making to our sure-footed, hardworking, honest horses.

Our first day saw us following steep trails, hugging mountain contours with sheer drops and, at some points, dismounting to lead the horses over boulders, literally jumping from rock to rock and scrambling over shale paths. Photo opportunities abound, although pictures cannot do justice to the multi-layered, depth of landscapes. We also encountered antelope, baboons and a multitude of birds.

A bracing canter through grassy hills dotted with lunar boulders led us to our beautifully-located home base, Sehlabathebe National Park. Welcomed by a large herd of resident horses, we allowed our horses a well-deserved rest and settled in for a night at the gas-powered king’s chalet, reflecting on an exhilarating day with Eric, our guide. We fell asleep surrounded by the sounds of horses, with our thoughts galloping wildly imagining what the next day held in store. What was to be found on the other side of those beckoning hills?

4 5

A few splutters of rain didn’t deter us after a sustaining breakfast of Jungle Oats. A quick fry up of bacon and cheese sandwiches packed into our saddlebags, and we were away. We swopped horses for fun. Myself on Jackie, Tony on Storm and Eric on HP. Vast swathes of burnt veld on either side of the mountain passes had our noses and eyes protesting. Icy wind sweeping up the mountain side carried the smell of burnt earth and a sense of primeval desolation. I found myself in a meditative state, in tune with my horse, and truly felt a connection with generations of Basotho who had worn these trails. Soon the landscape gave way to hair-raising yet spectacular and exhilarating shale ledges, across which our brave steeds skilfully picked our way. The distant lowing of cow bells in the depths below us, finally gave way to natural terraces where, in a pastoral scene, herdsmen clad in traditional blankets, accompanied by their sheepdogs, drove sheep across the river, amongst whom we also crossed.

Breathtaken by the quality of the experience, we arrived at a rock overhang for lunch. Amongst goats and ancient Bushman rock art, accompanied by the sounds of braying goats and bubbling streams, a better repast of bacon and cheese sandwiches, followed by tepid tea, could not be had.

7 8 9

Numerous rock overhangs feature dry stone shelters built and used by shepherds in adverse weather conditions. Unfortunately some of the rock art has been severely damaged by successive generations of fire made in these shelters. Nonetheless, this may truly be the highlight of the trail for me.

Lesotho is a country where herds of Basotho horses roam the landscape, grazing freely along with sheep, donkeys, goats and cattle. Small villages with rock and adobe houses were an opportunity to meet and mingle with locals. Friendly dogs usually heralded our approach. White flags flapping in the breeze indicated the availability of the traditional brew, tasting of fermenting porridge, but packing a lingering kick against the cold and our re-ascent of the ledges. Incongruously, we came across a Chinese shop, the only trader, in the remote village of Mavuka, where Tony distributed lollipops to local schoolchildren.

10 11

A welcome coal fire and handmade bread back at the chalet tempered the bitterly cold nights. Joy was lying wrapped in blankets on plush couches contemplating the misty peaks, with book and Old Brown Sherry in hand.

Our final day saw us criss-crossing the landscape at various paces, with numerous river crossings, eventually leading to a spectacular waterfall where we had lunch. A few fast canters over rolling grassy rises, snug in my coat, had me feeling like a Mongolian on the steppes. Passing the abandoned Lesotho border post in the middle of nowhere truly brought the isolation of the area into focus, and the privilege of having been able to traverse this land in such a down-to-earth manner.

What goes up, must come down, and that is what we did – rock-hopping and scrambling in places, as we descended back to the South African border. Troops of baboon hailed our passing – a delightful end to a memorable experience.

TIPS:

–          Ensure you have a valid passport.

–          Pack a warm, wind-and-waterproof jacket, hat, scarf and gloves.

–          A sunhat should have string to prevent it from blowing away.

–          Travel light.

–          Your riding shoes must have grip.

–          Pack munchies – you can always distribute leftovers to children you pass.

–          You can stock up beforehand at the Spar in Underberg.

Two day Horse Trail into Lesotho

In conjunction with Khotso Horse Trails Lesotho Adventures offers two main horse trails into (and out again) Lesotho. Strong mention must be made of the unpredictability of the Mountain weather in this high altitude destination.

Our Horseback adventures through Lesotho have you riding through spectacular valleys and cresting awe inspiring ridges and cliffs.. sometimes at a gallop! You could be forgiven for feeling like you have wings!
Among some of the truly unique sights are the otherworldly rock formations we ride through in Sehlabathebe National park. They appear to form a strange theatre moulded by nature to entertain the gods.
The breath-taking Tsoelekane falls entices you into its pool in summer, or to warm up on the shore in winter.
Guests on the three day adventure have the opportunity of exploring deeper into the Maluti Mountains… into villages time forgot and cave paintings left by the mysterious San who once roamed these mountains.
Practicalities
*Although this ride is structured to allow for beginners it is an adventure ride- by no means a plod down the road. You will be maneuvering your horses through some pretty daunting rock passes .. as long as you can trust your horse can do this with its eyes closed you will be fine!
*All food and supplies for the adventure are carried along by horseback. This means packing light is essential… REALLY light
*Accommodation is in lodges in and around the Sehlabathebe National Park. Facilities are impressive, given the remoteness, but even a simple warm bed feels like 5 star luxury after trekking through the Kingdom in the Sky all day! Please note, however, that electricity is a luxury you will need to do without for a few days.