Thursday, July 1
Quthing - Qacha's Nek (Lesotho) - Umzumbe (South Africa)
The four of us emerge from our two double beds and go off in search of dinosaur footprints...just another silly day at the 2010 World Cup.
Lesothosaurus dates from the late Triassic and early Jurassic period 200-208 million years ago. You can see his footprints and get your fingers on his bones on the edge of Quthing. I guess this is definitely the first and the last time that I will get the chance to hold dinosaur bones in my own hands.
I have run out of superlatives to describe the road trip through Leostho. So let's just say the three-hour drive along the Senqu River (to the sounds of Delphic), and up through the ice-covered mountain passes, past the ever-friendly shephard communities from Quthing to Qacha's Nek is more of the same inspirational stuff experienced throughout our time in this very special place. Fabio is of course sleeping through all of this.
Camper Van Nick, who's been to the Grand Canyon, reckons the similar topography in southern Leostho is actually more impressive in its entirity than the world famous US equivelent. A word also about those who inhabit Lesotho: they seem like lovely, genuine and often-passive people. The rarely matched landscapes and skyscapes of Lesotho are perfectly complemented by this nation's genuine people.
The customs and immigration officials at the Qacha's Nek border crossing are, of course, the last people we meet in the country.
"What did you think of Lesotho?"
"Brilliant. We loved it."
"Can you please tell everybody you meet about our beautiful country? You have only seen some of its beauty...and please make sure you come back and enjoy more of it yourselves."
We will - don't you worry about that!
Four hours hard driving from the border we reach the Indian Ocean and call it a night at Umzumbe.
Mantis and Moon Backpackers has got a jungle-themed garden, which looks like the film set for 'I'm a celebrity, get me out of here.' Inside the garden there's a tee pee, several tree houses, a bubbling jacuzzi and a very well stocked bar. Geordie Robin parts company with us tomorrow so there's nothing for it but to drink copious amounts of beer and wine by the open-air bonfire into the early hours.
Wednesday, June 30
Roma - Mohale Dam - Nazareth - Mafeteng - Quthing
While the local population go about their business dressed in blankets, an amazing light consumes the scene as cartoon sunbeams burst out of the early morning clouds and light up sections of the red granite mountains.
Smoke billows from the chimneys of the ubiquitous circular rondaval houses - their thatched roofs making them look otherworldly, convincing you that hobbit families must be living inside enjoying a late breakfast.
The mountain pass reaches 2273 metres where snow hugs the rocks. The next pass is even higher and has the wonderful name 'the God help me pass' - sounds like a 40-yard up-field punt from Steven Gerrard in Cape Town.
It feels like we are living the millionaire's lifestyle when the four of us enjoy buffet breakfast at the otherwise deserted Mohale Lodge set high on a mountain ridge at over 6000 feet above sea level. The views over the surrounding countryside and the dam below are top draw. If in South Africa you had rent-a-fan, here in Lesotho you have rent-a-country as we seem to have this whole nation almost entirely at our own personal disposal.
It is the first World Cup rest day of the tournament, which means that after an hour a Mohale Dam we don't have to factor in finding a place to stop off at 4, and a place to stay before 8.30.
On the road south, reading up on the brilliant nation-building skills of the late Moshoeshoe ('The Great'), we stop briefly at Mafeteng where an elderly gentlemen named Martin Peter, who's clearly cast from the same mold as Moshoeshoe, gets chatting to me in the local supermarket. He reckons things were better before independence under British rule. "What this country needs is leaders, not money," he tells me. "We need your people to help us learn leadership skills because without them Lesotho will be in trouble in the coming years." From my brief encounter with Martin Peter it seems to me that he is exactly the kind of community leader that any town or region could desperately do with.
Driving further south past Mohale's Hoek, where Prince Harry spent some time working in the community, the daylight begins to fade and the thin cool air helps create a special quality of light. Sandstone overhangs and impossible rock formations encourage the three of us (who are not driving) to each take a ridiculous number of photos of the wonderful scenery.
On the outskirts of Quthing, just before dark, we pull off the highway and negotiate a bumpy dirt track to investigate the twin-spired sandstone Villa Maria Mission church. It looks very much out of place but its twin spires and statue of the Virgin Mary only add to the mystical nature of the surrounding countryside.
In the church grounds a group of small boys play football, prompting us to request a quick kick about in the shadow of Maria...ten minutes soon becoming an hour. One of the highlights of my whole trip has certainly been the impromptu kick-abouts with African kids all over the southern half of this continent. They always play with a smile; they always play with passion and enthusiasm.
After a comical hour spent trying to find the Mountain Side Hotel we enlist the help of the village bobby, who's sporting a retro 1950's uniform. He kindly drives around with us in the dark to the various hotels and guesthouses. But despite his much appreciated help the four of us end up in one room sharing two double beds at the aptly named Rainbow Guesthouse II...and consume four bottles of South African red to help deal with the silliness of it all.