Days 6, 7, 8
We left Johannesburg in the dark. Around six, an arc of orangy red light slid up from the horizon. The moon faded to a ghostly ball as the rising sun gradually grew into a blood red circle with a golden halo. Very quickly the light dispersed, giving us a glorious clear day.
The trip to Clarens through the flat golden farmland was lovely and uneventful except when we took a wrong turn. A little more than a half hour had passed before we realized our mistake. There was no real problem except the time it took to get back on track. As we approached Clarens (over an hour late) the road gradually started rolling up and down gentle hills.
Our guide Neels was waiting. After a pit stop we left for Lesotho. Crossing the border was a breeze. We did have to get out of the car and take our passports to be stamped. All was done without question. Neels said, “This is one of the most fluid borders in the world.”
This part of Lesotho is hilly and beautiful as is all of God’s world. Neels told us that contrary to South Africa, the people of Lesotho own their homes, even though the government owns the property. Most of the settlement homes are built with blocks making them much more permanent. Although still tiny, one room homes, from the outside they look much more comfortable than the tar paper shacks in the Soweto type settlements outside of Johannesburg.
Neels took us to Lesotho National Park, and the Caves. Similar yet different from the petroglyphs near Peterborough, these cave paintings told stories of the aboriginal people who lived in the area thousands of years ago. The park officer, obviously enjoyed interpreting the paintings for us, and telling us about the caves.
He also took us inside a traditional aboriginal Lesotho home and explained the functions of many of the items we could see there. After about two hours at the park, there we were very ready for a late lunch.
Neals led us to a special restaurant, well not exactly a restaurant, called Mamohase Bed and Breakfast. We had our lunch (actually more like dinner) prepared by the mother of our host and local guide, MoRuti. He showed us to their own family dining room table and sat down to eat with us. The food was delicious. We had fried chicken, special stewed tomatoes and onions, shredded spinach salad, pumpkin and parsnips mixed, papa (porridge made of corn meal somewhat like potatoes but much drier, and steamed bread.
Tummies full, MoRuti took us on a tour of the area. The main road was fine but the side roads? They were not just gravel roads full of pot holes, they were country tracks over rocks and boulders, not very well defined. Victor drove with great skill up and down hills, around switch backs over these sort of desert wilderness trails. We were grateful Dave had loaned us his 4-wheeled drive SUV for this excursion, although we wondered if maybe his range rover would have enjoyed the journey more.
Our tour over we headed for Clarens and our Mt Horeb Manor B&B. Night had descended and the three of us were exhausted. Neels made sure we found our bed and breakfast. On arrival our host said that a table at a local hotel restaurant had been reserved for us. Not at all hungry and desperate to relax in our room, we felt obligated to go at least for a glass of wine and something very light. The restaurant was lovely. Tom and I shared a meal of turf and serf and sipped a glass of wine. Not exactly a light meal but at least small, since we shared. Victor did not feel obligated. He returned for us and ferried us to our home for the night.
Tom and I would both recommend Neels as a guide. He’s pleasant, friendly, extremely helpful, knowledgeable. We enjoyed our day with him. (contact info below.)
Mt Horeb Manor is the best, offering luxury, more than luxury. Lit with tiny lights encircling the path and the archway we stepped into a room fit for royalty. Spacious, more than spacious, the room contained a king size bed, a love seat, comfy chair, and coffee table. The bathroom had a big jacuzzi as well. Regretfully, we climbed into bed at 9:30 too tired to soak in the luxury.
In the morning we opened the curtains in our glassed in room, to a spectacular view of the Drakensberg Mountains glowing in the South African morning sun. Breakfast in the beautifully appointed dining room, was delicious. Mt. Horeb Manor has a resident chef. Tom had biscuits, freshly made that morning, with his amazing omelet. Of course I had rice cakes. Our omelets were loaded with mushrooms, cheese, bacon and tomatoes. There were sauces to add and a salad as well. Of course there were the usual cereal, yoghurt, juice, etc. We aren’t used to this kind of opulence but we certainly enjoyed every bite and every moment.
Breakfast over we headed to the Dakensberg Boys school for the afternoon concert. We were leaving way too early, but after our wrong turn yesterday, the three of us agreed it was wise. We drove through Golden Gate National Park, stopping to take pictures of the spectacular scenery. We stopped in Winterton for lunch. Shopping lacked interest but one of the locals suggested that we tried shopping at a mall close to the school. It was a mall, but unlike any mall at home. The individual shops with their reed roofs and stucco sides were cool in the South African sun. Still it was a tourist spot and we had fun being tourists.
At the school, we were welcomed and given a tour. When the concert started, I gave thanks to God for this opportunity. The sound, the boys expressions, the choreography – we were in the presence of approx.. 80 of God’s angels dressed in blue and singing from their hearts. The Holy Spirit sent prickles up and down my arms and brought tears to my eyes. On my right sat a couple from Holland who come twice a year just for the choir. I understood why. These young people go on tours. They’ve been to Canada. If they ever come again we will certainly be there to welcome them.
The choir was the highlight of this little three day tour. The concert ended at dusk. When we went looking for the Cathkin Bed and Breakfast, down a very dark, rough gravel twisting side road we felt once again we were on an adventure. Our adventure turned to high stress, as we struggled to find our way in the inky black of a South African night. Finallym after consultation with a gatekeeper, we pulled into a driveway. We had arrived, we hoped. I foolishly volunteered to make sure this was the place. It wasn’t well lit. The front of the cottage had no doors. I followed a path along the side. As I rounded a curve I was blinded by a green light and stumbled. I didn’t quite fall down. As I struggled to get my balance I shifted my body away from the light and saw four shallow very wide steps. At the top was grass and a few lights illuminating sliding glass doorways to three rooms. Up ahead I saw the dark shadow of a dog coming silently towards me. As usual I panicked. I turned and retraced my steps to the car. By this time, Tom and Victor had found a sign saying we were at Cathkin Cottage. At least we were in the right place. Tom took my hand and we went back around and up the steps. At that point we were by a young woman. She identified herself as Laura and said she wasn’t the owner. The owner had left because of an emergency. She would find out what to do. Tom and I returned to Victor and the car.
In a few moments a young man, Byron appeared with Laura and a telephone. He was talking to the owner. He handed the phone to me. “You are not registered,” Leila said.
“Yes, we are,” I declared. “My son David made the reservation and paid for it.”
“ You must have the wrong day,” she said. “It’s Wednesday May 22nd. Is your reservation for next week.”
“No!” I said.
“Well, I can give you a room since you’re here.”
“I have a receipt,” I said. “It’s already paid for.”
“Alright, I’ll talk with your son. You can leave the receipt in your room.”
“Thank you,” I handed the phone back to Byron. Once again we traipsed around, up the steps to the back of the house. Laura produced a key to room too. We dragged in our luggage. At this point Victor was feeling nervous about his accommodation. Would he be able to find it. Would his reservation be ok. The three of us were hungry as well. We had passed the Drakensberg Sun Resort just down the road. Victor wasn’t enthusiastic about coming for supper with us. He just want to get himself settled for the night at River Crossing wherever that was. Byron volunteered to drive us to the hotel, since they were going for supper there as well, so Victor left.
Byron and Laura owned a truck, a two seater. Laura sat on the transmission housing, Tom took the passenger seat, and I sat on his lap, my head bent against the windshield. I was grateful that it was only five minutes to the hotel. We enjoyed a beautiful buffet. When we called Victor, he was fine. All settled in a lovely place and already eating dinner. At the end of the meal Byron came to our table and assured us he would take us home and return for Laura.
This time I sat on the transmission housing, which was much more comfortable compared to the last trip. Byron offered to make two trips but I said, “Oh no, we’re already putting you out enough”.
At breakfast the next day, we learned that Byron and Laura were guests of Cathkin B&B, and friends of the owners daughter. They had come for Leila’s daughter’s wedding last Saturday and decided to stay a few extra days. When we arrived they had just volunteered to help.
They were certainly God’s angels for us. They couldn’t have been more helpful. We will remember them as we rock in our rocking chairs.
Cathkin B&B we will try to forget. Our room was small, and not even a little luxurious. It was more like staying a tiny motel. After the sumptuous Mt Horeb, we were obviously spoiled. When I checked the receipts for the two places, I was surprised to discover that the cost was the same. Booking on line can give you surprises. It gave us an experience, and we did have a place to stay. I’m sure the Drakensberg Sun Lodge up the road would have been triple the cost.
Breakfast was good, not as fancy as Mt. Horeb but just fine. Today we are trekking back to Johannesburg. The angel’s of the last two days? Byron, Laura, the Drakensberg choir and Neels have shown us the goodness of humankind.
If you ever are in South Africa, I would recommend a side trip to Lasotho led by Neels who is based in Clarens, the Mt. Horeb Manor Bed and Breakfast in Clarens and the Drakensberg Choir.
More pictures tomorrow.
Neels Lesotho Tour Guide: Cell: 076 392 2605
Mamohase Bed & Breakfast hosted by Moruti
Cell:5904 7042 WhatsApp: +266 5904 7042
Mt. Horeb Manor, 139 Roos Street, Clarens, S.A. Phone: +27 76 392 2605