Maseru (Lesotho)

 

Day 20
On the way to Lesotho we take a stop in Harrismith. It rains as we leave Nelspruit but soon it clears up. We drive on a boring road through dreadful Ermelo. After a coffee break we are forced to take secondary roads due to road repairs. We pass a number of road blocks (average waiting time 20 minutes). After refueling we drive into Harrismith looking for the Harrismith Inn.
Because we cannot find the Inn we book a room in the Grand National Hotel in the city center. This is a big mistake. A bad hotel: no shower or toilet on the room and a grumpy manager who is trying to cheat us with the drinks (white wine only available by the bottle). Fortunately we dine in a nice restaurant just around the corner.

Day 21
The TomTom takes us through an unexpected route through the Golden Gate Highlands National Park to Lesotho. We pass the imposing Dragon Mountains and take breakfast in a luxury lodge. In the pouring rain we enter Lesotho near Ficksburg and experience according to  Albertien the true Africa. Maseru is easy to find but it takes a while to track Llew and Nelly’s house, our base for the coming week. Llew is a former colleague of Albertien during her stay in Brussels at the EU. He is now stationed at the EU-office in Lesotho’s capital. Nelly is celebrating her birthday today. For both we have a present; for Llew a book of an exhibition at the Van Gogh Museum on 19th century realism and for Nelly a table book about favorite recipes of South Africans photographed in their domiciles called ‘African Salad’ (see also Kalk Bay).

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The swimming pool of the house of Llew and Nell

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The nice hall with view of the garden and dining room

Llew shows us around: a beautiful house with a small garden and adjoining pool gated community. We stay in a luxury room with private shower and toilet. From six o’ clock onwards more guests arrive, from a sympathetic artist called Patrick and a very wealthy businessman to a Danish couple who own a farm in Ladybrand (South Africa) and the Ambassador of Ireland. The home help, together with Nelly, has cooked a delicious meal which we eat inside and on the terrace.  Approx. 22 o’ clock the electricity goes down, something we will encounter more often in Maseru. An emergency generator helps out.

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The terrace

Day 22
In the rain we take a tour through Maseru. Llew leads us past his office, the king’s palace, a nice viewpoint and the Pope Field. Here Pope John Paul adressed the population of Lesotho in 1988.

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Maseru with on the left Pope’s field

Back home the water is out. Since this morning, just after we have put our laundry in the washing machine. We us water from the pool to flush the toilet. After a relaxed afternoon we have a meal in the Chinese restaurant in the nearby shopping mall.

Day 23
After a dive in the pool and a full breakfast, we go to Ladybrand together with Nelly. Our CD-car takes us fast past the border. The proposed lunch location is closed at Monday so we go to a nice restaurant called Cranberry’s. Again no water. After lunch we pick up a big painting of Patrick that hardly fits in the landcruiser. In pouring rain we drive back to Maseru where Nelly provides us with an excellent meal for dinner. For desert we finish the chocolate cake left over from the bithday party.

Day 24
Marlies, the wife of the Head of Mission of the EC Delegation invites us for coffee. She and her husband live in a beautiful house with a lovely garden. Marlies is interested in the situation in the Netherlands and we give her an update.

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Marlies as hostess

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The wet veranda

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The lovely garden

Next we go to buy some souvenirs from Lesotho and do some shopping in the mall for dinner. With Nelly we play a game of Scrabble (english version). Nelly (who is French!) wins! After a delicious meal of Albertien, Frits and Llew are watching a Western on DVD with half-liters of beer and chips at hand.

Day 25
We get up early because today we go, together with Nelly, to Katse Dam. The rented car barely pulls over the 2950 meters high Mafika Lisiu pass. Around noon we pause at the Information Center of the Bokong Nature Reserve.

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the Information Center
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The breathtaking view

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Nelly and Albertien enjoying the sun

In the information center they serve coffee with lots of cookies and we enjoy in the sun the breathtaking view on the central mountains of Lesotho. At half past one we arive at the lodge in Katse Village. Because a group of South Africans has just arrived, we cannot stay in the lodge. They offer us a house that was formerly used by the workers on the Katsedam.


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The reservoir with water inlet

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View on the reservoir

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Katse Village

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Frits and Albertien in the botanical garden

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The botanical garden

It’s all very basic but good enough for an overnight stay. We visit the botanical garden, a rough version of normally well kept garden. At night we enjoy the buffet in the restaurant of the lodge. On the terrace the South Africans indulge in their own braai.

Day 26
After breakfast we go to the information center of the Katse Dam. Our guide gives us an explanation about the waterworks in Lesotho and specially the importance of the Katse Dam. The main goal is to provive water and electricity to South Africa, especially Gauteng. Our very easy-going guide shows us around in and on the Katsedam. It’s a private tour because we are the only visitors!

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Notice board in the information center of Katse Dam

Lesotho gets no water from the dam, only some electricity from the Muella power plant. All with money on loan from South Africa and a grant from the EC (according to Llew). With three cars we drive to and over the dam and visit the dam on the inside (forbidden to take photo’s!). It is an enormous complex with 12 floors and contol capabilities of the water level.

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The Katse Dam

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Entrance to the interiour of the Katse Dam

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View on the information center (to the left)

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Albertien looks at the reservoir

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The river beyond the dam

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The dam

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Sign in honour of the commissioning

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Nelly is taking notes

On the way back to Maseru again we stop at the Information Center of the Bokong Nature Reserve to make a short walk at the summit.

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Walking trail at height

Because of the many climbs we are pretty tight in gasoline. By driving economically we manage to reach a small vilage with a petrol station with unleaded gasoline. Twenty kilometers before Maseru we end up in a police trap. Because Albertien follows a car without having been authorised herself, we are accused of committing a crime. It appears to be a canny way of police bribery. The policeman wants 20 ZAR to buy a drink.As a farewell dinner Llew invites us to the Ocean Basket, a good seafoodrestaurant in the mall.