I’ve come to endear Lesotho. Maybe it’s because of the extremely friendly people, the smiles on the faces of children or the spectacular mountain scenery and primitive villages. It’s unfortunate I met Lesotho in the rain. And from the skies and the forecast, it doesn’t look like it will let up soon. So sadly I departed today after riding through more villages and the largest city in southwestern Lesotho, Mafetang before entering back into South Africa at Wepner.
Like in the Transkei in South Africa, the Sotho villagers build round huts, or rondavels to sleep, cook and play. But unlike the Transkei which sits closer to sea level, Lesotho is in the mountains. The rondavels here are made of stone while those in Transkei are made of brick then covered with some sort of plaster or stucco. But perhaps what is the only blemish I found on the landscape of Lesotho is the abundant use of corrugated tin. In some villages the traditional rondavels sit among a handful of corrugated tin boxes. This is also evident in some of the more impoverished Town Ships in South Africa. In Lesotho seemingly ad hoc roadside strip malls are built of corrugated tin panels while signage is crudely spray painted. Riding through some small low land towns, traditional construction has given way to cheaper and perhaps easier to construct tin boxes.
Once again, passing the border from Lesotho into South Africa was a 10 minute affair for each post. My plan was to make for Graff Reinet, the heart of the Grand Karoo — the Eastern Cape’s grand desert. And for the first couple hours in South Africa things were looking good. While I didn’t have scorching sun, I was happy the the route I chose seemingly changed direction every time ominous black storm clouds appeared on my horizon. But my luck changed after I filled up for gas in Burgersdorp. At about 4:30pm I was less than two hours from my destination, then about 10 miles out of town as I was about to cross a vast prairie, the sky grew black as night. Hundreds of lighting bolts danced across the sky and then around me. Raindrops that seemed to be the size of marbles pounded on my jacket and face shield. I thought I was getting stoned. Thunder crashed and one bolt of lightning seemed to land a few hundred meters from me.
Ad Hoc Corrugated shopping center or businesses surely dent the scenic landscape of this mountainous country.
I’ve been told I need to be careful in South Africa and Lesotho with my bike and my things, so I’ve hired some protection. I hope it doesn’t create more problems than it solves 😉
I knew I had to give up on riding the rest of the day. I made a u-turn and raced back to Burgersdorp, a town of 166 years, that some years ago celebrated a Jubilee for the Queen of England who in kind responded with a fountain of copper and steel that sits in disrepair on the town square. A cute town with a spattering of small B&Bs and one hotel. I chose the The Nook on Church street. The only guest on this Saturday night and just as I was about to pull Doc into the driveway the storm unleashed it’s electric and rainy mess on this tiny town. For the next hour I listened to the the rain pound the roof as the thunder shook the room and bright flashes of light lit the sky. I was glad to be in and not riding. Sometimes you just have to change plans. Tonight I’ll see what kind of food Nunu’s, the only restaurant in town, will be serving tonight.
South Africa seems to spend more time and money on signs warning of potholes than it does fixing them, in many cases. I also noticed nearly all road signs are installed using raw timber; quite a contrast from metal or iron that is used in the states and in many places in South America — that is where there are actually road signs. The South African roads are well signed and for the most part in good shape.
The storm I abruptly made a U-turn to avoid eventually dumped and wreaked havoc on Burgersdrop.