Monday, 19 November 2012

Borakalalo NP - where rhinos no longer roam.

I spent the weekend walking in one of my favourite South African spots, Borakalalo NP. Situated in the North West province, this accessible and well-known jewel has, until recently, been a haven for birds and animals alike. Sadly rhino poaching and other isolated incidents of baseless brutality and the proliferation of wire-snares has tarnished this once-pristine reserve.

As people we're often desensitised to common-place images of violence and brutality. Ours is a systematic reduction in emotional reaction. Sometimes however, reality breaks through this physiological fog, if you like, in the most subtle of ways. It's this awakening that's always the most difficult to accept.

Current statistics beggar belief and reveal the harsh reality of rhino-poaching in this country. 230 animals have been confirmed killed this calendar year alone. Many more flee the contact-scene wounded only to perish later. Calves orphaned under these senseless circumstances face little hope of survival.

Perfectly African
Whilst I walked through the reserve in the early light it was like visiting an old friend. The weather was perfectly African and the bush was mostly lush. In the heavens above, in the canopies around me and on the waters nearby, birds went about their daily business. Game was scarce, usually a falsity or an illusion for those people whose unaccustomed footfalls resonate loudly. Sign was everywhere.

Expecting rather than hoping to see rhino I kept an eye out for the usual tell-tale signs of activity without success. Later that morning I made a more determined point of looking for rhino. Later still I concentrated solely on finding rhino or at the very least some evidence of recent activity.

Dung-middens were commonplace; none fresh. Sign was old, very old. All the while large-calibre rifle-shots echoed incessantly across the valley. Armed security revealed later that the Rhino Protection Unit (RPU) was on site training staff. Borakalalo has sadly lost its innocence. Blood has been spilt.

In the late evening, when game in this area often come to water, I searched the usual haunts. Still no rhino. No fresh sign. None. Anywhere.

I'd like to think that rhino still roam these parts. Even so, I never found any.

This is not how it's always been, certainly for as long as I can remember.

The evening hush around the fire holds more poignancy for me now. Stoking the coals, whilst contemplating the quiet, lends itself to an introspective examination of our own faults and failures. When rhino are wiped from the earth will humanity fail? In our quick-fix world of instant gratification how will history record their passing? Will those of us who knew them well miss them most of all or will our children record our failure to mind the keep?

He's not much but he's a piece in this great puzzle that binds all life and an integral link in the fabric that makes us human. We are seemingly, irretrievably so, on the road to nowhere.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Mustang Sally, Rolling Thunder & The Porsche Club

Orion's Magoebaskloof Hotel is the quintessential weekend getaway reserved usually for stressed city-slickers and jaded politicians alike. Quietly charming and mystical when the mist rolls in, this aesthetically appealing country-hotel is accustomed to lifelong guest- loyalty.

Evidence that Orion is taking its management responsibilities seriously is obvious everywhere. The facility is spotlessly clean, the decor is tasteful and the accommodation well-appointed.

The staff is well trained, courteous and functionally competent. Whilst not considered fine-dining by any stretch of the imagination, the food is always well-prepared, freshly served and presented in such a way that eating there feels like home; which is exactly what any self-respecting country-hotel guest usually wants.

That said, what do you get when you coddle Mustang Sally, Rolling Thunder and The Porsche Club into one weekend without any fore-warning? A bloody good show!

Before we start; some formalities. Orion Hotels did some things well and other things 'not so well'. On the plus side patrons, without leather-jackets, were calmly allocated rooms in the furthest reaches of the hotel. Guests who needed upgrading were upgraded, without preamble or grumble. On the flip-side and speaking generally; forewarned is fore-armed! As the weekend progressed it became glaringly obvious that the hotel's management was a little light in the breeches, euphemistically speaking and with apologies. Shattered nerves, both in the reception and in the kitchen, are self-deprecating indulgences and a little unexpected of professional staff. If 'don't bring The Truck' means 'don't bring The Truck' and 'the truck arrived anyway', does a R112000 Friday-night bar bill make it all better?

Tassels, boots and helmets are just attitude-adornments, much like make-up or frilly underwear. So when leather-jackets go boo in the night please don't run the other way.....

'Spirit of the Wolf' - usually in a pack and when wrapped in studded week-end leather only. Any other workday it's a 'Bleating of the Lamb' ...!

Notwithstanding, if life is about freedom and freedom is attitude and if attitude feeds the soul then free we must be. When machines are the elixir, then roll on the thunder!

As is our way when we've had our fill of JHB we search for freedom in places other. Like many city-dwellers we joined the exodus out of town for some country-side R&R. This last weekend we chose Magoebaskloof where we would spend our time in our usual pursuits of nature-based relaxation.  As always we decided on the Magoebaskloof Hotel. The drive out of Gauteng's Johannesburg to Limpopo's Magoebaskloof was largely uneventful. Arriving at the hotel gate-boom was something else altogether. The gate-guard shyly and perhaps too apologetically encouraged us to park as far away from the hotel reception as we could... Whilst I appreciated the notion that my burgeoning gut could do with some exercise, I found the entreaty a little odd at the time. Doing as bidden we walked the few extra meters towards the reception only to round the corner and face-off with Mustang Sally herself, just a gentle wrist-toss of an empty away from reception's front door.

At first glance the hotel staff were showing just a touch more white around the eyes than is normally encouraged by patrons on arrival. A second take revealed milling aged-rockers clad in jacketed fury!

The Harley Club had come to town..!

Aggressive machines, largely ignorant of pedestrians and diminished none at all cloaked as they were in misty spendour, were scattered across the patio. In and among the pistons and the smell of an oil-rag, lurked grey wolves, bears and Batman himself. Blood-soaked skulls, decayed since the sixties, screamed blood-curdling reminders of one life, live free... 

Truly an awesome sight and when viewed in retrospect an amazing insight into human nature at its very best.

Enter Act 2; scene one. Arrive The Porsche Club... If life is a journey then travel in first class we will! At first look an impressively synchronised compliment of aggressive machines, in glacier-white or stornaway grey. Pringled, bespectacled and classically aged, these paragons of good grace paced reception as calmly as Batman himself...Face-off; Stand-off! The very ethos of freedom, freemen and opposing definitions of one life, live free...! 

Grossly out-gunned in intimidation & costume, The Porsches instinctively gave ground and retired to their respective luxury suites, shaken & stirred. In victorious exuberance Mustang Sally soon revealed concert-standard sound-speakers, big-screens and an endless supply of sixties rock which she impressively demonstrated for the next 12 hours without hesitation or pause..

Some 500 meters away, whilst safely locked away in my own suite, I whistled along and drummed gently to crystal-clear ballads by ACDC, Black Sabbath and The Doors. Later that evening lasers tore through the mist, blinded bats and illuminated the skies!

Mustang Sally [9pm]
At early dinner agitated murmurs, grinding teeth and twitchy limbs from Reserved for The Porsche Club confirmed that afternoon naps had been sorely missed. Discussions of power to weight ratios and the vagaries of torque lacked its usual resonance. Awkward silences followed new dinner arrivals, lest leather jackets feature too strongly in the evening attire. Staff scuttled nervously; Chefs whined pitifully and managers apologised profusely.

All the while Mustang Sally rocked on and on and 3am on..

The Sunday 6:30am breakfast bell welcomed the Reserved for The Porsche Club, the rest of us and one or two Harley-rockers intent on leaving sober for the long trip home to Mrs. Rocker.. Imagine the consternation when the Harley-rocker bid Reserved a good morning in clipped, well-spoken English.. and imagine his surprise when Reserved gave him the bird!

So there you have it. It's just life Jim and just like we love it. Like morning-after soap-suds in the water-feature it's another fragile reminder to live considerately free.

Postscript - I mourned the passing of Jim Morrison; have listened to Rodriguez; can recite the lyrics to ACDC's Thunderstruck; still occasionally ride my superbike on the track; currently own a leather jacket and more than a dozen suits; appreciate the vagaries of down-force and have owned a multitude of performance machines then and now. I can't thank Orion enough for the most entertaining weekend I've had in years.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Valley of the Rainbow - nothing fishy about it..!

The 'old mill' near the waters edge played its part in history
Situated near Dullstroom, Mpumalanga and some 250 kilometers away from the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, Valley of the Rainbow is close enough for a weekend-trip but far enough away to make it worthwhile.

It's not 'the everywhere' I've been to before, by any stretch and I've been to most places here. There's some history on the farm too for those who define themselves this way. The old mill [left] played a significant part in the Anglo-Boer conflict but that's a story for another time..

Ardent O. mykiss (rainbows) fishermen are broadly familiar with both Belfast and Dullstroom. Very few, however, would claim familiarity with Valley of the Rainbow. It's not on the general radar, is less accessible than most mainstream trout-fishing venues and is, as a result and for those in the know, somewhere people return to regularly.
Scenically magnificent. A piece of Africa

Those in a rush to get lines in the water might not like the tail-end 12 kilometers on dirt.. They won't rave about the crusty R33 from Belfast or the coal-dusted R555 from Middelberg either. In fact, the last 60 kilometers or so takes time, lots of it and although accessible to most sedans (at a push), leaving the 4x4 gas-guzzler in the garage at home, is probably not advisable.

If travel is all about the journey then there's enough journey to please even the most ardent traveler. Those who disagree and who prefer the destination rather than the road-trip would not be disappointed once they got there.

The facilities are good, very good. The recently appointed husband & wife management team are infectious in their enthusiasm which is a refreshing change in this part of the world where 5-star trout-lodges yawn across hill & dale.

In summer The Manor House must be a shady respite from the elements
Attention to detail is self-evident
Accommodation options range from rustic to luxurious and as a result most tastes are catered for. The Manor House carries pride of place, is tastefully decorated, well-appointed and accommodates 10 people in five en suite rooms. Meals are served in the dining room. Large groups (up to 10), who fancy a braai (barbecue) or their own cuisine, might prefer the The Country House; a country-style, self-catering home away from home.

Our children, aged 12 to 15, are fiercely conflicted on what type of accommodation is most suitable for a family weekend away. Our son, the youngest, despises anything but a tent and a sleeping bag.. Our oldest two, both girls, are predisposed to solid brick and tile and a bath and a lounge and an electric blanket...  As can be imagined; never the three shall meet!

The Tented Chalets are great for families
A dining table, rather than a box, is a necessity

Adjacent to Dam-3, although far from perfect for either team, are The Tented Chalets. These luxury tents, built on raised wooden decks (permanent), offer what a pacifist might describe as the best of both demands. They're not exactly luxurious in the strictest sense of the term. They're also not baselessly rustic either.. Detente then!

The basics are covered but the tents could do with a dining-table, some closet space and a box or two of matches. The pillows are unrelenting misery. Whoever dream't up lumpy, hard sponge as THE solution for mankind's most pressing slumber-demands, should be made to sleep on one or be fed to the fish, whichever is worse.. No rail behind the kitchenette is also an accident waiting to happen. Children beware!

The safety rails end abruptly behind the kitchenette...?
The 5 'tented chalets' are tastefully private and in summer the copse of indigenous trees in which these chalets are built must be alive with birds. Those who are security-conscious might not like the isolation, the proximity of the unmanned main gate or the 2km distant main house. Pathways between the chalets are, however, well lit. If isolation is your tonic then the winter night-skies are brilliantly clear and the quiet, peaceful.

Dams are large, generally free of weed and offer good access
The Tented Chalets are close to the main entrance

Fishing is generally difficult
August fishing is never easy, as any fisherman worth his tack will tell you...  This weekend proved no different. The dams are stocked, perhaps not as well as they might be but there are fair quantities of good-sized Brown and Rainbow Trout in all three dams.

A forth dam, nearer the farm's entrance, has bass.

The water is neither as cold nor as clear as elsewhere in Dullstroom and the fish we did catch were, in fact, quite lively. My son, a dry-fly connoisseur, had a few good jumpers in that perfect hour which usually precedes sunset. There are few things more rewarding than actively feeding browns, lured on dry, late in the afternoon session.

Pack lightly and the walk up the avenue will be a joy

Those who choose The Tented Chalets either drive the kilometer or so up to the first dam or walk the same route. The natural avenue of indigenous trees which line the main access to The Manor House and the start of good water from where anglers make their way slowly back to base, is a magnet for fauna, feathered and otherwise. Owls are common in the late evening; a pair of African Fish Eagles call the alley home and both Greater Kudu and Bushbuck are seen regularly. It's alive, filled with natural aromas and quite simply, idyllic.

Owned by a Potchefstroom pathologist attention to detail is key

Valley of the Rainbow does have its faults. The fishing is probably fair to disappointing by most standards. There are better venues nearby if it's a big bag you're after. The accommodation is by and large surprisingly good. That said, The Tented Chalets are short of a few basics and side-rail security, given the height of the deck, is a necessity. I can only hope that's fixed before somebody gets hurt. Those who want a Sunday-morning cup of tea and a scone at any or all of Dullstroom's famous deli cum restaurants won't like it here either. It's simply too far away. At the opposite end of the taper; if you're happy to take your Sunday-tea on a stone patio with a view over good water and in so doing avoid the annoyance that is half of Johannesburg dipping their rusks in your tea when you're not looking, then Valley of the Rainbow does just fine.

The upside is simple. If you're looking for an idyllic home away from home with some fishing, a good walk in a pristine environment and general peace & quiet, you won't go too far wrong here. It's also a safe environment to teach young anglers the finer details of the cast without incurring the ire or disrupted temper from nearby fisherman.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Limpopo's Magoebaskloof Hotel - Good, better, best!

There's a yearning that we feel for things less sterile, stronger in some of us than others. City life has its perks, obviously, but the bright lights soon dim and the vibrant sounds become a thing of diminishing beauty..

As a consequence and whenever possible, we hit the road less traveled, usually on week-ends. So that's the why but what's with the owl (Pearl-spotted Owlet for the 'twitchers'); why Magoebaskloof and where is that anyway?

Rushing from pillar to post or from city to lodge is pretty pointless. We don't do it.

Meandering through the countryside for the sake of meandering; the golden fields, green trees and country houses just a subconscious veneer in lazy stupor, must eventually grind too. That is, of course, unless you stop regularly, widen the senses and harness the power of peace from the dust on your shoes. Some people do just that and appreciate the scenery for what it is. Kudos to them. We prefer to do things a little differently.

We love to travel for the wanderlust is strong in both of us but more so, we're passionate about birds. Birds through binoculars do just fine but birds in the hand are so much better.. As 'citizen scientists' we catch, ring (SA terminology) or band (US) [- a steel ring is attached, usually on the leg, for record purposes] and collect data from as many birds as possible. The data is collated in the field, centrally analysed [@ the University of Cape Town] and relied on for conservation purposes. We do so countrywide; internationally too. So that explains the owl.

In our winter (June to August), which is generally mild and dry, particularly inland, the vegetation dries and in some cases, dies. Food becomes scarce. Birds either migrate internationally or regionally in search of opportunity. Regional migration is usually in an easterly direction away from the very dry western districts. Magoebaskloof lies in the north east on the misty Limpopo escarpment and is characterised by both indigenous and exotic forest, clear mountain streams and in some areas, high-altitude grasslands. There's natural food aplenty for both mammal & bird. So that explains Magoebaskloof.

Most visitors to the region prefer the accommodation options at nearby Haenertsberg which offers an eclectic mix of old and new. We however and for our purposes at least, prefer the Magoebaskloof Hotel. With an idyllic setting and misty ambiance, the buildings take on a charm which modern options never offer and in winter, log fires warm the soul.

Closely guarded by the King Makgoba statue and recently absorbed and marketed under the Orion banner, this old lady seemingly enjoys a refreshing new lease on life. Genuine hospitality, acquired over sixty years, equips the front-line staff and kitchen with an appreciation for their guests and this is the abiding memory. Fail to appreciate that gift and the hotel is just another aging Queen of Hearts left too long at the piano.

Precariously balanced atop the escarpment with sweeping views across the valley where the vista is reward enough for even the most jaded of travelers, Magoebaskloof Hotel is still the local favorite. Friends meet on cold nights in the local pub surrounded by memories of activities past. Genuine, belly-aching laughter echoes in the hallways. Pretentious ceremony and bling-believe is not welcomed here. Wit and charm wins the beer.

Early morning rains (unseasonal) settled the dust, an earthy smell.
Rates are fair, rooms are palatial and the facilities are adequate for those who rate these things. Ask the right questions at the right time of the year and enjoy the Log Fire special at an all inclusive rate, meals included, equivalent to a meal for two in up-town Johannesburg. The food is not an embellishment of the arts. Don't expect it to be and why should it be? It's home cooking away from home, freshly prepared by local chefs, trained not in Paris but behind a local hob. Servings are expansive and somewhat surprisingly, patrons select from an impressive a la carte menu all inclusive in the room-rate whether that be fillet, fowl or flapjack. An interesting yet uniquely delightful concept!

Not fancy. Adequate.
Breakfasts are a buffet from 'granny's table'

Look closely and the decor is hardly uniform. In fact it's decidedly odd. Old oils cling regally to freshly coated walls. Country-English clashes broadly with Afro-Asian mystique. It's truly an abomination but strangely feels quite normal here. Home baked cakes, fresh scones & strawberry jam and richly-brewed coffee are not to be missed.

So there you have it and that's Magoebaskloof Hotel. It's not fancy, nor is it fancily dressed but it's warm, charming and well worth a visit.

It's the little things that count in life....

Dew drops clinging to a blade of grass in the early-morning mists can be so much more than mere drops of water.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Lesotho triumph

There are places we find which remind us that time is eternal and our own time here, fleeting. Lesotho is such a place. We ramble on about big skies and grand scenery but Lesotho really is another world.
Measuring about 175km from top to bottom and some 220km from east to west it's about the size of Belgium. It's also the only country in the world situated entirely above 1300m. 

Mountainous highlands dominate the eastern half of the country. People are sparse here and the economy is largely subsistence. 

Lesotho vista - early winter
In winter the climate in the valley is mild but in the highlands snow and ice are common. Temperatures of -15 degrees centigrade and below are also relatively common which is why many South Africans head to the high Berg ski-slopes.

Getting to these ski-slopes on the A1 from the north west is via the spectacular Moteng Pass; a meandering affair with gentle twists and turns in the lowlands to dangerously irregular hairpin bends as the road rises in earnest towards the east. 

Cows, sheep, goats and donkeys have the right of way and in the valleys, crops dot the fields. Erosion is a serious problem and most of the indigenous fauna and flora is either locally extinct or threatened. 

Young boys pursue right of passage and in the western lowlands tend their cattle. In the highest latitudes in the east, youngsters tend the family sheep and goats. Synonymous with Lesotho culture, most of the youngsters are clad in threadbare blankets and not much more. In winter these kids safely negotiate the sub-zero temperatures by rubbing sheep-fat into their blankets; odiferous but effective.

As the A1 winds eastward the road rises in earnest and is, even in the best conditions, very treacherous. Once dubbed 'the worst road in the world', now tarred, it's still the only access road to the east for large service vehicles (Letseng diamond mine) and holiday-makers alike. Occasionally these large vehicles lose control, veer across the verge and overturn. Under those circumstances it's not unusual to wait for 5 or 6 hours whilst the vehicle is cleared; a painstaking process..

For most holiday-makers the resultant hold-up is distinctly frustrating. Even so, taking the time to enjoy a cup of coffee or a walk to the scene of the accident and interacting with Africa's most friendly people, is always rewarding. Under the most dire of circumstances very little aggression, if any, is prevalent among the local people.

As the road ascends, ice crystals cling to cliff-edges and streams are partly frozen. Vehicles are buffeted by the wind channeled through the pass. This physical assault and the views which stretch from one side of the world to the other, overwhelm the senses.

From the summit of Moteng Pass (2850m) the road descends gently. In winter it's fiercely cold.

Two establishments service the ski-slopes. The first along the road is Oxbow Lodge, some 10km from the Moteng summit. First impressions are poor; lasting impressions are dreadful. Avoid if possible. Afriski, some 15 km further along the road and near the Mahlasela Pass (3200m), is a much better option.

Oxbow Lodge - July 2012

These two resorts are usually booked six months in advance during the ski-season. This year was no exception and having booked too late we had to settle for Oxbow.

Privately owned since 1981 there's very little (ie: no) excuse for appalling service, bad food and dilapidated facilities. Notwithstanding, people do return.. I'm not sure why. A canteen-like food-hall plumbs new lows in hospitality. The management is inconspicuous and the staff, generally, grossly incompetent.

The picturesque Malibamatso River, against which the lodge nestles, is its only saving grace. Even that is ruined by raw sewage spilled from the lodge a little further downstream. All the rest is misery. 

If you're able to ignore the displeasure of Oxbow this part of Lesotho is really special. Waterfalls are common, rivers (above Oxbow's sewage) are pristine and the views are absolutely breathtaking.

Malibamatso River - early morning ice

It's a peaceful scene which is why it's difficult to imagine that Mother Nature is anything but benign... It's a serious miscalculation which, this time at least, caused untold strife.  

Near Oxbow Lodge - Dawn light
Lesotho is the land of 4-seasons in a day and in winter, particularly in these parts, that means, usually, a fiercely cold start, a late morning blizzard, an afternoon snow and evening ice.

South Africans, generally unequipped for extreme conditions and with variable driving experience, tend to make mistakes in extreme weather. When the wind's up and with 4x4 vehicles rushing from slope to slope, the compacted snow soon turns to ice..

As far as blizzards go this one was a monster. It arrived at 10am Saturday morning, unheralded, unannounced and with devastating effect. The world was, quite literally, painted white, ripped apart and turned upside down. Most people, happily enjoying an early ski, were caught cold...

Holiday makers flounder ahead of the storm
Fierce winds, driving snow and sub-zero temperatures had most vehicles floundering ahead of the storm. The unlucky few, too late to leave the slopes, were miraculously rescued from stranded vehicles under 3m of snow early on Sunday morning. Four South Africans survived the overnight freeze (-15 deg) in a heated car until the diesel froze by which time, fortunately, mining staff from the nearby diamond mine had lead a rescue.

Seemingly unaffected, the local shepherds bore the weather stoically.

Unbeknownst to most who fled before the storm, up ahead was worse to come. By mid afternoon racing vehicles had churned the snow to slush. The slush soon froze to ice.

This vehicle never made it off the pass

Many visitors, anticipating snow on Lesotho's slopes, had traveled from nearby South Africa for the day. Moteng Pass, some 10 km westwards, stood squarely between these revelers and the border-post. Now covered in as much as 30 cm of ice, the descent off Moteng Pass was impassible. Low cloud, mist and sleet reduced visibility to a few meters and given the abruptness of the storm, vehicles floundered west, together, in convoy.
Driving crosswinds buried the road

Some 40 vehicles, unequipped for and generally unaware of the ice on the pass, attempted the descent together.

Hopelessly out of control the lucky few spun into the cliff-side ditch and suffered little further damage. The less fortunate careened into the vehicle ahead and were themselves hit from behind. All 40 vehicles now in various states of chaos, either abandoned or tied to the roadside barrier to prevent a further slide down the pass, remained on that pass, some for as long as 72 hours. Those who wanted help were later rescued off the pass by overnight residents from the nearby lodge. A few vehicles were too dangerous to approach even on foot. By sheer miracle nobody was seriously injured; although a few suffered from hypothermia and one or two suffered a few contusions.

Freezing temperatures - dropped to -15 deg
With nowhere to go, no accommodation and the pass impassable, Oxbow was the only option for the refugees.. Unsurprisingly the management was conspicuously absent. The guests who could assist, did as much. Oxbow's staff couldn't have cared less. Women and children overflowed the bars, the lounges; anywhere they could. Later that night some were permitted to spend the night in the conference room where they collapsed, cold, panicked and exhausted. No blankets or bedding of any kind was provided.. The men, meanwhile, back at the pass, did what they could, however ineffectual.

Fortunately, conditions improved overnight and by early Sunday afternoon one or two 4-wheel drive vehicles managed the decent, some would argue a little irresponsibly. I say irresponsibly because, by their lead, lesser vehicles tried the same with disastrous consequence...

Come Monday morning, for those of us still east of Moteng Pass and thoroughly gatvol* (*... a little unhappy) with Oxbow's hospitality, it was do or slide! One way or the other we were going to get through. A team from the ORU (Offroad Rescue Unit) had arrived from South Africa late Sunday night and together with our friends from the mine, coordinated the clearing of the pass.

Top of Moteng Pass
The top of the pass is permanently in shade which hindered any thaw of the ice. By 11am more than 100 vehicles were parked at the top of the pass. Once the stranded vehicles from the days before had been safely evacuated or secured by the ORU team, every able person assisted with hand, spade or shovel to clear the ice. By the time the labour teams began to flag a grader from Letseng arrived to finish the task. Salt, also generously donated by the mine, was used to lower the freezing temperature of the ice which aided thaw.
Letseng's grader followed by the 'salt' cruiser

By 1pm (Monday) the pass was declared safe and with no small measure of relief all descended safely off the pass en route the border; one vehicle at a time and in 1st gear only.

It was the end of an unforgettable adventure. It was also testament, once more, that South Africans, of all persuasion, always pull together when faced with adversity. Most of us got our vehicles off that mountain safely. Some didn't, sadly, but we all lived to tell the tale. It could have been worse, much worse..

This vehicle we found some 600 meters further down the pass. I don't know its story..