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Lesotho Trekking

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Trekking In Lesotho

Lesotho is a tiny mountain kingdom with a proud history, entirely encircled by South Africa. It's 30,355 sq km (11, 718 sq miles) lie between the borders of KwaZulu Natal, the Free State and the Eastern Cape Provinces. No other country in the world has all its frontiers higher than 1,000m above sea level and Lesotho is often called the 'Switzerland of Africa'.


Topographically

Topographically the western plain is an extension of the highveld of the Free State, some 5,000 to 7, 000 feet above sea level. The Maluti Mountains run roughly parallel with the Free State border, while the central range is like a spine down the middle of the country. The Maluti Mountains still have the rock shelters in which prehistoric men lived 50,000 years ago which were subsequently decorated with rock art by the Bushmen, who drew animals now extinct here.

The greatest altitudes are over in the Drakensberg, on the KwaZulu Natal border, where Thabana-Ntlenyana is the highest peak in southern Africa at 3,841 m (12,598 ft). The Senqu (Orange), the Mohokare (Caledon) and the Tugela rivers have their origin here and in Lesotho they and their tributaries are perfect highland streams, alive with fish.

Climate

In the lowlands, which comprise a quarter of the country, temperatures vary from 32°C (90°F) in summer (October to February) to 13°C (20°F) in winter. Summer, from November to January, is ideal for fishing and swimming; autumn (February to April) is good for hiking and ends with the harvest; from May to July the mountains are snow-covered. Spring brings blossoms and late spring -October - brings both thunderstorms and superb clear, warm weather.

Snow may fall in the highlands at any time, especially from June to August, when roads are closed and areas cut off.

The rains are unpredictable, the average of 71cm (28ins) falling mainly from October to April. But every month has showers and thunderstorms can blow up suddenly, turning roads to streams

Pony Trekking

This is a real Basotho speciality the Basotho horse is exceptionally sturdy and agile. The surefooted ponies are never shod and will take you safely across rivers and up precipitous mountain tracks. Getting completely away from it all in Lesotho's vast landscapes is the joy of pony trekking. Virtually every country hotel and lodge can arrange riding and no great skill is needed. . Treks last up to five days, normally staying in mountain villages, and are very reasonably priced. The season is September 1 to April 30, avoiding the winter snow.

The Mountain Roads to the Central Range

The route past Molimo Nthuse to the central range of mountains is breathtaking. Beyond Thaba Tseka the road degenerates into a 4WD track in the direction of the villages and Mission Stations in the Senqu valley, crossing the river by the Koma Koma causeway. When it is not raining it is possible to reach Sehlabathebe National Park via this last section of the Trans-Lesotho Track. Most treks go as far as the lodge at Makarabei, in the dead centre of Lesotho. Another mountain destination is Semonkong, with southern Africa's highest waterfall.

Molimo Nthuse

Leaving Maseru on the main south road you turn left after 20 km (12 miles) at a Caltex petrol station and then left again after another 10 km at St Michael's Mission, where the main tarmac road continues to Lesotho's University at Roma. After St Michael's it is a steep, winding climb up the Bushman's Pass at 2265 m (7,419 ft), with rewarding views of the bare grass hills and basalt rock faces of the Maluti Mountains.

The tarmac ends by the entrance to Basotho Pony Trekking, 55 km (34 miles) from Maseru and roughly an hour's drive. You can roam all over the mountains on horseback, never seeing a vehicle and visiting waterfalls, such as the Qiloane Falls a couple of hours ride away, passing undisturbed villages. Treks last from four hours to six nights and seven days, the longest being way across country to the Lebihan Falls near Semonkong. You bring your own food and sleeping bags and pay a small fee to the villages where you stay.

Trekking Season

The season is September 1 to April 30.

Marakabei

Beyond the Pony Project the gravel road levels off and takes you 45 km (28 miles) through a boulder-strewn and rugged landscape to the small village of Marakabei in the Senqunyane river valley.

Semonkong and the Lebihan Falls

The road through the pleasant university town of Roma takes you after 68 km (42 miles) to Semonkong, with horseback access to the Lebihan Falls in one of the most magnificent parts of Lesotho. These falls are the highest in southern Africa with a sheer 192 m (629 ft) drop over a cliff.

Last Updated on Thursday 26th November 2009

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