Today we headed out to Katse Dam. Knowing it was 155km away we didn't realise it included 3 very high and steep mountain passes. At one point on the Mafika Lisiu Pass we were driving in thick mist. We entered the Boking Nature Reserve and headed to the visitor centre for some stunning views down the Lepaqoa Valley and its waterfall. We got there just before the mist rolled in and enjoyed the views and a well deserved cup of tea!
From here we made our way down driving past lots of small villages where children would happily wave at us. We got to see the traditional Basotho farmers wrapped up in their Lesotho blankets and hats sitting pretty on their donkeys herding sheep and cattle. After 3.5 hours we finally arrived at the dam. Seeing an open gate we drove through and over the dam. Reaching the other side a guard said we were not allowed here and had to turn back. As we drove back through the open gate we saw the soldier making his way back up to the gate with his machine gun. We drove by and smiled politely.
Katse Dam is Africa's highest Dam and forms a huge arch around the valley and stands at over 185m tall. We proceeded to the "visitor centre" and their balcony for some stunning views of the dam. On leaving we saw the real visitor centre down the road. We had been in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project offices - oops!
We headed back on the same long windy road taking in the gorgeous views of the reservoir. Hoping that at the very top of the mountain pass the weather would have improved so we could take advantage of the viewpoint and see where they have built a corner road over the cliff edge but unfortunately the weather had got worse.
Finally back on the main road we headed south and the scenery would have been stunning with the Maloti Mountains if we could see the top of them. The rain had turned into a storm with low clouds and mist covering everything. We arrived into Lesotho's capital, Maseru, a city that was occupied by the British in 1869 as another administrative post before heading a little further on to the town of Roma. Nestled amid sandstone cliffs, Roma was established as a mission town in the 1860's and now it is Lesotho's centre of learning with the country's only university.
That night we stopped at the lovely Trading Post hostel dating back to 1903. The ground was too wet for our tent and we had managed to grab a great room for next to nothing, so unpacked and had some tea before retiring to the lounge in front of the log fire - perfect!
After a wonderful nights sleep we headed back to Maseru where unfortunately it was still cloudy but we did manage to drive past the tiny Houses of Parliament, the Royal Palace where David almost got arrested for taking photo's of the Palace's main gate and its soldiers! The main square in the capital had lots of flowers but was cordoned off and is finished off with plastic coconut trees - very strange.
Leaving the city as quick as we could in fear of reprisals and soldiers chasing after us we headed towards the border but stopped off at Thaba-Bosiu, the famed flat topped mountain which means "Mountain at Night" where King Moshoeshoe the Great established his mountain stronghold in 1824 and is regarded as the birthplace of the Basotho nation. Right next door is the Qiloane Hill which provided the inspiration for the Basotho Hat.
Gutted that the weather was still appalling and after David's dash from freedom of the soldiers wrath, we headed south to Mafeteng and the Van Rooyens border gate, crossing back into South Africa - phew! We both loved Lesotho and would love to see it in the sunshine.