Sunday, July 01, 2007

Skiing African Style

Contrary to popular belief, there is in fact skiing available in Africa south of the equator although I might be stretching the definition of skiing a little. This is not the miles and miles of ski runs with quaint coffee, gluhwein or vin chaud shops perched precariously on the mountain side, this is African style. There is one ski run and the one and only coffee shop is at the bottom of the run a mere 500m walk (not ski) away. Be this as it may, it is still snow and you do get to use real ski's and if you aren't careful, make an idiot of one's self.
Having been to Tiffendell a couple of times and experienced their exemplary service orientated culture (not!) I was expecting pretty much the same thing at Afri-Ski and I was not disappointed.

We left on the friday morning at 11:00 and arrived at about 16:00 which included a border crossing and the usual stops for calls of nature - like food. Once in Lesotho the speed at which one drives decreases to about 80km/hr because at anything much more than that you wouldn't be able to stay on the road let alone avoid oxen, sheep and children. There are no fences beside the road so one's speed has to take these into consideration - a typically african experience. We overtook several ox carts plodding along the tarred road. I thought that we might see donkey carts but I was surprised at the ox carts. The moteng pass (2820m) which climbs about 1000m up the escarpment is absolutely fantastic. Good road all the way with loads of ice and snow next to the road from the cold front a couple of weeks ago. I would not like to do this pass with snow actually on the road, I think it would be extremely dangerous. The Oxbow lodge where we were staying is a short drive from the top of the pass and wedged between the road and the stream and driving into it reminded me of some of the Nepali villages where the road winds between the houses. The Oxbow Lodge cannot be described as luxury accomodation by any stretch of the imagination but it was warm and reasonably comfortable thanks to the winter sheets, four thick blankets and a thick duvet not to mention the gas heater which we left on the whole night.

In the lounge after supper we met an eccentric englishman, they (the english) really do have a knack of producing them. I wonder if it is a sign of in-breeding? He is busy cycling around Lesotho and according to him, and he has done almost 100 000km of cycling in various parts of the world, this is by far the most strenuous terrain he has ever encountered. I must say, that as a cyclist, the mountains are pretty daunting. He has spent the last 10 years travelling by bicycle or public transport all over the world and intends doing another 5 years before going home to the UK. I don't think anyone who has done that amount of travelling will ever again settle down in one place.

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