The Big Chill (Part I)

Winter exploration and travel tips

LESOTHO

Up and at ‘em at 5.30am on a Saturday morning, now that’s dedication! We were off and in search of snow. Our trip up to Lesotho for a hike through the Sehlabathebe National Park was planned somewhat last minute, and with heavy snows that took place just a few days before our departure, we were not too sure about camping in minus degree temperatures any longer. Without a solid plan, but plenty of enthusiasm, we forged on and reached the top of Sani Pass within 4 hours of leaving the balmy shores of Durban.

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Lesotho was a trip of many ‘firsts’ for some of our crew: experiencing snow, minus degree temperatures, testing out the 4-wheel drive of a new car (great timing), trying to get a braai started and cook our meat in 2-degree weather (whose idea was that?) and more that I probably shouldn’t mention in fear of sounding even more like amateurs.

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After deliberation between the ranks we chose to road trip further into Lesotho for the day, but stay at the Sani Pass Backpackers for the evening – much to the bar owner’s satisfaction.

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Inland Lesotho is truly beautiful. Dotted with traditional homesteads throughout the countryside and covered in a blanket of snow, it was amazing to experience the completely barren, open spaces of this small country above the clouds. It almost felt like being on the moon, in a completely different world. Please be warned, the cold in Lesotho is no joke – by 5pm that evening the temperature sat at just 2 degrees, and later dipped down to -5 degrees during the night. See below for some personal tips to ensure you are fully prepared.

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Personal Travel Tips:

Don’t

  • Braai when the temperature drops below 5 degrees. It’s just not fun.
  • Sleep outdoors when it’s snowing, unless you’re climbing Mount Everest or a mountain goat.
  • Wear cheap gumboots in the snow. Rubber holds the temperature it is exposed to, so your gumboots will literally absorb the cold and freeze your feet.
  • Forget jumper cables in case your car falls into a cold coma and won’t wake up.
  • Drive too fast throughout Lesotho, there are a lot of road works as well as locals and their animals strolling beside the road.

Do

  • Buy good quality thermals and a minus degree sleeping bag – this will save your life.
  • Buy a waterproof jacket so you can make snow angels and not soak yourself.
  • Pack a good quality camera – there is plenty of amazing, varied landscape to photograph.
  • Have the KitKat and marshmallow hot chocolate at the Sani Pass Hotel.
  • Use a 4 X 4 to get up Sani Pass, at all costs.

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