Dispatch No.6 - The party splits

2009-05-22 00:00

Land Rovers around via Matatielle, up and over the escarpment through Ramatseliso’s pass border gate. Kingsley, the grey beard, is with the Landies for the drive around and over Ramatselisos Nek, and so we use these notes from Johan’s scribbles (he’s well over yesterday’s practical joke to tell the story of Bushman’s Nek Pass on the ponies).

Johan Louw, coordinator for the expedition is leading the assault on Bushmans’s Nek Pass, these are the scribbles from this filed note book:

Lemeke is our host, our guides are tough mountain men from Lesotho: Thabang Lerotholi; Poone Motsekinyane; Mapheellee Nkuebe; and Manaei Penane; they introduce us to our ponies. Shit! Looking at the mountain that they have to climb (approximately a 900m accent) and the size of some of our party, it looks like the “ponies” are in for a challenge.

And so we set off, following the course of the Bushman’s River at first, and then beginning to climb out on its western banks onto the mid slopes that would lead us to the plateau and the Lesotho and Sehlabathebe National Park boundary. The scenery is incredible - pristine, undulating, three dimensional – the air crisp and fresh. As we progress up the mighty Maluti we increasingly become awe-inspired by the experience, the scenic beauty, the sense of adventure, and most surprisingly the incredible spirit, agility and ability of the Basotho ponies. These gentle animals have so adapted to the harsh mountain conditions that if they had to be entered into an endurance race at Fauresmith they would certainly have an unfair advantage.

We meet with a moment of sadness; a simple stone next to the footpath marking the grave of Nobandwana, a young woman that was struck and killed by lightening here and, according to Basotho tradition, buried on the spot by shepards. We humbly pay our respects, and continue our journey.

Ultimately, after a three-hour ride of crossing rivers, climbing steep slopes, loose rocks and boulders, we reach the plateau and the border fence. What a sense of euphoria! We cut the fence and form the horses up into extended line, and cross – not only a man-made boundary between two countries and one ecosystem, but also the African Continental Divide where rain falling this side of the fence flows into the Indian Ocean where we began the Boundless Southern Africa Expedition two days ago; and rain falling on the other side, flows into the Atlantic where we will finish the expedition 110 days from now. With our spirits heightened and the ponies smelling home, we charge down to Sehlabathebe. The sun dips over the Maluti’s, the moon is large and there is no sign of the Land Rover Team.

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