The Best Laid Plans of Mice & Men

Northern Drakensburg Mountains

Bergville, South Africa 

July 23, 2016

I had a hankering to see Lesotho, and thought I had come up with a grand plan. Having no interest in Maseru or other big towns, I wanted to get to the rural villages in the mountains. Traveller lore has it that in the northern Drakensburg mountains there is farm converted into a quaint lodge, with bedrooms in cunningly converted grain silos. And better yet, they arrange day tours to Lesotho by going up a rarely used road in the northern part of the country. Perfect, I thought, giving myself a mental pat on the back. I would take the tour but simply not come back with them. I could wander at will and head back into South Africa over the Sani pass. 

The road out of Jo’burg lay like a gray ribbon through fields with stubby stalks. Gone was the one lane road with tin shacks lining it that I had been seeing in the neighbouring countries. Gone are the overloaded minibuses with boxes and bags tied to the roofs. Gone are the vegetable sellers lining the roads and the round thatched houses in the bush. The fields here are immense with an occasional farmstead dotting the areas. The other cars on the road are shiny, slick models. Guardrails, non-existent in my travels so far reappear here and lo and behold, there are actually signs denoting the highways.

But the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry as the saying goes. The second day in Drakensburg, the gray skies got grayer and the spitting rain soon turned into a torrential downpour reminding me of the monsoons. Rivers ran where previously there had been only dry stubs of grass. I decided to tuck my tail between my legs and pack up the tent before it went floating across the veld. Word was the snow in the upper reaches had blocked passes. Stories of flooding in the low velds vied with accidents and blocked roads in the upper ones. Of people stranded in villages, towns, lodges. Lesotho comes to a halt is there is so much as a hint of a snowflake. What this kind of a multi-day storm would do was anybody’s guess. So that was that. Lesotho will have to wait until another time. A slippery hike into the Royal Natal national park, a walk to some waterfalls and a view of wildly overrated San paintings later I decided to make my way south to Durban.

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