The plan was to explore eastern Lesotho on a week-long expedition visiting places of interest along the way. Five days of moderate to difficult 4×4 tracks, crossing mountain passes and rivers, finding waterfalls and hiking rolling green hills…that was the plan when two of us were going to rough it a bit with no rest days.
Then, the day before departure we had to change our plans after my expedition companion had to cancel due to last minute work commitments that he could not postpone. I was going on my own but my wife suggested we take the kids out of school for a few days to show them Lesotho. It involved last-minute buying of more supplies, and a few changes to the packing arrangement to accommodate 4 instead of 2 travelers!
We also changed the route from a daily hardcore 4×4 expedition, to an exploratory visit to one destination where we can spend our days discovering the region in detail. This made sense with two young kids in the back seat who might have had a bit of a problem with 8 hour days of 4×4 driving over terrain fit for a mountain goat!
The map below shows the route in Lesotho including the Ramatseliso’s Gate border post, the interesting sights, places to stay in the park and the surrounding points of interest.
We headed off to Sehlabathebe National Park – one of only two national parks in Lesotho – situated in the south-eastern region of Lesotho on the border of South Africa. This park forms the centerpiece of the proposed Drakensberg/Maluti Alpine Park Project.
Our journey took us from Durban in South Africa into a easterly direction heading towards Kokstad and Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. This takes around 5 hours at a leisurely pace. In Matatiele we headed towards Maluti and turned towards the Lesotho border. We used Tracks4Africa GPS maps for all our navigational needs and every bit of detail was available to get us to our destination without one wrong turn.
As we left Maluti the road turned to gravel (it put an immediate smile on my face) with open grasslands and villages dotting the landscape. The road took us up a steep climb on a windy track as we started to ascend the mountains. We reached the Ramatseliso’s Gate Border Post where efficient and friendly customs officials stamped our passports and sent us on our way. Lesotho was even faster, but the road to the border post indicated that we’ve now entered Lesotho. Here’s the view that welcomed us!
From the border to the entrance of Sehlabathebe National Park took about one and a half hours. As soon as we entered the park it became evident that we entered a protected area with the lack of settlements and roads less traveled. As we slowly worked our way up the mountains the cliffs and towering outcrops grew ever larger.
A mist started cascading over the tips of the mountains and a fresh breeze, together with a shortness of breath made us realise that we were high above sea level. The contrast between hot, humid Durban and crispy, cool Sehlabathebe NP was refreshing. This is a unique park that offers exclusivity to pristine mountain scenery. There are not many visitors (in fact we were the only visitors there which was great for us, but the country of Lesotho needs more tourists), and I feel at times that this is a place I want to keep to myself and not tell a soul. But that would just be selfish!
Around every corner the views had us in awe of this majestic place. You quickly forget about life back home when massive mountains tower over you on the one side and valleys drop away on the other! ‘Spectacular’ is the word that came to mind when taking in the views on the way to the lodge.
Jonathan’s Lodge was our destination and we reached it an hour before sunset. We were greeted by one of the game rangers who mentioned that there are no official campsite as they do not have facilities for camping but this made it even better as it creates a feeling of wild bush camping – something we love! We were directed to a set of trees next to a small lake and a crystal clear stream with a view over The Three Bushmen – a beautiful mountain view. Our K-Way fleece jackets were the first items out of the vehicle, followed by the ground sheets and camp table. I started with the fire to braai (barbecue) the marinated pork neck which was on the menu for dinner. In no time we had a comfortable campsite with everything we needed for the week ahead. We enjoyed a hearty meal of ‘braaivleis’ (barbecued meat), braai broodjies (toasted sandwiches done on the fire), potato salad and a cup of coffee.
Our days consisted of enjoying the views, exploring the many streams, leisurely hikes showing the kids the floral display found amongst the streams and rocky outcrops, and enjoying picnics in the grassy hills.
I just had to add this shot of the view one morning. But I wanted to mention these chairs – they are incredible! It’s the Expander Chairs by Front Runner and they are the best camping chairs we’ve ever had! It’s a compact chair for packing purposes and it is solid to sit on. We now pack 4 chairs in a space that couldn’t take 1 other chair previously. It really is one of those discoveries that I had to share. If you’re in the market for new camping chairs, go get yourself an Expander.
Have a look at a few images below that captures the scenery of the Sehlabathebe National Park. Enjoy!
Be prepared for any kind of weather – we had all 4 seasons in 1 day during our stay. While preparing lunch one day we were commenting at the superb weather, even considering a swim in one of the nearby lakes. Within 15 minutes a thick mist rolled in and stayed for the remainder of the day. Best way to dress is in layers, then you can peel off and add on as needed. And be sure to tell the rangers where you’re planning to go before heading out, in the event that they have to do a search.
Sehlabathebe National Park is a place of secluded beauty, rugged exclusivity and wild unpredictability. This place is the perfect representation of the Mountain Kingdom!
To see how we prepare for a trip like this, have a look at our Lesotho 4×4 expedition preparation page.
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