Welcome to this week’s Postcard From – the feature where I chat to some lucky explorer about their recent travels.
Sabine and Sean had been travelling the world for years already when they finally met in Namibia in 2009. ‘Jobs’ they have had since then have included hosting a ski chalet in Austria, managing a hostel in South Africa, but their main passion was and and still is working as tour guides in Southern Africa, a job, or rather lifestyle where they can work and travel together. They have tried to settle down and to live a ‘normal life’, emphasis on the word ‘tried’. Now they have an old-ish Landrover Defender 90 and are driving it around to see what they can see when they are not running safari tours. They are Sean & Sabine from The Travelling Chilli and this is their story, or at least part of it…
Hi guys! You’ve travelled to some really fascinating places – where have you been recently?
Lesotho, AKA The Mountain Kingdom. Roughly the size of Belgium and completely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho is one of only 3 Monarchies in Africa. Swaziland and Morocco are the other 2. Lesotho also has the highest low point in the world. In other words, the lowest altitude is 1400 meters above sea level, the highest being 3482 meters above sea level. So it goes without saying much more that Lesotho is very mountainous, and the scenery is just breathtaking.
Ooh, was that kind of altitude pretty chilly?
We travelled there in August 2015. It was still quite cold, around 0 Celcius at night, (we were camping) but most of the snow had gone. It usually snows a lot in winter from June through August. We went again in November and it had warmed up quite nicely. We had a little rain with temps around +15 Celcius at night. As Lesotho is a very mountainous country, the weather can be a little temperamental and hard to predict.
Where did you stay?
In a tent, 99% of the time. It was cold. Call us crazy, but it is one of the ways we make our travel budget go that much further, and we like camping anyway. We have good sleeping bags. As almost all land in Lesotho is state owned, you can camp just about anywhere, for a small donation, if you ask the local village chief permission. This is without shower facilities, but you should be able to use the local pit latrine, which in itself is an experience.
There are not that many regular campsites, especially not in the Eastern part of the country, where you will have to do some ‘wild’ camping. This allows you to experience local life and culture even more.
That sounds really cool! What did you get up to in Lesotho?
Lots. We drove all over the country, as small as it is, and there were many highlights, but probably the biggest was the Katse dam, pun intended. At a 185 metres high, it holds back 1 950 million cubic metres of water. An arrangment between South Africa and Lesotho, the dam was built to supply mostly the Johannesburg region and all its industry but mostly the mines. Water is supplied via gravity to South Africa via a 45 km long tunnel through the mountains. For more information about it, look up the Lesotho Highlands water scheme.
Wow! So, how was the local food?
While did have local food such as beef steak, the best food we had was cooked by Sabine on our own little camping gas cooker :-) Pasta Bolognese, chilli con carne, bacon and eggs, the list goes on.
Can you recommend any quirky things to do in Lesotho?
Pony or horse riding is maybe one of the more common things to do in Lesotho, but it might still be considered quirky for some people. Quirky or not, the scenery is worth it and you’ll get to places not even a good 4×4 can take.
But of if you feel up to it, find a high clearance 4×4 vehicle and some camping gear and take a drive on ‘roads’ which are little more than cattle tracks, but will take you into some of the most beautiful places, where you can wild camp. There is a good chance a horse will overtake you while you make your way into the mountains. This is where you will meet the locals, properly, some of which do speak a little English, but either way, you will be in for a good wholesome local cultural experience. The locals are very welcoming to foreigners.
And finally – what do you love most about travelling?
Hard to say in short. But what I think we like most about travel is the excitement of not knowing what’s next, at least that’s the way we keep ‘planning’ things. In other words, we just wing it. Travel allows us to experience new things, savour new moments and to enjoy this most amazing world we live in for all it’s worth, which is a lot.
NB – all images are owned by Sabine and Sean.