Monday, April 24, 2017

Come On a Hike With Us 6

29.3369˚ S, 28.5061˚ E                    to                   29.0690˚ S, 28.4250˚ E
       Katse Dam                                                      Bokong Nature Reserve

After the all volunteer conference at Mohale Lodge (pictured above), Melinda and I headed to Austin’s place in Thaba Tseka where we stayed the night.  

Travel really takes it out of the two of us.  Sometimes a nap is in order.
The following morning we waited a few hours for a hitch to Katse Dam.  As Austin had predicted a ride arrived right around 11am.   
It poured on us the first day.  We had some chicken and fries at a small restaurant, while we prayed for the rain to stop.  There were a few breaks in the rain but our hitching luck was awful.  The previous trip with Austin, Katie, and Wagner, was a lucky one.  We got a hitch all the way to our “trailhead”.  Melinda and I didn’t have such luck, we had to walk on the road most of the way around the reservoir.  The only advantage was the photo opportunities.
Don’t be too impressed by Melinda’s power walking, she’s not as nimble as she would leave you to believe.
Before my phone explodes in retaliation texts, I would like to accept part of the blame.  I led us to a pretty awful breakfast location.  
We should have stopped here.
It was a pretty miserable first two days and we still had 3,000 feet to climb before we reached the ridge line that would take us to Bokong.  
The following morning we woke up to thick frost everywhere.  Our tent, which we no longer even bother to zip shut, was filled with ice both inside and out.  
We got a really late start as all of our gear had to thaw and dry out.  By the time we worked our way up an incredibly steep climb (sorry I don’t have the details), we decided to call it.  The whole goal was to see the unique Bokong Nature Reserve and meet Eric, who was hiking from Tsehlanyane in the north.  I wasn’t sure if we would make it in time, although in hindsight I think we would have made it just fine.
We hiked over the ridge and down to the road near the reservoir.  We were picked up by a taxi in short order and completed the bumpy ride to Ha Lejone and then onto Bokong Nature Reserve.  
I kind of threw Melinda into the deep end learning how to use an MSR Whisperlite International stove running dirty kerosene.  It’s a pain in the butt to burn kerosene but she got the hang of it pretty quickly.  She made a good pasta dish and we both slept well.  
Much to our surprise, Bokong is unfinished.  A quick look on the website deceptively shows nice looking buildings and views with no mention of the incomplete visitor center.  The whole reserve is run by the government and I’m afraid it’s a complete mess.  Sadly many of the buildings appeared to have been vandalized, an issue I have not previously seen in Lesotho.  
The landscape on the other hand, was incredible.  At an average of 10,500 feet above sea level it is the second highest nature reserve in Africa behind Meru National Park at Mount Kilimanjaro.  Bokong is one of few Afro-Alpine wetlands in Africa and the rest of the world.  There were natural springs all over.  Water was  coming out of the ground everywhere you looked.  We camped near the top of the 200 foot Lepaqoa (Lay-pa-“click your tongue”+oa) Falls.  The falls completely freezes into a continuous column of ice in the winter and is a popular spot for ice waterfall climbing.  
Bokong was missing one thing though, an Eric.  We really took our time the next morning waiting for him to arrive.  Around 10:30 we decided to call it and hike up to the road.  
Melinda knitted the above hat.  It was chilly but we didn’t have to wait too long for a ride.  We picked up some frozen chicken and avocados and headed to Wagner’s place for some chicken fajitas.  
The following morning we said goodbye in Peka as Melinda and Wagner headed south, while I aimed north.  

Thanks for coming along with us.


- Joel and Melinda

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