The Naked Barista… 4 March 2016
… so Bob was finish with the foundation for the cellphone tower in Bloemfontein and the paperwork for the new job in Magaliesburg were not ready yet…
… so we decided to see what the town of Clarence looked like as it was on our wishlist…
We were told that the paperwork for the job in Magaliesburg would be ready soon and decided to wait around for a day or so doing some site seeing…
as it turned out wonderfully, we ended up staying for a week…
Our lovely host, Nita, from The Cherry Lane accommodation in Bloemfontein told me about the accommodation at Camel Rock… and we were definitely not disappointed…
Camel Rock is conveniently situated on the border of Lesotho.
A photo taken from atop Camel Rock with a preview of Lesotho.
As we have new passports, we entered into Lesotho twice to get some fresh stamps. Yes, I know this is rather corny, but in our defense, there was also some rather good sites to be seen. What is even more corny, is my husband suggesting that he is taking me to another country for lunch…
Lesotho’s standard unit currency is the Loti (plural Maloti) and is equivalent to the South African Rand. The three commercial banks, First National Bank, Nedbank and Standard Lesotho Bank offer exchange services and Saswitch ATMs. Travellers cheques and credit cards are accepted in most parts in Lesotho. There are no restrictions on foreign currency, but all transactions must be conducted in Maseru.
The ethereal feel of Lesotho can best be described as an adventurous, primal thrill of discovering the unknown. Lesotho is also classed as being the highest country in the world and adds to a blissful feeling of being on top of the world.
It is not surprising that this is the home of the annual world-famous Roof of Africa Rally 4 x 4 enthusiast crosses the Maluti Mountains at an altitude of 3000 metres.
Above… not a 4 x 4 x far…
A Lesotho (also fondly known as “Kingdom in the Sky”) experience can be classed as absolutely unique and challenging, because of all extremes – it’s heights, depths, sizes, distances, temperatures – they are all extreme in Lesotho – unfenced 3300 km2 with unspoilt beauty.
Historians love Lesotho for their wealth of information depicted in the liberally sprinkled San rock art. Pictures have important information on a long forgotten way of life. Here nature has obliged to form amazing cliff overhangs for natural dwellings of early man, and the San clan has left us with a valuable legacy in their paintings.
Left: A transcript
inside the cave…
We visited Liphofung Nature reserve featuring a cave overhang used to be the home of San people. We were also given a tour by Mohau, and elder gentleman with an amazing ability to capture our attention as he taught us about their fantastic culture. He even showed us how to play the manmade musical instruments of the San.
Archeologists and paleontologists loves Lesotho as some of the most pristine dinosaur relics in the world have been found here. The country even has a dinosaur named after it, the 1-metre long herbivorous lizard, Lesothaurus, a very primitive ornithopod from the late Triassic and early Jurassic Period, 208 million years ago. A new model has been reconstructed and can be viewed in the Natural History Museum in London. Dinosaur footprints can be spotted in various areas and also at a preserved site in Quthing.
Lesotho thrives on tradition and old style living villages abounds and welcomes visitors.
We went back to Camel Rock via Ficksburg. The roads are good enough as lots of upgrading has been done to aid in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
One day we drove to Afriski Resort. How awesome it is to have a ski resort right here on our doorstep with upmarket accommodation and we have decided to come and visit here again when it snows. The accommodation varies from budget (backpacker style), lodges, mountain chalets and even apartments. It would be wise to ask about the Spring Skiing and other specials when making a booking.
Afriski Resort boasts with the Gondola Café and also the highest restaurant in Southern Africa at 3010m, aptly named ‘Sky Restaurant’ with real good food and service. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 365 days a year.
After the best trout fish meal, we walked around the grounds and were amazed by the diverse sports offered here. Tubing on snow; and a first for us was the Bumboarding Alley which is literary what you do… put your bum on a board and go…
There is also a Ski & Snowboard School that we would definitely require at our next visit. If it is a family holiday you are after, no problem, as there are a Pudi Kids Day/Night Care facility, as well as a Spa.
The Cooler Box is the home of the Afriski Apreski, a great post skiing party, with fantastic specials on food, drinks, entertainment and festive music with resident DJ.
A ski & snowboard equipment rental shop is in place to meet all the necessary needs.
Conference facilities and team building for up to 50 people is also available.
The world’s longest commercial single-drop abseil of 206m along side the Maletsunyane waterfall can be done here.
Other sports includes whitewater courses; canoeing; spectacular ski runs; horse riding; pony trekking; mountain climbing and hiking.
On another day we drove into Lesotho again (obviously another stamp in our brand new passport) to visit and get a tour of the Katse Dam… something that B have wanted to do forever. We had to set out at around 6h00 in the morning, to be there for the tour starting at 9h00. It is a long and winding road and no easy task to get there, but it was beyond beautiful. We realised halfway there that our timing was off and B was disappointed that we would not be in time for the tour.
He was very excited when we arrived and found that the tour guide was also running late. We immediately purchased a tour ticket for the cheapest price of just R10. For this we were ushered into a room with a huge projector where we saw in picture form how the magnificent construction of the Katse Dam came about.
Then we followed our tour guide by car to where we were able to enter the dam wall and even walk through some damp corridors. We were shown how the machinery worked and told about the rise and fall of the water in the dam. It was an insightful tour and well worth the travel to get there. We were blown away by how well the Lesotho Highlands Water Project was implemented and handled since it’s beginning as a feasible project in 1983.
After this we went to the Katse Botanical Garden, Africa’s Highest Botanical Garden. It is situated 2100m above sea level and often endures some of the harshest winters with heavy snow.
Katse Botanical Garden began as a sanctuary for rescued flora in the Lesotho Highlands Water Project prior to impoundments of the Katse and Mohale reservoirs. It is now home to more than 500 indigenous plant species of Lesotho. Bird watching is a good sport here as the garden is a major haven for wild birds throughout the year.
The majestic spiral aloe (lekhala kharetsa) Lesotho’s national flower is everywhere to be seen and most beautiful.
Environmental Education has been one of the core activities and it is supported worldwide and by The Highlands Natural Resources Rural Income Enhancement Project to build an Education Centre.
Local people participate in the botanical conservation as an outreach empowerment aim. A main feature at this botanical garden is the growing of medicinal plants as it is said that these plants grow just as easy as any vegetables. Starter pack trays of medicinal seedlings are delivered to the local community.
Our timing was definitely perfect as it is said that the best time to visit these gardens are in summer between December and February.
Then we had a lovely lunch at the Katse lodge with a local Maluti beer which both of us enjoyed very much. I fell asleep on the way back as the air is very thin being 3000m above sea level or maybe the beer at lunch had something to do with this…
Clarens was absolutely beautiful… it reminded me a little bit of Greyton closer to Cape Town as it has a similar feel. This is why I always say that to watch TV about travelling and to do travelling is just not the same. It is the most exhilarating feeling to be able to use all your senses and be part of the town or place you are visiting.
Clarens is also similar to Greyton because of it’s weekend visitors.
City folk buy country village properties to have the best of both worlds… Weekends are then spend in this idyllic picturesque town. The town are surrounded by mountains and being so close to nature attributes to its good feeling.
The drive to Clarens and surrounds are absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and tranquil.
We had an awesome day in Clarens. We got there quite early and had a lovely breakfast in one of the quaint coffee shops.
After breakfast we just walked through the village enjoying the assortment and variety of eloquent shops, all geared for the yuppie buyers.
We entered a beautiful art gallery and was amazed to find that it were also a stunning wine boutique… but that’s not all – we even found – a first for us… a wine vending machine…
I am not a spendthrift at all, but the town of Clarence convinced me to buy the occasional titbit or two. A chocolatier off course, got the better of me and I just had to fill a box with an assortment of delicately ornated chocolate treats which B and I delightfully shared later.
… (nothing to do with Clarens, but…
Die Plaasstoep restaurant (sorry no website available) in Fouriesburg
offers great ribs and after having a Sunday lunch there,
we went back on another day for take aways
… absolutely recommendable.)
… getting back to Clarence …
at some point I lost B to the Beer tasting on offer at Clarence Brewery. I did join him later after I did a good spin on the town and he was easy to find as he did not move from where I left him.
It really was a lovely day and we had a great time.
We had a relaxing lunch also at the Clarence Brewery and restaurant… a platter of delicious delicacies obviously with a good beer to boot.
Accept for a marketing stunt with my perfume – Alexia – in Clarens, which did not materialise – we were superblessed with the town of Clarens for sure.
February is definitely a hot month, weather wise and other… as it is also the month in which we got married, it really did feel like we were on a second honeymoon.
Having said this, we had champagne in the swimming pool nearly every afternoon to cool down after a hot day of site seeing. You see, we discovered Graham Beck’s “Bliss” in a dashing wine shop in Fouriesburg. Well, after a sip of this extravagance, we obviously had to stop there again for some more of the good stuff…
We were superblessed as our room at Camel Rock was situated right next to the swimming pool and we were surrounded by majestic mountains.
The sunset could be viewed from the swimming pool and we took full advantage of this. We were superblessed to see some vultures overhead while relaxing in the pool.
At Camel Rock the most amazing hiking trails abound with easy to follow formal signboards and there is also some lank crazy mountain bike trails. We were absolutely amazed that cyclists would challenge these majestic mountains, but apparently it is visited regularly.
We went up the mountain on the first day of arrival as it was nearing the end of day. Earlier would have been just too hot. We found a beautiful flowing river; followed it in the cool shade until we went up the mountain again and could see the widespread splendorous beauty of Lesotho.
On another day we decided to go to the top of Camel Rock and therefore had to start very early. What an awesome walk and climb this was and right at the top we laid down under the only tree and read our books for a while.
This mountain top is so high up that we were in the playing fields of Eagles. And they were everywhere. I kept wanting to belt out the song: “I’m on the top of the world”… in fact I believe I did…
Closer to midday it became very hot and we were happy to descend to go for a swim in the pool. After a shower, we went in search of a wine farm for some wine tasting of this amazing district.
We were superblessed to find the absolutely tranquil Ibis vineyard. Our timing again was perfect as the owner, John Chritchley, had just arrived at the restaurant to drop off some goods. He humoured us for a little bit and after he left we spend a good few hours in the peaceful surroundings sipping decent wine and eating like royalty.
Next day, we went to the Golden Gate Highlands National Park nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State. The brilliant shades of gold, cast by the sun on the park’s sandstone cliffs, is where it derives its name from.
We saw so many animals and the valley views were exquisite. We also went to view the vulture feeding project, but luckily for me, there were no vultures feeding at that point.
On the drive back, we stopped at a beautiful dam with the most magnificent tree and as we looked up, a massive Eland bull was curiously checking us out from atop a mountain ridge across the dam.
B also wanted to spoil us with a stay at the Highlands Mountain Retreat, but as we were so blissfully happy with our stay at Camel Rock, we decided to leave it for another time.
With so much gratitude we know that we are superblessed indeed…