Saturday, May 10, 2008

On camping..........

Our recent trip to Lesotho took us to some wonderful parts of the country, but we had such a short time there that we barely scratched the surface of this fascinating place. One thing we hoped to do was avoid the more developed areas to the West, and try and see more of the rural areas, which are largely unspoilt by Western influence. So we opted to go to Mount Moorosi first.

It is in the South and the chalets there have only been recently developed. They are still comparatively rustic, which appealed to us. I have shown you the little stone backpackers hut we stayed in already, in the post about climbing Mount Moorosi.

Here is another view of them, is that not the most wonderful setting??!! At this stage there are only 4, and one of them is inhabited by Jerry, who is the guide. The inhabitants of these huts use the same ablution block as the campers, a little building with two loos, a washing up area and two showers, using water from a tank up the hill, and heated by solar power.

In addition there are about 3 en-suite chalets, which are a slightly less basic version of the huts, with their own bathrooms, but with less charm as they are built of cement blocks, rather than in the traditional way. There is also a house, with a kitchen, lounge, bathroom and 2 bedrooms. We loved the lack of electricity and phone signals, it felt like a real holiday, and made us feel that we were having an authentic taste of the country.
This is a view of Jerry, taken from the top of Mount Moorosi, overlooking the Lodge below. The little dots at the fork of the dirt road, which are the chalets, will give you an idea of how basic it all is and how high we climbed!

The backpackers chalets consist of a circular hut, about 4m in diameter, constructed initially of sticks, which are then plastered on the inside with a mixture of mud and cow dung, and on the outside have a layer of sandstone, with cowdung instead of cement.
There is a flimsy pine stable door and two small windows on either side, which open inwards and are held closed with bent nails. The old curtains are just hung across the windows with a piece of string held by a nail on either side.
As far as furnishing goes, it consists of two beds (the real bottom of the range inner spring type where the springs say "hello" to the ribs and hips all night !) two plastic chairs, and a home-made particle board and pine table.

The low roof is thatch, and in this case the floor was cement, but traditionally in the villages it would also be cow dung.

We had booked to go there as campers, but ended up staying in one of the little backpackers huts. To get the full picture about this, you need to read Max's entertaining post about how he was "traumatised" about camping, as a kid. This post sprung from much friendly banter between us... he is HOOKED on buying camping gear, but then is full of excuses when it comes to actually using it, usually revolving around needing perfect conditions for doing so! So eventually I said "you can only buy more gear when we have actually been camping!" Then my evil twin took over, and I proceeded to book us in here, in the mountains, in the beginning of winter ....... hehehehehe!

So anyway, it was decided, we would camp on this holiday, but only where we were able to stay for more than one night. The reason for is is that the saleman saw us novices coming when he sold us our tent. It looked great at the Kirkwood Festival, all set up on the lawn, spacious, with plenty of space on either side of the blow-up mattresses for other gear, and a little extra bulge at the doorway providing space to set up a table and 2 camp chairs if the weather is foul and you need to spend time in the tent. Double layer to keep the heat and rain out... high enough to stand up in... and all sorts of useful pouches and pockets for stashing things on the sides. All in all it seemed like a great tent....

BUT .... big BUT..... it is complicated to erect and must have more pegs than any other tent in the history of the world! We have only used it 3 times so far. (... He he, each night we sleep in it, Max divides the cost by the number of nights, and it is still more expensive than a comfortable Bed and Breakfast!!!) and each time someone has seen us battling and come across to help!

So to go through all this for one night is just not worth it, we need at least a day of respite in between! Because of this, the plan to camp throughout the holiday had already been somewhat diluted, because instead of spening 2 nights at Rhodes, near the Lesotho border, we took so long to get there that we spent two nights on the road, arriving at each village to overnight as it was getting dark, and there was no way we would have been able to get "the monster tent" up in those circumstances, so we opted for B&Bs, and I was more than delighted to let him off the hook!

This is our room the stunning Granny Mouse House in Hogsback, I forgot to take a photo of the Topiary lodge in Elliot, but it was a delightful and comfortable little log cabin.

So fast forward to our arrival at Mount Moorosi............. As usual it was getting dark, because we spent so much time enthusiastically stopping for photos on the way there. The campsite was pointed out to us... the patch of bare land you see in the photo above, between the wild flowers and the hut. It was mostly rocky bare soil, and unsheltered, and a freezing wind was sweeping down from the mountains as the sun sank fast below the surrounding peaks. We looked at the site, then at each other, and at the inviting little hut across the way, and I said, "shall we upgrade?" Max instantly agreed, and I was teased for the rest of the holiday for being the one who chickened out of camping!

We chose the little huts rather than the en suite chalets, because it felt like less of a cop-out. Apart from actually raising the monster tent (henceforth referred to as TMT) and blowing up the air matresses, we used most of our camping gear. By the time we had packed it all in, the place was very cosy (and I hope you will notice from the picture that I was NOT exaggerating when I said we have accumulated a ridiculous amount of camping gear!!)

It was wonderful there, we so enjoyed emerging the next morning in the freezing morning air, and sitting in front of our hut sipping hot coffee and watching the sun begin to rise over the mountains, it is one of those blissful moments I shall remember all my life!

Jerry took this photo for us as we were about to leave on the third morning... we had really grown attached to that little hut!

We then moved on to Malealea, driving via the rough but unbelievably scenic back road, will post some pics of that soon.

So, we arrived with enough time to tackle TMT, and set to it with vigour. A while later, a very kind gentleman, who must have been watching our struggles with some amusement, strolled over and offered to help. Eventually it was up, and we sat outside with great relief and satisfaction!

The neighbour came past to inspect it and cluck disapprovingly at our crooked results, but hey, we were just glad it was standing, we were way past caring about perfection by then! We spent two FREEZING and uncomfortable nights in the tent, defiantly resisting the temptation to upgrade into the wonderful inviting chalets nearby. By this time it was a matter of pride for both of us, and no amount of Antarctic air, deflating matresses or sloping ground were going to deter us! It was almost a relief when it was time to pack up on the third day!

Max was even remarkably cheerful about trying to fit all our stuff into the back of the bakkie, a task he normally finds a bit tedious!

And the neighbour stopped by again, just to make sure we were not leaving any of the huge array of camping gear behind! TMT remained firmly in the back of the bakkie for the remaining two nights of the trip, and the jury is still out on whether it will ever leave its bag again!


Janet said...

Another wonderful travelogue! And it brought back so many memories for me....when I first met HB we used to go camping every chance we had. He is a very accomplished camper and had all the equipement to make it a comfortable yet rustic experience. Our tent was similar to yours and we loved it!

Those little huts look like they would be a fun place to stay....although I do like to have a bathroom!

Suzi-k said...

hehe Janet, we will definitely have to take you and Mr B along with us, if there is a next time!