A Night in a Basuthu Kraal

In January 2014 I decided it was time to introduce a new mate of mine to Lesotho. Andrew Descroizilles had recently moved to Kokstad and being a keen fisherman we immediately became mates. He had spent the last few years working in Zambia. Fishing for Tiger fish and bream was the fishing he had been doing for the last few years. I wanted to hike up over the Drakensberg for a weekend to check out one of my favourite small streams in Lesotho. I told him that the hike wasn’t too hectic and it was only a 30km in total. In reality it was closer to 50, but if I told him the truth before we left, I reckon I would have been going alone. It turned out to be one of my more memorable hikes into the Berg for three particular reasons, other than the spectacular scenery:

1. Attempting to hike up the Berg by full moon and getting caught in a raging thunderstorm half way up, with a plastic sheet and a rock for shelter!

2. Sleeping under the stars in a Basuthu Kraal, surrounded by Angora goats and sheep.

3. Although no fish were landed we had some amazing sight fishing to big Rainbow trout.

I will let the pictures tell the story from here.

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Walking up the pass as the last evening light catches the peaks around us. We pushed on passed my usual stopover cave and continued up the pass, hiking by the full moon.
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Only a few km passed the cave a big storm cloud started to roll ominously over the peaks that towered above us. As the moon rose out over Natal, it shone an eerie silver light onto the incoming cloud which was now flashing continuously as the lightning flashed from one side of the cloud to the other. We needed to find shelter, and fast!
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I didn’t take a tent but luckily I had this plastic sheet with me. We found a big boulder and managed to get out of the driving wind and rain. It was quite a challenge keeping the rest of our gear dry as the storm raged and the plastic sheet tried to take flight. The adrenaline was pumping as the lighting crashed around and the thunder echoed through the valley way below us. I always enjoy the lighter side of the ridiculous situations that I sometimes find myself in. Theres not much more ridiculous than being half way up the Berg, in an intense thunderstorm, without a tent and at night time!
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This is where we woke up. The view made up for the lack of comfort. After the storm passed we took off the plastic sheet and slept under the stars. It was an amazing thing to watch that storm as it lit up the night sky on its journey towards the coast. That same storm blew down several trees in Andrews garden that night.
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Eventually we reached the top of the escarpment after a 2 hour hike. This picture is about 10 km from the top of the escarpment, just before we dropped down into the valley below to fish our way back up towards escarpment.
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I spent most of the time spotting for Andrew but it was very challenging with the partly cloudy and blustery conditions. The fish are few and far between, but it’s very rewarding when you do find one.
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The water in this stream is always a beautiful emerald green colour. We spotted 5 fish in the day and Andrew cast to 3 of them. He was unfortunately broken off on the take each time after a perfect presentation. That’s what happens when all you fish for are Tiger fish. I cast to one which took my line under a big boulder. My 2 wt rod was no match for a strong 2.5 Lb Lesotho Rainbow.
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My friend Thabiso. The first time I hiked up to fish this stream in 2009, I met Thabiso. A mate and I were camping on the stream below his kraal. That evening just as it was getting dark a young boy, sent by Thabiso, came down to our tent and offered us a ready cooked leg of lamb. This is the generosity and welcoming attitude is something I almost always experience in Lesotho. They really are a special people.
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Andrew and I slept at the base of that hut with the goats and sheep milling around.
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The Angora goats in the kraal for the evening.
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Thabiso and his brother enjoying the early morning sun. We were offered one of their huts for the night but I declined. These Basuthus might be wonderful people in many ways, but they have no concept of comfort. They live the whole summer in these huts and all they make for a bed is a pile of stones that they cover with a bit of loose, dry cow shot and a few bushes. You may as well sleep in your grandmother’s rock garden, you would probably be more comfortable.
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Angora goats sunning themselves after a chilly night.  We actually woke up in the morning with a bit of frost on our plastic sheet.
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Heading home on the Sunday morning. This was the day we should have been fishing. Calm, clear and warm. Perfect for sight fishing.
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Those far peaks are on the edge of the escarpment. This picture is taken just below the first main junction in the stream after which it’s big enough to hold fish.
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The source of the stream is a flat basin that is one huge peat bog. This short green grass is a carpet of small flowers and moss. It’s a giant sponge that absorbs the summer storms and releases the water slowly over the dry season. You can walk easily over the surface and not sink in, but you will wet your feet.
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We climbed one of the prominent peaks on the escarpment before coming down through the mist which blanketed Natal.
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Looking down the pass on our way down.

 

 

 

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