A Business Trip to Lesotho

Hahahah! Whatever…… I can hear you saying as you read the title of the post. Yes a business trip and but no, I won’t tell you what type of business yet and no,  it’s not diamond smuggling. I have been scouting out a business opportunity that is part of our plan to financially get ourselves through this drought. I reckon there’s a good opportunity but I need to try and meet the right people before we plunge headfirst into it. Of course I took my fishing rod, how on earth could I drive all the way into Lesotho and not take my rod.

The plan was to meet a someone in Qachas Nek and discuss a business proposal. Then we would head North towards Sehlabathe to camp the night somewhere on the Tsoelike River. Rob Palmer my brother in law came along for the drive and to make it into a bit of a boys night out in the mountains. We had a stroke of luck in that the guy we wanted to meet was in Matatiele that morning and so we had our meeting there instead. This meant that we could go straight up through Ramastelisos Gate, and save a few hours of driving. The section of river that I was interested in was where I fished in December last year. I had some fantastic trout fishing then, but now I was after Yellow fish. I have never heard of anyone fishing for Yellows in this region but I have heard from the locals that they come up here in the summer. I had been in touch with Patrick, my friend from Sehlabathe and he had been updating me on the river conditions and rainfall.

As we were driving out the Maluti location, towards the Ramastelisos border post, I realised we were only on a quarter tank of diesel. Oh shit! I had the scent of fish on my nostrils and I was not turning back now. I was sure I will find diesel somewhere up there if I needed and I reckoned I had about 200 km of normal driving left in the tank, but Lesotho is not normal driving. This small issue of diesel was a bridge we would have to cross later. Thank goodness I didn’t have Jenny with me, otherwise I would definitely have had to turn back to fill up with fuel. What’s a good adventure anyway, if everything l goes according to plan.

The change from early December was dramatic! In early December there had been no rain at all. The river was a trickle and the veld was brown. 8 weeks later everything was beautifully green as it should be. Sadly for the locals, the rains came too late to plant their crops. There is hardly a single field with any maize or wheat in it. It’s a very scary prospect for the people up here come this winter! They are largely self sufficient and so a drought like this year can be a humanitarian disaster! The river conditions had been good the day of our arrival, but unfortunately on the afternoon when we arrived at the river, there was a massive thunderstorm just up stream from us. It was a very localised storm, but it turned the river into a brown torrent, and made it completely unfishable. My hopes of an afternoon chasing Yellows on my new Bungezi Beetle, were dashed. Oh well, I could think of worse place to be and not be able to fish. The place we camped the night was under a huge overhang which gave one the impression of sleeping under the stars. An electrical storm way off in the distance gave us great bed time viewing. Unfortunately we dined on biltong, cold pork sausages, and tea, not trout as I had planned. My wife would have something to say about this….

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Our first stop to look down into the Tsoelike Gorge. We decided to head upstream to find cleaner water.

 

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This is what we found upstream. The afternoons downpour had completely ruined the fishing.

 

I woke up half an hour before first light. I could hardly wait to see the river if it had cleared sufficiently to fish. my hopes were dashed a second time as I realised that the river was even fuller and still chocolate brown! This would be the first time I had ever been washed out in Lesotho. I look back and I realise how lucky I am to fish as often as I do, and how lucky I usually am with the weather. Imagine I lived in a city and
only got a chance to fish a few times a year, then I would be bleak to be washed out. As it was Rob and I had a beautiful time exploring the incredible Tsoelike Gorge down stream from where we camped.

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Our camp for the night

 

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Our morning stroll downstream

 

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An amazing switchback in the river. On the right it flows towards you and on the left, away from you as you look at the picture.

 

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Rob on top of the switchback.

 

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Rob posing for the mountain man pic.

 

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A beautiful Tulbargia sipping some nectar on a red-hot poker.

 

The fuel light had just come on when we departed the river. Patrick said there is a Chinese store in his local village that usually has fuel. It was a tricky decision, I reckoned I had enough fuel to get to Ramastelisos gate and maybe to Maluti township at the bottom where there is fuel, or should we drive the opposite direction to Patricks village and hope that the Chinaman has some fuel for us. If you were to run out of fuel, where would you rather it happen? In Lesotho with a beautiful trout stream close by, or in Maluti location? I chose the first option. Thank goodness our Chinaman had fuel, and not badly priced either. If he were a shrewd businessman he would have realised I would be willing to pay R50 per litre, but at R13.50 I reckon that’s pretty cheap for way up there in the mountains.

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Not exactly the petrol station I was hoping for…

 

The Saturday morning was meant to be spent fishing but with the dirty water, this was an ideal opportunity to go and explore the Thamathu/ Leqoa River gorge and some of it’s caves. In December we spent the morning fishing in the gorge and I knew I had to return sometime just to explore. You ideally need a few days to climb up to all the caves, but there was one particular cave that we named Barble’s Mouth, which I had to climb up to. Rob and I only had a few hours before the weather closed in but it was well worth it. All in all it was another very disappointing fishing trip but amazing time exploring the amazing Tsoelike and Leqoa Gorges.

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The Barbles Mouth cave in the middle/bottom of the picture.

 

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Geologists, Help! How on earth is this formed? This is sandstone with hard “nuggets” in it, but the “nuggets” are also sandstone. Its as if the sandstone was heated up and it bubbled? I would love an explanation.

 

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More unusual sandstone rock formations.

 

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Looking down into the Leqoa gorge.

 

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A cave near by Barbles Mouth.

 

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Looking out of the Barble’s Mouth.

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The Barble’s Mouth can probably sleep 1000 sheep. It is well used in the winter by Basuthu Herders. 

 

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We took a drive through the veld near Ramastelisos Gate, to have a look into the lower Tsoelike Gorge. Wow!!

 

 

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What an epic spot to make a pot of tea.
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Looking downstream from our tea spot. Imagine that view with clean water!

 

Here is the very amusing reaction I got from Jenny when I got home and hadn’t caught a fish: “My luv, my point proven! I have a lot of respect for your casting abilities and your fly tying skills, but your fish catching skills….. I don’t know”

To put this into context, she is always worried about what I will eat on my fishing trips and my reply is always, “I will eat trout my luv, so please don’t pack too much food for me”. Thank goodness she did put in some extra food. Thank you Jenny, you were right…. again 😂😂;)

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4 Comments

  1. Nice one Rex! I’ll ask Heidi’s oldman about the rock formation, he’s a retired geologist, will get very exited with the pics, Cheers boet

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    1. That’ would be awesome. Thanks. I reckon that gorge lower down near Ramastelisos gate must be epic to paddle when it’s pumping. It would be a good trip to do. Sehlabathebe to the confluence with the Senqu

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    1. Hi Stuart. Yes rob mentioned so. I know Iain. He has been to some crazy places where I thought you could only get on foot. You matat boys are lucky to have that so close by. It’s an amazing place! Now that the Ramas gate road is fixed, it’s actually not too far for me either. Do you guys ever fish up there, or just bikes?

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