Matebeng pass promised to be a bit of a challenge, especially as a solo trip. I was determined to really put my new Good Year Wrangler Adventure’s through a challenge.
It all begins at The Bob Phillips Camp. Nestled under beautiful big tree’s, next to the Matebeng River. I pulled over before beginning the pass to enjoy a nice cup of coffee, and soak in the scenery a bit. Beware that You can camp at Bob Phillips, but you do need to get in touch with the nearest Village and pay the chieftain a bit per person that stays for the night, Tracks4Africa recommends R20 per person, but I paid 10 more to stay in a worse place.
Leaving the camp and beginning the trail, you drive alongside the Matebeng river, soon you end up rising over rocky trails and leaving the river down below, hopping out occasionally to move a particularly nasty rock here or there will be necessary. It’s a low range rise with tight switchbacks and rocky paths all the way up. At one point, you will need to drive across a rocky riverbed to begin yet a further ascent. Beware of the corners, most of them have had water cut large ruts which can seem to appear out of nowhere.
An hour or so into the trail, I ended up picking up a young passenger! Driving alone makes you a ripe target for giving people a lift, especially when it’s difficult to communicate with the locals as they don’t really speak much if any English. I welcomed Andile on the trip, it was nice to have a bit of company. Andile was on his way to school, he told me about how it takes him a 2 day walk to get from his family, to his uncle where he stays to get access to the nearest High School. It just so happened to be that he was heading to SehlabaThebe too! We had an interesting chat about his future career, hoping that he could one day join the military and serve his country.
We climbed, and climbed and climbed… crossing streams, climbing over rocks and surprisingly, meeting some Belgians! Yes, you read that correctly, we bumped into the Doell’s; DoellinAfrica.com. A Belgian family, who have been travelling around Southern Africa on holiday in their Land Rover Defender 130 Camper Van. Nearly all the locations I wanted to recommend they visit, they had already been! It was really refreshing to meet some with a smiley face that could speak English! It was just an awesome surprise to bump into them, and I wish them well on their travels! What an awesome ride!
We continued our journey up the Matebeng pass, we didn’t realise our ascent was nearly at its end. “Aim for the Radio Tower!”, was the advice given, and well there it was in front of us. I happened to look at the satnav and see that we were at 3000m above sea-level. I think that is the highest my vehicle has ever been, and It was really performing like a champ. By now I had a good measure of the Good Year Wranglers, they really performed well, not once in the whole trail did I struggle or lose traction and not to mention they resisted all the rocks perfectly, so that new addition of Kevlar is well worth it!
So, the descent begins! Blessed by beautiful clear weather, the trail was a breeze. Andile and I were winding down the mountain side, crossing a river alongside a heard of cows with locals looking at us like we were madmen! Last part of the trail was quite easy and ended up leading into the usual Lesotho Dirt roads.
We met a cross road, and this is where Andile and I had to go separate ways! I’ll remember sharing some boiled eggs together sitting on the side of the road in the Matebeng Pass! But, our journey together was now over. I drove up to the reception at Sehlaba Thebe National Park, it was great to feel some tar under my feet, but it was short lived because once I had checked in and paid, I headed off on the most unexpected part of the trip yet.
I couldn’t have prepared myself enough mentally for this part of the trip. My eyes almost exploded out my head with the beauty of Sehlaba Thebe. It was the perfect place to do some soul searching. The trail to the “Old Camp”, which is more popular than the fancy new resort that has been constructed, is certainly not as trivial as one might think. I think for this next bit of the blog, I think the pictures will have to speak to themselves. I’ll catch up with you after these badboys below.
There I found myself, parked next to a stream with a poitjie on the fire, and a beer in hand. I was literally in my own personal paradise. After a long day of driving, I was hot and sweaty and decided the little stream next to me would be the perfect place to have a little “organic” bath! (please make sure that if you do every use soap near a natural water source or basically ever in nature that you use biodegradable and environmentally friendly soaps!). The guard who tends to the campsite is from the Lesotho military, I invited him to join me for a bit of my special Maluti and Beef Poitjie with pap, we chatted for a good couple of ours about the situation of politics in both our countries. I found it funny how by being alone on a trip, people happened to find me, and I ended up having some really awesome interactions with the locals, in a way that was actually meaningful and not just waving at the kids as you go by.
As the sun began to set and the clouds began to roll in, I kicked back and enjoyed the beautiful landscapes around me, every direction I looked there was a whole new world to enjoy. The clouds really roll in and dance across the sky incredibly fast, it’s a real spectacle.
The mist began to devour the landscape around me, and soon everything was dark and grey, but with the sun lighting up a bit of the sky over the abandoned lodge with a rich orange glow.
The morning would see me begin my journey home, and taking on Ongeluksnek Pass. I was woken by a beautiful sunrise, and wished well by my new friend as I took my leave. If you’ve made it this far into the blog, you deserve a Bells! It was a long one, but full of unbelievable beauty!