Fri Oct 21 02:41:47 SAST 2016

It's hell driving in Lesotho

By unknown | Jan 11, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Sello Rabothata

Sello Rabothata

The road from the small town of Leribe, Hlotse to Katse Dam in Lesotho is 122-odd kilometres.

It is also tarred.

Thank God.

There is nothing wrong with the first 42km. And when one reaches the police gates, with 80km to go, it still does not give one any idea of what to expect.

It is only when one is a kilometre into the "new" territory that one understands what is meant by Lesotho being the Mountain Kingdom.

For, at this stage the road signs take over the driving.

It is a very long, long way from Pitseng to Thaba Tseka, near Katse Dam.

Never have I come across a longer 80km of road. Normally, that distance would take less than an hour to complete.

Photographer Veli "Can't get" Nhlapo took more than three hours to complete the distance.

It is not that he is a bad driver, but he had to drive at a speed of 50 km an hour or less, and mostly in low gear.

Road signs warn: "Engage lower gear: Descent brake failures have killed"; and "Steep gradients and sharp curves for next 10km".

And, when another sign appears: "Slow cars keep left", one begins to hope that the road is about to return to normal. But unfortunately one soon discovers that it means that there is space for less than 20m for other vehicles travelling at the maximum speed of 60km an hour to pass.

Lesotho's transport system means that horses do not make it any easier for motorists. They want their fair share of the road with the beast of burden, the donkey, trudging along with a heavy load on its back as it is encouraged up the steep mountains by men of all ages and shapes, and even some woman.

Cattle, sheep and goats also cross the road from the top of the mountain to the other side to graze. No wonder some of them are tied to poles with rope to avoid them being hit by motorists.

The warnings about loose rocks and boulders from the mountains are no idle threat either. As one drives along, one has to zig-zag to dodge those that have been dislodged and fallen smack in the middle of the road.

The road signs do the driving and motorists have to respect that.

"Heavy vehicles, stay in low gear for next 4km to 10km", the sign says. Just do it. Don't argue.

Yours truly has heard of people talking about the Mountain Kingdom and they have only been to Maseru, Leribe and Butha Buthe.

Rest assured, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Go into the heart of Lesotho and especially to Katse Dam to know what they mean by the mountain kingdom.

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