Skiing, Ice-Climbing and a very big Diamond in Lesotho
The Kingdom of Lesotho sits at more than 1,000 meters above sea level and gives this small country its other name, the “Kingdom in the Sky”. Situated within the borders of Tsehlanyane National Park, which is a 4 and a half hour drive from Johannesburg and 6 hours from Durban. The Luxury Maliba Mountain Lodges offer a tranquil retreat set in a pristine wilderness valley deep in the North of Lesotho’s breathtaking Maluti and Drakensburg Mountains. Guests can relax in one of the six spacious luxury chalets, enjoy scenic mountain vistas from their own private balconies and enjoy the pampering attention of the friendly staff. The main lodge features a Gourmet restaurant, bar with quiet discreet areas to relax and view the surrounding snow brushed mountains. The mountain lodges are ideal for special interest groups including 4×4 enthusiasts, bird watchers, hikers, mountain bikers or for corporate team building escapes where the main lodge’s gourmet restaurant can be set up as a conference facility.
In 1967 Mrs Ernestine Ramaboa found a Lesotho mountain diamond that weighed 601 carats. It turned out to be the eleventh largest diamond ever found and was cut into 18 finished diamonds. The third largest among them was set into the engagement ring that Aristotle Onassis gave to Jacqueline Kennedy.
Winter in Lesotho brings with it freezing temperatures and the perfect conditions to enjoy a bit of Ice Climbing. While Ice Climbing may not be on everyone’s list of things to do during the winter months, the popularity of ice climbing as a sport is on the rise from both local and international climbers alike. Ice forms every year and is usually climbable from mid June till mid August. With more peaks per square kilometre than any other country in Africa, Lesotho is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa” as it is blessed with spectacular cliff faces, ridges and chimneys.
Ice climbing in the Drakensberg was first properly probed by British climber, Jeff Ingman while on a work contract in South Africa. Ingman and various partners made the first ascents of some of the major water-ice routes of the Giant’s Castle area. From that time until the late ‘90s only a handful of enthusiasts continued climbing these routes. Then towards the end of the millennium the shorter and more accessible routes of the Sani Pass area were climbed. This development coupled with the publishing of all the winter routes in an addendum to the Rock Climbs of the Drakensberg, sparked a big interest in the sport. The Oxbow Area area is located near the A1 road in the western area of the Maluti range of Lesotho. Most of the climbing is in the valley near the New Oxbow Lodge. A few falls also exit near the road on the Moteng Pass area. Most areas can be spotted from the road and are accessible by car followed by a short walk. Contact Road Travel to assist you in planning your ideal routes.
In the early 19th century, tribal groups fleeing from the warring Zulu, King Shaka, found refuge in the high Maluti Mountains in Lesotho, a country surrounded entirely by South Africa. One group under Chief Moshesh (later called Moshoeshoe) successfully defended the flat-topped sandstone plateau of Butha-Buthe Mountain and this remained his fortress until 1824. The dramatic mountain nation of the Basotho people has an inimitable rural African atmosphere that is both proud and warmly welcoming. The road from Butha-Buthe to Oxbow is the original “Roof of Africa” rally route. It is a quite spectacular journey, going over a number of mountain passes and spending much of the journey at over 3000m.
Near the Oalo and Sekubu area, you will find dinosaur footprints and some mysterious caves used by the San (Bushmen), while up in the Mountain, close to the Afriski Resort, you will find the caves which hosted many a tribal group over the centuries. From Butha Buthe, the road goes north for 15km, then at a junction goes east and climbs into the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. It ascends the Moteng Pass at 2840m, and then drops down into the upper valley of the Malibamatso River. Here, one comes to AfriSki, an upmarket ski resort. The resort offers a quiet, scenic environment, excellent for leisure or corporate get-aways and conferences. AfriSki is currently the only skiing resort in Lesotho, located 3322 m above sea-level in the Maloti Mountains.