Tag: adventure

:: visions of namibia ::

For two weeks we ventured through the vast expanse of Namibia and though we covered around 5000 kilometres of the country, we still don’t feel like we really saw the place.  This is a country that takes your breath away at nearly every turn and will leave your brain desperately trying to make sense of the awesome size, beauty and richness of the environment.  Two weeks, two months, two years, none would be sufficient to truly experience this vast country.  All we really know is that we will find a way back here to find new adventures out in this awesome wilderness.

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Search our blog for keyword Namibia to read about some amazing adventures in this gorgeous country.

:: in the clouds ::

The clouds rolled slowly up and over the edge of the sheer cliff face, forming the illusion of a tablecloth draped snugly to the rock.  The valley 500 meters below was nothing more than a memory and the idea of driving the dirt and gravel switchbacks that passed down through it was not one that any sane person would relish.

Sani Pass, Lesotho and South Africa

The top of Sani Pass is not for the faint of heart. Sitting nearly 2900 meters above sea level right on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, this road pass is one of Southern Africa’s rites of passage for adventurous souls.  

The road climbs over 1300 meters in only 10km with the last kilometre being nothing but ridiculously sharp switchbacks up a nearly sheer wall of rock.  It is the only road pass between South Africa and Lesotho for hundreds of kilometres between the far southwest and northeast of Lesotho.  Nearly half of the circular border of Lesotho has no road passage to South Africa, except Sani.

Sani Pass, Lesotho and South Africa

Sani Pass, Lesotho and South AfricaOn a clear day the Drakensberg mountain range can be seen from the city of Durban about 90km away.  On a cloudy, fog filled day, the mountains can’t be seen from 90 meters away!  Thrown up millions of years ago, this terribly imposing mountain range stands guard between the coastal plains of South Africa and the rugged interior of Lesotho.

A group of us set off from Maseru early on a Friday and nine hours, 300km and lots of bumpy roads later, we arrived at the top of Sani Pass.  The road from Mokhotlong to Sani alone is only about 50km, but it takes about two hours on the unfinished dirt roads.  The views along the way are breathtaking, as you snake along river valleys and up through mountains, including Thabana Ntlenyana, the highest peak south of Mt Kilimanjaro on the African continent.

The top of Sani is covered by huge expanses of pasture land cut by small streams formed from run off of the mountains that tower ever higher.  Right on the edge is Sani Mountain Lodge where you can sit on an outdoor deck and look straight down the dirt track that vaguely doubles as a vehicle road.  Sitting in what is claimed to be the highest pub in Africa, you can’t help but marvel at the spectacular views of mountains all around and the huge drop off right in front of you.

Sani Pass, Lesotho and South Africa

We decided to camp as our dog Mosa wasn’t allowed in the chalets.  We, along with our friend Heather, set up our tents in the middle of a field with the doors facing away from the little village looking out over the pasture and towards the mountains.  At first it was perfectly sunny and clear, but by the time we got back to the tents after dinner clouds had started rolling in.  As we zipped ourselves into the tent, we couldn’t even see the car five metres away.  The cloud swept in thick and low and stayed there throughout the night.

Sani Pass, Lesotho and South AfricaThe morning brought clear sunshine and an amazing sunrise over the clouds down below in the valley.  The soft morning light played against the towering cliff face and we witnessed our first proper sunrise on the African continent.  It was quiet, majestic and awe-inspiring to stand high above the clouds and watch the sun break through and bring warmth to a new day.

Our hike towards Thabana Ntlenyana, the ‘beautiful little mountain’, took us deeper into the mountains away from the cliff edge.  

The rest of our group made it up to the top, but unfortunately five month old Mosa was not strong enough yet to undergo an eight hour hike up more than 600 meters of climbing.  On our way back to camp the clouds started rolling in fast as we approached the edge.  

A barren landscape with far more sheep and cows than people, it took on a haunted spectral quality when the clouds started rolling in.  When the sun was out though, the green fields and blue sky were about as vibrant as you could imagine.  A schizophrenic landscape filled with malice, it is still amazingly beautiful.

We sat on the balcony completely shrouded in cloud and then retired to our tent, where we watched the clouds roll across and then dissipate just as quickly, only to return again within five minutes. It was a surreal experience to watch such variable weather.

After a lovely couple of days, we then made our way down the pass.  It is slightly harrowing, but completely reasonable in dry, clear conditions.  Everywhere you look there is something more amazing to see – sheer cliff walls rising hundreds of meters above you, waterfalls crashing down off the rock faces and even a troop of baboons wandering through the brush.  We took our time and admired the scenery, content to feel overwhelmed by the power, glory and majesty of nature.

Here are few more captures from our spectacular trip to Sani Pass… Thanks to David, Brian, Heather, Bettina and Emma for a wonderful weekend exploring with good friends!

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:: qiloane falls ::

Just before descending the small natural rock staircase, I turned back to look once more at our idyllic spot by the waterfall. The sun shone brightly on the enormous cascade of white water and a small breeze rustled the bushes that our dog Mosa had so unwillingly left moments earlier. It was a place of perfect peace on a sunny afternoon, returned to its natural state after twenty friends and seven dogs enjoyed several fun filled hours amidst its beauty.

Qiloane Falls is not on the tourist trail – if there is such a thing in Lesotho. It is an hour and a half drive up into the mountains east of Maseru and then a lengthy hike over somewhat difficult, and usually wet, terrain. There is a pony trekking centre for those who would prefer four legged transportation, though it would not be an ideal first trip for the complete novice horse rider.

The path to the falls is not marked, which is normal for Lesotho, but it’s easy enough to follow if you have some semblance of an idea of where you are going. The key is to find the river, which seems logical enough if you are looking for a waterfall, but it is especially important because the best way of reaching the waterfall is to walk up the riverbed.

There is a way to stay on dry land, but that is not as much fun as walking up a slippery, potholed river of freezing cold ankle deep water!  In the dry season you can walk all the way to the falls without getting your boots wet, but with the rain we have had lately, this was just not possible.

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The walk was amazingly beautiful with the soft sounds of water running over rocks nestled beneath soaring hillsides and the occasional bird overhead.  The last bend in the river takes you under a large cliff face striated with black rock where you can hear the roar of the main falls echoing above you. At the crest of a small ledge in the river the falls come into view, though still partially hidden by the mountainside.

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Only once you are practically right in front of them, can you see the full sweep of the last part of the falls which are roughly thirty meters across.  Above the largest section are a series of other falls even further up which you can see after hiking up the side – a bird’s eye view from across the way would be the only way to see the true extent of this waterfall.

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We stayed there for several hours and enjoyed the majestic beauty and nature of this special place.  Once the sun came out, almost everyone dared to take a dip in the dark and cold koeetseng, the place of a deep pool of water, to cool off and sit under the powerful roaring falls. Legend has it there is a large serpent living there at the base of the falls but luckily we were not privileged enough to witness such a creature or be impacted by its magical powers.

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As far as waterfalls go, Qiloane Falls aren’t the highest or widest or anything else, but the whole location is a truly special place of natural beauty worth experiencing.

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:: seeking global adventures ::

After years of attempts and more recently months of waiting, CW has joined the US Foreign Service!  We are so excited about this new career, and lifestyle, and the amazing global adventures this will bring!  To celebrate this new chapter in our lives we thought it would be fun to create a new blog dedicated to the unique fabulous, challenging, interesting, diverse, crazy and happy experiences we will have as part of this new life!

Getting into the Foreign Service has been an arduous process involving a written exam, some personal narrative essays, an all day oral assessment and then months of waiting for security and medical clearances. Following all that we then had to wait a few months before an orientation training class was formed and CW was called into it.  Fifteen months after he sat in the London embassy for the written exam, he walked into the Harry S. Truman Building in Washington, D.C. and swore the oath of office joining the State Department and becoming a Foreign Service Officer.

As part of this new role we will be sent to a new posting at one of the 275 embassies and consulates around the world around two or three years. There is the prospect of posts in DC as well, but the vast majority of our time in the Foreign Service will be spent out in the world and we are absolutely thrilled about that!

CW will be an officer in the management cone which means that he will be responsible for various operational elements of the missions overseas, though he will also have opportunities to serve in other capacities, including working on visa lines and directly helping American citizens who are either travelling or living in these foreign countries.

Cora is excited about the prospects for taking her excellent intercultural training and competence skills and applying them in new locations, as well as looking to expand our photography activities and maybe do other things in the local communities, such as volunteer or work at the embassy. There is a lot of uncertainty, especially without knowing where we are heading to, but we are confident it will all be for the good.

So, there you have it. We are off on new adventures to places unknown! We are extremely excited by the prospects of this new journey. The chances we will have to explore new countries, experience disparate cultures and interact with lots of interesting people are going to be too numerous to count.

Welcome to our new reality and hope you appreciate reading about our new global adventures!