Johnie does Afriski, Lesotho

Johnie does Free State & Lesotho

By JJ Jonker

Like a fair number of other people, we also thought that the present spate of severe weather conditions throughout the country should guarantee decent snow at Afriski.

The weather conditions, of course, spread quite a bit wider than Lesotho. My friend Charl was rained in on his farm in the Aberdeen district. (That’s now Aberdeen in the Karoo, Eastern Cape, not the one in Scotland.)  Similar weather conditions were last seen there in 1968.  (Not in Scotland, in the Karoo).

We got some pointers as to what may happen in terms of pass closing, and I also had a look on Google Earth where this Moteng place was.

Other than the pass that may be closed, we really had no idea of the fun and games – not at the ski resort, but on the way there – which would develop.

In hindsight, whereas we had fun, clearly the people on their way back the day before, could not share our joy. For some insight into the aftermath, watch this video clip of the last 800m of Moteng Pass on the way up the next day.

[Note: The video is shot in 720HD but defaults to a lower resolution when play starts. Select the highest resolution for the best image.]

OK, but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

We headed for Glen Reenen from Pretoria on Sunday 15 July, arriving in good light.

[Source:   Map data ©2012 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

Booking was made online via the Sanparks website, and being outside school holidays – on the first day – we managed to find place in one of the family cottages via their site.

Unit 25 turned out to be superb, as this has been kitted out for disabled people. We did not really need the ramps which linked all unlevel surfaces, but as far as we could see, this was the only unit with a double carport. This was great for unpacking the car and would be ideal for someone towing a trailer.

While reading through the web page I also saw reference to the Highlands Mountain Retreat –  which I had never heard of before, so after settling in we took a drive up to this log cabin camp.

What an incredible hideaway! The units are dug into the hillside


You cannot see another unit from inside any other. And the view goes on forever. Definitely a tick on the future “to do” list.

The two game viewing loops provided a nice road and good views – just none of game. As per usual.

We took some wood along from home just in case there was none for sale – there was, at R27.50 a bundle, but the shop closed at 6pm – so at least we had some backup. Once back at Glen Reenen, the fireplace really made it a welcome place.

The next morning we started – rather too leisurely for my liking – towards Afriski via Caledonspoort.

[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

But we need not have bothered about an earlier departure, as we – together with around 30 other cars – were pulled up short at the second hairpin of the pass due to it being closed and de-icing being in process.

An ETD of around 1 hour was rumoured when we parked, but turned out to be closer to 2 hours before the salt was scattered and the grader eventually arrived from the top of the pass, 3 km away.

After an initial group of “down” cars, we went up, meeting another similarly sized convoy, waiting to start their downward journey. This was around 1pm, but these motorists were making sure they did not spend aNOTHer night on that mountain.

We were told by the driver of a local recovery truck queuing just ahead of us during the wait – which rather seemed like a social event, as no one seemed to be agitated by this delay – you had to be through the pass the other way at around 4pm, before the water started icing again.

An observation I made was that the cemented concrete channels on the mountain side of the road should keep the melting ice away from the road, thus preventing re-icing. Only this does not happen, as the channels are filled with rocks. So the icing problem is perhaps caused by lack of maintenance?

So, only 3 hours left to do Afriski – is it even worth it?

But of course!!

My kids being semi-English due to their mother’s tongue – but being accustomed to going to Afrikaans holiday places like Hermanus, Gourits, Forever Resorts and the ATKV due to their father’s wallet – have at times asked us “but where do the English people holiday?”

Well, I heard a lot of Afrikaans at Afriski, but I thought this was pretty much as “international” as it was going to get.


The music being played suited the atmosphere exactly, with a sort of “quiet” holiday vibe being present. Almost as if you do not need loud blaring music to artificially create a “holiday feeling”. Who ARE these people?

OK, so not enough time for ski lessons, but I did manage to fit in a Gluhwein – a bit heavy on the cinnamon, though. Afriski was fully booked, so on the way back – to meet the advised 4pm pass deadline – we stopped at Oxbow to enquire about accommodation with the view of returning from there the next day for some skiing.

They still had space available – R2200 for an ensuite room with 4 beds. But by then the sunburn on my wife’s cheeks from the reflection of the snow started to bite, and now looked more like a rash than mere over exposure. So we decided that a future – better planned – visit would be more advisable to fully gain the benefit of Afriski. We’ll also pack the SPF 30 next time.

So we headed back to Glen Reenen. Again Unit 25, us being the only people in the resort.

The next morning we headed down to Drakensville – where the Afrikaans people holiday.

Ai, nothing beats some lekker warm water in the middle of winter, leaning your chin on your arms looking at the (little) snow on the Drakensberg peaks. A truly enjoyable midweek “long weekend”.

PS One thing we did found sad was that after braving an absolutely atrocious 20km stretch of tar on the R74 between Harrismith and Oliviershoek along the Sterkfontein Dam, we pulled up at the entrance to Little Switzerland for some tea and scones. This is an institution in our family – you just don’t pass such an opportunity by.

We then noticed a sign that stated that the hotel was closed. Chatting to the security guard, he explained to us that although you could still stay over, the restaurant had closed. This was due to the levels of casual traffic – like us – dropping to such an extent due to the condition of the road, that it was not viable any more.

So now the hotel guests – and us – have to eat at the Coyote Restaurant just outside the entrance. It’s very good, but the atmosphere is just not the same.

Here’s hoping that the road gets fixed pretty soon – although no construction is presently taking place – for the restaurant to once again come to life.




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