Thanks to the Neon Charity Party the night before, I left Cape Town on Saturday with a hangover. Luckily it wasn’t long before I picked up Ryan Weaver, abandoned with backpack beside one of the Cape’s finest dry fly streams, the Smalblaar. The river was looking is great shade and a few fly fishers, dresse dto the nine’s, were gearing up for a day of free-rising rainbows.
We however didn’t bother much with those details. Our destination was, with an on route stop at home in Knysna, the distant green hills and endless mountains of the Mountain Kingdom, Lesotho. A brief overnight with some fussing from Mom and fishing talk with Dad (and a quick cast for Leeries at the train bridge that left us wishing we had brought our grunter flies instead of poppers!)
The next day we set off, packed with padkos (road trip snacks) from Mom and an eagerness that was second to none. The chatter between Ryan and I covered a range of diverse and interesting topics: fish and fishing.
After a mammoth trip – which included a stop Nanaga for pies and fresh pineapple juice, dodging abnormal vechicles and an ever darkening sky which eventually opened up on us – we eventually got into Rex Fey’s dairy farm, Fisherman’s Bend (appropriate) in Kokstad on Monday evening and got to our final preparations for the trip. Repack, check and stack! The weather report looked a little dire with 7 of nine days predicting 70% chance of rain. I took solace in the fact that it’s all thunderstorm type rain and is pretty hard to predict – well I hoped like hell it would rain in the valley next to us! After hearty braai it was off bed to dream of fish to come.
We woke up bright and early and while Rex did his final rounds to check the cows, dairy and other things a farmer does, Ryan chased some carp in the farm dam. That didn’t last long and we were packed into the cab of Rex’s 4×4 with our two Basotho good men. Julius (dubbed Malema) and Albert (known as Berti) were to be our translators between Zulu and Sotho, camp attendants and donkey barterers and handlers. These two really were legendary and, hailing form Southern Lesotho, considered this trip into Eastern Lesotho a bit of a holiday and sight seeing opportunity for themselves.
After a scramble past the border control, and up a miserable wet Sani pass, we eventually found ourselves in the promised land. The view was amazing: white as far as the eye could see – mist and rain!
But 20 minutes later when the mist lifted the excitement was palpable – endless mountains and thousands of valleys all containing trout streams stretching into nowhere.
What was concerning was that despite the wet weather coming out of Natal, the Sani river was low and flowing feebly – not a great sign.
This was soon forgotten as we headed along the only road to take; the road over Black Mountain Pass to Mokhotlong.
A note on the roads in Lesotho: they are one long mountain pass, either going up, down or hugging a contour. It is slow going.
Our first views of the Senqu and Mokhotlong rivers was brief but thoughts of the Yellowfish we were not chasing this trip filled our conversation.
A last minute call by Rex led us left instead of right and down into Senqubethu valley where we set camp next to a stunning river. A quick pitch of the tent and an amazing braai of great boerewors went down a treat before settling into our tents for the night.
We had arrived and were happy and excited – and after a massive rain storm just after the tents went up, wet too!