When an EPC outing to Lesotho was proposed earlier this year, many of us jumped at the opportunity to explore our neighbouring country. The Mountain Kingdom is a country land-locked by South Africa, only a few hours’ drive from us, yet so different to South Africa in so many ways. A trip in winter held the allure of possible snowfalls, winter wonderlands and rural landscapes.
And so, 12 members of EPC made their way to Katse Dam in mid-June to explore the photographic opportunities that Lesotho had to offer. Crossing the border at Caledonspoort, we wound our way up the Mafika Lisiu pass, a spectacular mountain road.
Rising to an elevation of 3090m above sea level, we negotiated hairpin bends at 30km/hr whilst our cars clung precariously to the mountain side. Each bend revealed spectacular views down into the valley and waterfalls glistened in the early afternoon sun. Finally, after a 3.5-hour drive (covering a mere 150 km), we checked into our accommodation.
With many years of photographic experience in the area, John Coumbias was our natural guide. On our first afternoon, we stayed close to the lodge, waiting for the shepherds to return home with their livestock. Cowbells jangled in the distance, sounding like an orchestra of xylophones, and herds of cows, sheep and goats trotted past us in glorious late afternoon light. Young shepherds on donkeys and horses trotted past us, smiling from ear to ear as they posed for photos.
The following morning, we found ourselves standing at the side of a road at 7am, overlooking a traditional Lesotho hut. With the sun yet to rise over the mountains, we stood shivering in -6°C temperatures, hoping that John knew what he was doing. As golden light crept through the valley, it bathed the hut in light, providing beautiful contrast against the dark mountains behind it. With smoke rising from the hut’s cooking area, we collectively nodded our approval; of course John knew what he was doing!
Amazingly, when we chatted to the owner of her hut and her children, she remembered John from a previous visit. She was happy to pose for photos with her baby, and her two older children were equally obliging. It was humbling to see how poor people are in Lesotho, but time and again families welcomed us with warm, patient smiles and we collectively remunerated them as best we could.
We travelled dirt road after dirt road, winding around mountains and dipping down into rivers. Photographic opportunities were abundant, from shepherds wearing their traditional blankets and guarding their livestock, to the vast landscapes of Katse Dam, vivid blue skies and frozen waterfalls.
Sadly, there was no snow, but nobody really missed it. With John’s expert navigation in the area, we discovered places we would never have found on our own, and found scenery that took our breath away. Each evening, over dinner, we discussed the day’s events, laughing at each other’s idiosyncrasies, creating a sense of EPC camaraderie that I’ve not felt before.
We returned home with memory cards full and petrol tanks empty (hint: fill your tank in South Africa before crossing the border!), eager to process our photos and enter them at upcoming club nights and salons.
Sincere thanks must go to John for facilitating and guiding the trip, and to Dave W for his endless patience in sorting out our accommodation at Katse Dam. Thank you to all the drivers on the trip, and to all members who came, shared their knowledge and expertise and helped make the trip a success. Thank you!