Failed First Attempt to Ski Africa, July 8-9, 2024

Tony Crocker

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Most of southern subtropical Africa has a consistent winter dry season. We never saw a cloud in the sky from June 8-30 in Johannesburg, Victoria Falls, Botswana and Namibia. After a week in the Western Cape we returned to Johannesburg, renting a car and driving south toward Lesotho.
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The town of Fouriesburg is obscured by the 2hr 30 min drive time box.

Johannesburg was cloudless but it became windy as we drove south. All last week every day’s forecast for Fouriesburg and Lesotho was sunny except for Monday, the day we planned to ski, which was forecast windy and high temp 35 vs. 50F the other days.

We saw occasional charred areas, presumably controlled burns of fallow farmland during the winter dry season. But with the wind this fire was out of control.
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After dinner in Fouriesburg here’s the view of another one east of town.
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Monday morning was not as windy as Sunday but it was cloudy in Lesotho.
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Temps in the border area at 5,600 feet were in the 30’s but fell into the 20’s as we ascended. At 8,000 feet we encountered this scene.
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Note in the second picture that two cars have placed rocks behind rear wheels to prevent sliding.

You northeasterners will laugh at this scene, but it was also hard to walk on this road. There was a very thin layer of ice, presumably from light rain and the overnight freeze. With the cloudiness, wind and depressed Monday high temperature, this situation was not likely to improve until Tuesday’s midday sun.

Someone there had driven down from Afriski and said that its T-bar had been closed due to wind since mid morning Sunday. There were many more steep hairpins farther up and only a relatively heavy vehicle with 4WD could get through. I inspected the rear of our rented SUV and saw just an axle, no rear differential. Is there any more oxymoronic vehicle than a 2WD SUV? I should have known better, as once in Europe they tried to rent us one and we insisted on 4WD there.

So we turned around, and with a now idle day checked out the Liphofong Cave in Lesotho.
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The cave was formed by the stream but eventually its roof collapsed.

The claim to fame of Liphofong is the extensive 5,000 year old rock art of the original San (Bushmen) people of southern Africa, similar to aboriginal rock art in Australia.
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I saw a smaller example in Zimbabwe’s Motopos Hills in 2002. Bantu Africans eventually limited the earlier San and Khoi (Hottentots) people to the Cape and the Kalahari.

There was also a spiral aloe, Lesotho’s national flower.
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Not an uncommon sight driving in Lesotho:
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Our situation was difficult as our flight home was scheduled 7PM Tuesday from Johannesburg, which is a 6 hour drive from Afriski. So back in South Africa we called United, waiting a full hour to get though. We were on a mileage ticket, but rescheduling to Thursday cost an extra 54,800 miles per person. There were some other benefits as the reschedule is via the 15 hour 40 minute nonstop to Newark instead of the 2 stopper Euro route. We also get refunded $143 in Euro airport fees.

I was vaguely aware of small private game reserves in South Africa, and so Googled “private game reserve near me.” I was pleasantly surprised to find Moolsmanhoek, only an hour from Fouriesburg though all of the drive north of R26 is unpaved. Moolsmanhoek’s safaris are on horseback, which I knew would appeal to Liz, who spent some time on horses while living in the DC area after college. Moolsmanhoek’s phone did not answer so we took a chance and drove out there. Monday’s weather in the area was still problematic.
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We were able to spend Monday night at Moolsmanhoek and do a 2.5 hour horse safari Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon we returned to Fouriesburg to take another shot at Afriski Wednesday.
 
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Moolmanshoek was an example of making some lemonade out of the sour lemon weather on Sunday/Monday.
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There are a lot of small private game reserves scattered across South Africa. I have viewed these as like a safari wildlife park in the US as opposed to the game reserves in large ecosystems like Kruger National Park or the Okavango Delta. But we would have needed to stay another week and spend more big $$$ to go to the Kruger adjacent reserves. That plus the horse factor made Moolsmanhoek an attractive option.

Moolsmanhoek has 22,000 acres and was a farm from the 1920’s into the 1980’s. By the 1980’s yields were marginal and owners let it go back to nature and stocked it as a game reserve. Now it has abundant spring water and varied native grasses to support a wide variety of self sustaining wildlife.
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The only predators are jackals, servals and caracals. Perhaps they prey on the aardvarks.
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This was stuffed on a dining room cabinet. Aardvarks are abundant at Moolmanshoek but nocturnal so rarely seen on game drives. They dig and sleep in very large holes, which are an occasion hazard to the horses.

Liz is ready to ride Tuesday morning.
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They gave me the mellowest horse but it unexpectedly startled leaving the paddock and I fell off, fortunately taking most of the blow to my backside. After being checked out and walking a little, I resumed the ride, following guide Lindy closely.
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Later they noticed my horse’s bit was fitting loosely so he had probably pinched his tongue.

Black wildebeest and springbok on the run:
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Young James shows Liz an ostrich egg.
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Hartebeest on the move:
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Ostriches
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Liz went with some of the working volunteers to canter the horses.
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I stuck to walking after my bumpy start to the ride.

Eland:
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Zebra:
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The steep mountains in the background provide spring water and form a natural boundary for about half of Moolsmanhoek. The rest is fenced.

We regrouped.
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Warthogs:
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Waterbucks
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Along with us were 3 volunteers on working holidays from England, Seattle and Minnesota. They help maintain the horses. Despite its out of the way location, Moolmanshoek attracts many foreign visitors due to the horse factor. We heard elsewhere on this trip that South Africa had a very severe COVID recession, and that businesses dependent more on internal tourism were still suffering.
 
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.we also drove 6 plus hrs to joburg from the south east....interesting drive
In 2002 I ended my trip with the Panorama Route drive from Kruger west to Johannesburg. This drive to Lesotho was directly south. Where did you go to the southeast?
 
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In 2002 I ended my trip with the Panorama Route drive from Kruger west to Johannesburg. This drive to Lesotho was directly south. Where did you go to the southeast?
horses and me don't get along either....
I stand corrected , i drove from the east/ north east.. Blyde River Canyon....
 
We are at JNB airport checking in. TR is written but don’t know whether I can upload before we take off.

Jason drove the same route as I did in 2002. Any game parks in/by Kruger?
 
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