How many people can say they’ve been snowboarding in Africa? It’s not something that comes first to mind for this mostly warm continent! There are two ski resorts in Africa – one in South Africa and another in Lesotho. After exploring the Drakensberg mountain ranges my friend Jon and I took took a day trip to snowboard at Afriski taking in the majestic mountainous landscape of Lesotho.
Lesotho has the highest low point of all countries in the world, being literally made up of mountain ranges. Being winter it was very dry and brown and I can imagine how awe inspiring a view this would be in summer when some rain turns everything green.
Being mid August, it is literally the end of the snow season in Lesotho. Their ski season runs between June and August and signs were advertising the final closing weekend at Afriski next week! We managed to time our visit just in the nick of time to experience the slopes.
It was a 2 hour drive from the border to reach the top of the mountains where Afriski resort is. As we came around the corner the strip of white snow was a huge contrast to the brown mountains. Most of the snow has melted, although waterfalls and creeks remain frozen with patches of snow dotted around.
The Afriski slope isn’t huge at about 800m but it was great fun. I’d not snowboarded for 5 years so was a bit rusty. They only have a T-bar lift which I was extremely nervous about as my previous experiences with T-bars had left me battered, bruised and were pretty unsuccessful. Thankfully despite being very accident prone, I had no accidents on this occasion and my boarding ‘skills’ came back to me quite quickly. Although I still hate turning left! Most of the snow this late in the season is man-made and it definitely got more slushy as the day progressed and the sun shown down over the slopes.
On the drive there and back we passed by many villages where children played with wire cars and toys by the side of the road and men and women were wrapped up in many blankets to keep warm from the chilly mountain air. We drove past shepherds guiding their sheep down the mountains towards their villages. Many of the sheep had cowbells tied around their necks so you could hear them ringing as they walked across the mountainside.
The shepherds each have a stick which they decorate and I learnt that they can be identified by their stick if anything should happen to them. Wrapped up in blankets to protect themselves from the cold, their faces were often hidden with just their eyes peering out as we passed.
It was a very short day trip into Lesotho and I only got a little snapshot of what this mountainous country is like, but it was definitely worth the visit.