Katse Dam – Lesotho

One would think that this small,dry, brown, mountainous country would not have much to offer in the way of export so it comes as quite a surprise to many that one of Lesotho’s biggest exports is water. Alongside electricity and diamonds, water makes up a large portion of the export income for Lesotho.  South Africa pays R37 million per year for water derived from the Lesotho Highlands water project.  Katse Dam was built as the first phase of this project. (pronounced cut-sea)


Katse dam is 50 kilometers long and holds a volume of 1 950 million m³ of water.  It is the highest dam in Africa and also the second largest in Africa.


Dam features

  • Height – 185 m
  • Crest length – 710 m
  • Design – double arch, concrete
  • Concrete – 2,320,000 cubic meters
  • 1993 meters above sea level

We took a tour into the dam wall but I was not allowed to take any photographs inside unfortunately.  It was very interesting and is quite an engineering feat.

Water is taken in at this tower and is transferred via a 45 km, 4 m diameter underground tunnel to a hydroelectric station near Muela after which it is piped a further 35km to just outside the town of Clarens in South Africa.  The pipeline itself is tunneled through the mountains and water travels downhill all the way making use of gravity for flow.

Here you can see the water exiting the pipeline and being fed into the ash river.

If you are ever in the area it really is well worth a visit to the dam.

This is the last of a series of three posts about Lesotho. You can read the first two posts but clicking on the links below.

On top of the world – Lesotho continued



This is a second post in a three-part series on Lesotho.  Read post one here.

Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres  is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres. Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world. Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

As we wove through the mountains, climbing up towards Katse dam we started to see the temperatures plummet. Below you can see how the road cuts through the mountains.

Africa is most often depicted as a hot arid continent.  And it is mostly, so when we South Africans get to see a little snow, it is rather a treat.  Here in this region of Lesotho they have snow through most of winter and sometimes even in summer.  How strange for Africa!

As we reached the top, the most beautiful snowscape scenes surrounded us.



We stopped the car and had to clamber about in it for a bit like children of course 🙂


I felt like I was on top of the world.

The mountain kingdom.





Lesotho – the mountain kingdom.


Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week away on holiday in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa in a town called Clarens. This has been my first proper holiday since I arrived back in South Africa from Belgium, so was special indeed.

While there, we took a day trip into Lesotho to visit the Katse dam.  I took so many photos of this trip that it has taken me weeks to sort through them and decide which to share with you.  I will be publishing a series of posts from my trip so as not to bore you with reams of information at once.

I am going to start with some that embrace my love of this small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Living such a poor life I am sure is extremely hard, however there are aspects here of the simple life that really attract me.  Lesotho in winter is almost mono-toned in colour yet there is still a vibrancy and happiness that I love.

I hope you enjoy the following pictures that show what I see in this beautiful country.

Most people dress in blankets and gum boots and the major form of transport in the rural areas are donkeys.

You may not see much at first glance at the above picture, but it is all about rural life here. The ladies doing the washing in the stream, the icy snow in the shade, the horse on the hillside, growing crops on the slopes and the homestead up above. Life in Lesotho.

Happy children and not a PlayStation or iPad in sight 🙂

Fields on the hillside

Doing chores

A driving school. The little shack is covered in road signs on all sides – probably for teaching purposes.

A plough-boy ran up to us to get some sweets

Just beautiful…………


A visit to Pilgrims Rest

The history of this small delightful village dates back to 1873 when a miner, Alex Patterson, discovered alluvial gold on the farm named Ponieskrantz.

Though the discovery was kept as a secret, the inevitable happened when a second prospector William Trafford also discovered gold close by.

What they had found in this beautiful valley drew optimistic gold panners and prospectors from all over the country and the World (news of gold strikes of this magnitude travel fast !).

On 22nd September 1873 Pilgrim’s Rest was officially proclaimed a gold field and the scatter of tents and rudimentary shacks soon grew into a flourishing little village complete with sturdy brick houses, church, shops, canteens, a newspaper and the well-known Royal Hotel.

The diggers called it Pilgrim’s Rest because here, at last, after so many false trails and faded dreams they had truly found their home.

In due course the alluvial deposits were depleted and the locals turned to forestry, but their village, whose residents still number in the hundreds, has been painstakingly preserved as a living museum.

I often think of the hardships these pioneers faced. They must have been a special breed to have survived. It took them many, many months to travel through often hostile territory to  get to places like Pilgrims Rest. Today it takes us a few hours to travel the same distance.  There were no roads and  so many time they had to turn back to find a new route, especially when traveling through mountain ranges like the one in which Pilgrims Rest is located.  They had no electricity, refrigeration, or medical assistance and had to deal with horrible diseases and wounds that wouldn’t heal in the humidity and heat.  A visit to the graveyard in Pilgrims Rest shows rows of small children buried after a flu epidemic and the average age of those buried was probably around 35 years old.

It amazes me what people endured for a shiny bit of yellow metal.

Honey, I’m home

My apologies for suddenly disappearing on you all.  I was offered a lift to Johannesburg and had to go two days earlier than I expected. It was a crazy rush which included me doing the walk to the reserve gate in the dark at 4.45 am.  It must have been really funny to watch but was not a fun experience due to all the scary noises in the bush as well as that I had to drag my wheely case along the sand and pebble road.  My wheely case decided to try to collect every pebble and stone in its path!

The trip itself was uneventful yet enjoyable. I travelled with a young teacher who told me marvelous stories and before I knew it our five-hour trip was done. A friend collected me and I stayed with them until the next day when I took the car they are so kindly lending me for three months, collected the Bean and drove through to my family.

My father had fortunately taken the news of my relationship ending  well.  He, himself, is not that well and has laboured breathing and can not walk more than a few steps around the house before he has to sit down.  I am so worried about him. We all celebrated his 70th birthday with him on Sunday and took some really nice family photo’s.  I think the thought that we might not ever be all  together again ,sadly,crossed our minds.  I am so glad that I was able to spend time with my dad.

It was also great to spend time with my son (the Boy). I have not told you much about him – for no other reason than that I don’t get to see him as often as I would like to.  He is 22 and lives and works near Johannesburg.  Hopefully he and his girlfriend will be coming to visit the Bean and I soon.

The Bean and I drove back yesterday afternoon and I am back at work today.  It is FANTASTIC to have transport again.  Thank you Rob and Tracey.

It was a super long weekend – six days in fact although two strange things happened.  Firstly, I could not get enough sleep for some  reason.  As soon as I arrived in Johannesburg I took every advantage I could to have a nap – I slept and slept and slept.  I think it was because of all the stress I had been through the previous two weeks and now, because I was in a safe and comfortable environment where I could just relax and not worry about anything – the sleeping bug hit!  At least I know I am well rested and ready to get going again.

Secondly, the sellers of my property went a little crazy and started trying to get more money from me (although everything was supposedly settled a long time ago).  They started harassing me and threatening me with eviction should I not comply.  Silly billy’s!  Like I don’t know what my rights are. I stood firm though and hopefully things will get sorted out today.  I may end up losing the property – however, it is not the only place around so I am leaving it all to the powers that be and will see what happens.  Here are some snaps from the weekend. 

Operation Fred

The final member of our household has arrived safely in Hoedspruit.  Fred made the trip yesterday and travelled really well.  I was surprised as he usually performs like a Tazmanian Devil with twenty legs and a hundred claws when you take him in a car – and that is for a ten minute ride. 

Last night he stayed in our cottage, and refused to sleep – he was very happy and excited to be with us and wanted to explore EVERYWHERE and proceded to do so, coming back to the bed to tell us about it every ten minutes!  Needless to say, we did not get much sleep.  It was also crazy hot last night – so that didn’t add to our ease    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz