Sunday, August 15, 2010

Kathy's 44th Birthday, Part II: Oxbow

Northward and northward we went, hitting the true highlands around Butha Buthe. The lines of the land, the light as it danced through valleys and villages, were spectacular.

Higher and higher we rose, my wife at the wheel and I at a loss to describe the sensation of height and the natural magnificence of the land.

We had to rise to substantial elevations before we began to encounter some of the more standard signs of winter, such as ice in the roadside shadows (and remembering that this was early July).

We found our way to New Oxbow Lodge, where we checked in and checked out our accommodations. The lodge was quite well appointed, and it felt to me as if it would have fit well in the Adirondacks.

The lodge was set up in the mountains, in a valley along side a stream with water that was almost unbelievably clear.

We left the lodge in order to spend the remainder of our day at Afriski, a ski resort nestled up in the mountains of Lesotho - where they do get snow but take no chances and make their own. Visually, the results of that endeavor are quite striking and somewhat surreal.

We registered at the entrance...

Then suited and, yes... boarded up! I had been saying for months that I simply had to go snow boarding in Africa. Just because I could. Neither of us had ever been snow boarding before, but how could we not at least try it?

Kathy took to it faster than I did, but she is more athletic and coordinated than I. I like to think of myself as "grace challenged" rather than awkward and klutzy, though. Here Kathy is with our instructor, Chris, on one of her first runs and already going well.

The view as we looked downhill was a strange mix of typical snowy slope and Lesotho mountainside. Beautiful, but an unexpected juxtaposition nonetheless...

Although she was taking to snow boarding faster than I, Kathy decided to spend most of her afternoon doing what she knew: skiing. (At which she excels and at which she looked particularly cute!)

Here I am, later on, with Chris - who was really cool and incredibly patient - realizing that stopping is necessary... and difficult!

Still, I must say that I felt quite a sense of accomplishment. And I really enjoyed myself. I hope to try it again!

The most difficult part for me, as it turns out, was the ski lift. I took my worst spills on that (it is a t-bar style lift that pulls riders along the snow, rather than a seat one rides).

My head may be hard, but the ice was harder!

My beautiful wife, after we had finished conquering the slopes (slope) of Lesotho:

Before we left, we found no little entertainment in a "bum board" race:

We set out from Afriski just about at sunset, feeling worn out but proud. After all, how many folks we know can say they have been snow boarding and skiing in Africa?

That night, the lodge was cold but cozy. The next morning, the sunlight revealed the full splendor of the site again.

The moon, especially, caught my attention:

Very satisfying, and with still a few days to go on our trip...

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