Let me impart a lesson to you which I almost learned the hard way: unless you are staying in or near the capital city of Maseru, keep the fuel tank of your vehicle full. Fuel stations are very difficult to find in many parts of Lesotho; and I would up spending at least two hours of my time and driving almost 250 kilometers before finding an open fuel station and having the fuel tank of my rental car full. My consolation is that at 8.35 meloti per liter, fuel cost less in Lesotho than it does in South Africa. I probably saved a whopping five dollars; but that did cheer me up just a skoche. I know, I know — I am not in Japan; nor am I Japanese…
…so how did I find out? 90 kilometers from my destination was a shack with a police officer who opened a gate with a Stop sign attached to it. I had slightly greater than a quarter of a tank of fuel, which I thought was enough — until I asked the police officer if there was a fuel station at my destination. “There are no fuel stations there,” he replied.
Thankfully, I remembered passing a fuel station almost 35 kilometers back — and that was the nearest fuel station. Ugh. I am already so tired from flying as a passenger all night; all of the driving; waiting almost four hours at the border; and changing the tire from the stupid pothole. I drove back through the night — dodging many people in the process who apparently like to hang out either in the road or on the side of the road wearing the darkest colored clothes they can find — filled up, and arrived at that gate again. I think that the police officer was too tired to recognize me from approximately two hours earlier.
I drove up the steep winding road, dodging rocks — either rocks are constantly falling in those falling rock zones; or they just do not bother to clean them up — sheep, aluminum cans, frogs, and other hazards which caused me to feel like I was in a video game of which I was too tired to play.
Location and Arrival
After all of that, I attempted to get through two security gates with no success, as each guard told me that I needed to enter through a different gate down the road. I finally passed through the third security gate — the third time was the charm, where a tired guard unlocked the chain and opened the bar to allow me in — and hobbled at my destination shortly after at 1:30 in the morning…
…only to have the door of the front entrance locked and the lights out in the lobby inside.
I banged on the door. I shouted “Hello!” Nothing.
I drove all the way back to the security gate and awoke the poor guard. He promised to call and get the front door opened for me; and that someone should be there by the time I arrived back at the front door. I thanked him politely; but I was really, really tired. All I wanted to do was collapse onto a bed — I will even accept a sack of burlap similar to the one on which I once slept in the Côte d’Ivoire — and sleep.
In a leap of faith, I took out my belongings and carried them to the front door.
Nothing. No sign of life.
The stars in the partly cloudy southern sky looked pretty against the darkness of the night with little light pollution interfering with the view — but that distraction quickly dissipated in what was becoming more and more of a reality of not sleeping in a room for which I already paid.
The driver’s seat is looking more and more like it will be my bed for the night — or perhaps I might not get any sleep at all.
I knocked. I waited. Nothing.
Should I bother the security guard yet again? I really did not want to do that. There is not another place to stay for many kilometers; and I would not even know where one was located anyway. This country was Lesotho, where even fuel stations are difficult to find outside of Maseru, which is its capital city. Forget about finding another form of lodging. I might actually become sleepless in Lesotho; and I was well on my way of that becoming a reality at 1:30 in the morning.
I eyed the Ford Fiesta I rented, which I had been driving all day from Johannesburg. Will the front seat in that car parked in the parking lot be my bed for tonight? I kept wondering that.
After having resigned to putting my belongings back in the car in what seemed like an eternity, I heard a noise. Someone was walking towards me in the dark. It turned out to be the security guard checking up on me and my dilemma. “I kept trying to call him but he doesn’t answer,” he said.
That was not good news. Perhaps the person he was trying to call was sleeping soundly — like I wanted to be doing?
When the security guard realized that nothing had been accomplished, he went to the glass front doors, pushed them inward and somehow got the locked doors to open. Apparently with enough force, the latch on the inside gives — so the doors were not broken. There was a loud bang, though.
All right — we were inside…but I still do not have a key to a room.
Guessing that he was awakened by the noises of the doors being forced open, our voices and our footsteps, a large man walked into the dark lobby area. After speaking to each other for a few minutes in Sesotho, the man — who turned out to be the security guard for the Katse Lodge, which is where I was supposed to stay — asked me for my information. I let him know my name, my reservation number and that the room rate was already paid.
After searching for a few minutes, he found a piece of paper with a reservation on it. “Is this you?” he asked.
The name of the person on that reservation was not me. I am not a doctor.
“Then I do not have your reservation,” he replied.
My heart and stomach would have dropped at that latest dilemma; but they were just too tired to do so.
This day seemed to just keep getting longer — and worse…
There was no record of any reservation for me at Katse Lodge in Bokong, Lesotho, where I was to stay for the night. Neither I nor the two security guards — one for the lodge and one for the entrance to Katse Village — knew what to do…
…but I could not believe what did happen next…
“Here is a room key for room number one,” said the security guard for the lodge after thinking about my dilemma, knowing that I had no place to go for the night. “You can straighten it all out with the woman who will be here in the morning.”
I was incredibly thankful that there was finally a bed calling my name — especially as he had no proof that I had a room reserved for which I already paid. Starting off with a ride to the airport, three flights — this was one of them — and greater than 14 hours in a car later, I realized that I literally arrived there straight from the United States.
No wonder I was so tired.
I wearily followed him towards the beginning of a short hallway where he opened the door to room number one.
I do not believe I have ever stayed in a Room 1 before, come to think of it.
I walked in.
I did not take a photograph of outside the window of my room that night because all I saw was a fluorescent light against a wall outside next to the window in the pitch black darkness.
I really do not want to sound ungrateful; but this room just did not look appealing. In fact, the photographs actually depict the room better than it appeared in person; and I contemplated sleeping on the bed while still wearing my clothes as I did in Kenya because of the chance of vermin…
…and after inspecting the bed carefully and found it to be free of any evidence of vermin, I got undressed and slipped into the bed. The last thought I remember was that the bed was comfortable. I was out cold after that.
For the most part — other than the toilet having a tank and the removable shower head — the decor of this bathroom appeared to me to have come straight out of the 1950s.
I could not believe all of the mold which I saw on the wall of the shower area; and the soap was sitting out in the open on an empty box — presumably the one in which the soap came — which was sopping wet on the soap dish built into the tiled wall.
I bypassed on bathing that night.
Strangely, there was a medicine cabinet built into the wall of the bathroom — and there was nothing in it.
Yes, I had to check to see if there was anything in the medicine cabinet.
This is the first time I have ever stayed in a room with a can of air freshener sitting on top of the tank of the toilet, which was a little bizarre.
After a short but restful and needed sleep, I woke up not long after dawn the next morning — and I could not believe what my eyes saw…
…I looked out of the window to one of the better views I have seen from a hotel room.
I had to go outside to look around and take in the tranquil and scenic views of the Maluti Mountains and the lake created by Katse Dam. This is one of those times where the photographs should do all of the talking.
Breakfast is included in the room rate; and although there was plenty of choices of hot and cold food from the buffet area, the quality of the food was average at best — if that.
Tablecloths and cloth napkins — combined with the views outside of the windows — elevated what would have otherwise been a bland and forgettable experience. The chairs were not very comfortable.
Save for one other guest, the dining room was empty and quiet.
Adjacent to the dining area was an area which serves as the area for people to relax, as there is no room for this type of area in the actual lobby. Although dated, the decor of this area was inviting and looked relaxing.
The overall experience of staying at Katse Lodge wildly varied — the views and service were very good; while the cleanliness and food struggled to reach middling at best. If the bathroom — which had no charming quality about it — was upgraded to one of more of a typical hotel room, the experience would have improved substantially. The overall dining experience can also use a significant refreshing…
…but if you want to stay in this part of Lesotho, there really are no other choices about which I know — and remember, there are no fuel stations and few other services and conveniences nearby.
Still, I would have to say that the good outweighed the not-so-good, which is why I would recommend staying at Katse Lodge — especially if you secure a good room rate. I paid $40.82 in total for my stay, which includes $5.01 in taxes and fees — and the experience was definitely worth the money.
266 2291 0202 — Telephone number
All photographs ©2015 by Brian Cohen.