Like life, every great road trip is about the journey, not the destination and like every great recipe, there are certain key ingredients that are required;
Make sure that you resist the urge to stir in too many plans, try to just let go and see where the wind takes you. Much like a hunters pot this stew is meant to be added to along the way with new ideas, insights and dreams which can only improve it’s flavour. Dip into it everyday and ladle out a large helping of self discovery. Sometimes this dish may prove hard to swallow but ultimately it should change you for the better, helping you to question what really matters in life and to appreciate how precious each of our journeys are.
Travelling has already given us a lot to chew over and it goes without saying that one of the pleasures of being on the road is bush cooking. We have loved collecting recipes along the way too and sharing the pick of the bunch with you in our bush recipes section. However, often the best meals are entirely improvised, sometimes using only ingredients from our store cupboard. This was the case in Lesotho as we were unable to buy fresh food anywhere.
Such is our interest, my mother broke the Galt family tradition of spending only a fiver on each Christmas present and splashed out on a fabulous recipe book called Cooked in Africa for Lachlan and me. It was created by a South African chef called Justin Bonello and contains not just his mouth watering interpretations of local African cuisine, but also vividly documents his travels through Southern Africa with evocative photographs and offbeat anecdotes. When your entire life has to fit into a Landrover, size matters and it only goes to prove how outstanding this hefty hard back is that it joins us on our journey.
I mention this because on our way to the Sani Pass, an hour or so after leaving the panorama of the Katse Dam, we saw a fleet of Landrovers parked up ahead. Having barely come across another vehicle since arriving in Lesotho, we stopped and got out to have a chat. They were filming a programme on where food comes from in Africa and it wasn’t long before I clocked the Cooked in Africa logos on all of their car doors! By the time we were introduced to Justin Bonello himself, I had dissolved into a starstruck wreck, not unlike Mel from Flight of the Conchords. Filming halted while Bow Wow licked the whole crew and Justin (even hunkier in the flesh) signed our well thumbed book.
This wonderful coincidence, far off the beaten track and high in the Lesotho mountains, made us feel, more than ever, that we were on the right track and that perhaps our destiny was written in the stars. As a parting gift the Cooked in Africa gang gave us some much craved vitamin C in the form of juicy Woolworths oranges (remember we had been unable to buy fresh food for days) and we hoped to meet them again later at the Sani Pass Pub which at 2874m is the highest boozer in Africa.
They say that it’s tough at the top but this certainly was not the case for the Vagabond Adventurers at the Sani Top Chalet. With a howling 40 knot gale outside we gladly gave camping a miss and opted for the cosy comfort of our own private rondavel. That evening, in the lofty pub, we nursed hot mugs of Gluhwein around a well stoked fire and chatted with the other guests. One lodger, Adam, was the proud owner of a historic and much admired Series 1 Defender complete with all of its original leather and wooden fittings and could even be started using a crank. The Cooked in Africa team blew in later and we joined them for a delicious dinner, too much wine and plenty of road tripping tales.
During the day we explored the adjacent village and Bow Wow played with some real African dogs. He spent hours (unsuccessfully) hunting speedy ice rats but after the equine incident at the Sehlabathebe National Park, gave the mountain mules a respectful wide berth.
We left the Sani Top Chalet feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the foreboding Sani Pass which climbs over the Drakensberg escarpment and would steer us back onto South African soil. Once a gruelling bridle path, only attempted at one’s own risk and usually to prove the worth of a 4×4 vehicle, it is now much improved with a widened track and the worst of the hairpin bends having been ironed out. We descended through the clouds, past Ground Woodpecker burrows and compared to the twisting gradients that we had previously encountered in Lesotho, this pass was decidedly tame.
Our time in Lesotho had only affirmed our craving for the lost innocence of a less consumerist society and a simpler way of life. The Basotho people endure a physically challenging existence in the mountains, without the aid of modern technologies and yet we envied their sense of community and were inspired by how well they cultivate their land, only taking from the environment what they need. This slice of humble pie truly was nourishment for our souls, providing all of the ingredients essential for a classic road trip experience and leaving us with an impression hard to forget.