Last weekend, Jonah was invited to Golden Gate National Park near Clarens to talk to honorary rangers about the dinosaur diversity.
After about three hours on the road (of course never exceeding the speed limit of 75mph [120km/h]), Jonah hangs a right and I found myself at the Highland Water Project. This massive water project takes mountain snowmelt in Lesotho and brings it to Johannesburg to flush our toilets in exchange for 100% of Lesotho's energy needs via hydroelectric plants (plus 9 million rand/day in fees). You might remember this from an earlier post where I had no clue what the big circle was. Now I know that circle is a liner for the massive tunnel that brings water for my hot showers and it's pretty neat.
This water is unbelievably clear. Africa just doesn't do clear water usually.
Above, Clarens town center, an artist's haven.
Below, the brewery (a palaeontologist's haven) and German restaurant.
And of course, the Highlander, home of the best pizza in the Free State. Also good beer.
Of course, after all this binging, then we had to drive along mountain roads in the dark to our accommodations.
This is the driveway (5 miles long) to our chalet. In the light of day, you'd see the sheer cliff on the right.
But this is the view we woke up to out our bedroom window:
Golden Gate National Park, is pretty eco-friendly. Each chalet (there are 6, all very close together) is built with a green roof and into the mountain. They're comfortable, sturdy, and it's hard to tell that anyone is nearby. If you visit, we will go.
Can you spot our chalet above?
Our chalet in the morning
Looking out over the mountains, the chimney in foreground is the only indication of another building.
The Maluti Mountains at dawn. No sleeping in for us!
Check out the craftsmanship in these simple log cabins. Second, note the butter dish. Some things, although common in South African homes, are nearly impossible to buy. A butter dish is one such thing. However, it was readily available in our chalet.
Checking out the view from our balcony...
One of the cool things is that you can see so much game while drinking tea. Here are some friendly local Zebra (pronounced Zuhb-rah)
And these lovely peaks are the Drakensberg, elevation ~9,000ft
Hiking in these hills, I was attacked rudely by a
massive fairly large, 18" snake. It bit my boot and I dragged it for two or three steps before I reached back and brushed it off. Of course I was not at all afraid, and did not shake my legs and run off screaming. Nor did I require a stiff belt of whiskey to calm my nerves at 7:30am.
UPDATE: The snake, of course presumed to be a black mamba, was later identified as a Skaapsteker (sheep stabber). Not harmful to humans, unless the humans have a unnatural fear response.
This is the environmental education center, where Jonah had to teach his course.
And this is the road to get there...
Which was guarded by trash-loving baboons.
While Jonah taught his course, I checked out the local flora. This is Crassula sp. flowering abundantly. It's a relative of the jade plant (may Cleopatra rest in peace).
And this is a Euphorbia, kind of like a cactus but not a cactus.
Heading home after the infamous snake encounter, we stopped for breakfast at Sugar and Cinnamon, a charming roadhouse.
It's fig season, and this means breakfast is amazing.
Finally, three days, one sheep stabber, and 1000km later, we arrived in Johannesburg just in time to get caught in traffic. More later about our new Wormwood-farming friends and our adventures on the border of Lesotho!