The final day. It took us ages to get out of bed, but this time not because we had a massive day ahead of us. This time because we didn’t really want to end our amazing experience.
After a long packup of our tent, we left Mzimude cave and looked up at the first hill for our day, and the last hill we would climb on the GT. It was quite something to behold, it looked so small and yet it was so significant. We mastered it within 20 minutes, and the knowledge that it was downhill from there gave us the confidence to take a break and enjoy the topside one last time.
Although we had to descend via Thamathu pass as the final checkpoint for the GT, the Bushman’s Nek area of the berg has less of a defined escarpment edge. In actual fact, we descended to 2500m before we even start on Thamathu pass. That’s very low for a pass to top out at, when compared with most passes that find the top at about 2900m.
So the day was essentially descent the whole way, knee breaking. And to get down some hillsides required some problem solving as they were very steep, and sometimes we had to even scramble down some short cliff faces. Our minds were boggled as to why anyone would choose to start the GT in the South and face this immediately. Poor buggers.
In good time we were on flats again and passed an elderly man walking in the direction we had come from. He was carrying nothing but his stick, and we hadn’t seen anything worthy of traveling to where we had been. The hardiness of the people of Lesotho astounded us as we guessed where his destination must be. Or perhaps tucked into his gumboots there were ample USN energy bars and he was attempting the GT?
At the top of the pass we paused for a snack, but we had no water for cooking lunch so we carried on, past a group of herds boys. They could have been no older than 10 years and were playing joyfully with each other and their dogs near the edge. Their view was most spectacular.
Down the pass the formations we passed were incredible, neither of us had seen such exposed and weathered formations in our experience in the berg. Eventually, we couldn’t put it off any longer, dry lunch would have to happen. We ate dry noodles and chicken mayo, with dry oats. Nothing was spared, I suppose the mountain madness had finally gotten us.
From kilometers away we could see the police post, and smelling steak we absolutely found 6th gear. Brakes were not operational down that hill.
At 3:30 on 31 May 2013 we arrived at the Bushman’s Nek police post, South Africa. The very helpful officer on duty informed us that the post closed at 4 pm, so we had just made it. He had no issues with is re-entering South Africa despite “never leaving it”. But he said we could get stamped back in, if we wanted. So yes, according to our passports we have entered SA more times than we have left it.
40 Minutes later, Tom “George R R Martin” and Doug “Bathtub” arrived, laden with steak, boerewors and beer. The mark of champion friends. We pitched at Silver Streams, and a night of stories and food ensued. True happiness is hard to define, but I think we came pretty darn close that night. Maximum utility and hedonist as anything.