After a beautiful yesterday at the Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve, we returned to our hostel at Sundowner’s and exchanged travel stories with the Peace Corps crew that had already been living at the hostel for months. Somehow during our introductions, a plan for an epic West Africa itinerary materialized (stay tuned)!
We then turned in around 11pm, finally getting a full night’s rest on our trip. We then woke at 6:30am for a 7:15am TransMagnific Bus to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International airport (600 SAR per person).
TransMagnific’s buses can be reserved beforehand via e-mail on their website (along with getting to pre-reserve your own lunch, snack, drink, and movie!) but they either accept wire transfers or full payment the day before at their offices in Mbabane.
Out of convenience, I asked Sundowner’s owner, Ben, make a payment on our behalf and he ended up driving into Mbabane to pick up our tickets when I wired him the money a month ago. Thanks Ben!
The additional perk of staying at Sundowner’s Lodge is that the bus actually makes the hostel one of its official stops before heading onwards to Swaziland’s capital of Mbabane and then Johannesburg, so that was pretty convenient.
Because the 6 of us were the only passengers, we got a small van instead and no movie (and yet they had promised us a movie!!!).
After about a 20 minute drive, we arrived in Mbabane at the main TransMagnific offices, where we received our bagged lunches and coffee. We then drove onwards for about 2 hours to the border between Swaziland and South Africa.
If you use TransMagnific, the driver does EVERYTHING for you. You literally just follow him to the offices where he does all the paperwork and getting your passports stamped, while you watch awkwardly and maybe wave hello when they confirm that you’re exiting Swaziland and entering South Africa.
After being stamped out of Swaziland, we rushed to keep up with our driver as he dashed to the South African office for us to be stamped in.
After getting stamped in and having our passports returned, we headed back out into the van and entered South Africa.
There’s a rest stop about an hour into your journey, which happens to be very very pretty.
After about 2 more hours on the road, we reached OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg at around 11:50am. We then hung around getting more food and chilling out for a few hours, before boarding a South African Airways Airlink Shuttle Flight at 2:55pm for Maseru, Lesotho.
The 45 minute airplane ride itself was stunning.
Once the terrain became more mountainous and less flat, we knew we were crossing from South Africa into Lesotho.
After 45 minutes in the air we landed at 3:55pm, after which we literally walked from the plane on the airfield to arrivals.
Once inside the airport we filled out a few forms, had our temperature taken by these laser guns pointed at our foreheads (my first), and bags checked by customs.
By 4:05pm we were out the door and on our way to our accommodations at Durham-Lesotho Link.
FYI, there are no cabs at the airport, so we had pre-arranged a taxi service to pick us up for 60 SAR per person.
It took a 45 minute drive through surprisingly heavy traffic to get to Maseru from the airport. Once we were at Lesotho-Durham Link, which is located in the old airport and by the Air Force base, we were quickly directed by security to our rooms without even needing to register.
We then headed out to the nearby lake, committing a mild form of trespassing.
We kicked back with views of the lake at sunset, along with mandatory group photos to mark the end of week 1.
At around 7pm our original taxi drivers came back to pick us up and took us to the only “attraction” in Maseru, which is the Basotho Hat, shaped like the local style of hats.
Formerly a souvenir/crafts store that had sold the eponymous basotho hats, it’s now the home of The Regal Restaurant, the town’s top place to dine, serving mainly Indian and local fare.
After dinner we drove to a local liquor store and grabbed a few local beers and wine.
And now we’re just chilling at our place, sharing the endless number of stories that we experienced the past week.
What a wonderful way to end week 1 of the trip.
– At time of posting in Maseru, Lesotho, it was 53.6 °F –
Humidity: 26% | Wind Speed: 21km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny