By Tony Carnie

A party of South African 4×4 adventurers are home and warm again after being stranded by snow and ice in the Lesotho mountains for 10 days, with temperatures plummeting to -16ºC.

The group, which originally included five people from the South Coast, managed to leave Semonkong Lodge in central Lesotho on Tuesday and drive southwards via Matatiele.

A previous attempt to drive home had to be abandoned at the weekend because of icy roads and deep snowdrifts.

Tour guide Gerald O’Brien, of Scottburgh, who led 18 people out of Semonkong village in a convoy of nine 4×4 vehicles on Tuesday morning, said: “We only planned to be up there for three days but ended up staying 13 days.

“Some of the older villagers told us it was the worst snowstorm they had seen since 1968. The snow was 400mm-500mm deep and the average temperature was around -7º on most days.”

Of the original group that joined O’Brien on the 4×4 adventure nearly two weeks ago, 10 managed to get out last week – a party of eight visitors from Johannesburg who chartered a private helicopter, and Frank Wiid and his son Sheldon of eManzimtoti, who were rescued by a Lesotho Air Force helicopter after Wiid sr ran out of blood-pressure medication.

The party of 18 who drove out on Tuesday via Matatiele included O’Brien, Terry and Lynn Espitalier of eManzimtoti, four people from Harare and 11 from Gauteng.

O’Brien said though it was very cold, it was fortunate that the lodge had not run out of food and drink.

At the weekend the group had to abandon their first attempt to leave as the ice and snow made the trip too risky.

“We had to keep stopping to dig our way out. It took us five hours to travel just 2km, so most of the group turned back. I went on ahead to do a recce and finally on Tuesday we decided to have another crack at it. We left the lodge around 8.30am and got home just after 6pm.

“We got a bit more snow than we bargained for, but it was an adventure of a lifetime for most of us and it’s nice to be home,” he said. – The Mercury