The Highest Country in the World – Land borders

We turned off the main road in Butha Buthe as we needed to cross the border in to South Africa.  Still a well maintained road it dropped gradually towards the Mohokare River. I rarely come across manned border posts as coming from an island nation you cannot drive to another country.  Even in Europe with the Shengen Agreement there are few places where they occur.  Lesotho being landlocked is dependent on South Africa alone to allow land transport in and out of the country.  Only a few of the border crossings are open 24 hours a day.  I did use one of these, at the western end of Maseru when I went with some people Maseru on my second trip over to Ladybrand for dinner one night.  I suppose it is not surprising that people can go back and forth fairly easily – it is after all the same piece of countryside, just split into  two different states. The border crossings along the river in Lesotho are a little less arbitrary than some.  I remember passing through the extensive complex at the Sierra Leone/Guinea border crossing on the edge of a town, and then being told that the actual physical border crossing is about 10km north of there.  I could not quite understand why people would set up immigration and customs posts so far away, but I suppose there is always a question of whether you can purchase enough land to build all the car parks, offices and inspection huts needed for a busy crossing.  The funniest part of the Sierra Leone , Guinea border was that it was very clearly marked on the road.  The Sierra Leone side had been tarmacced under a recent EU funded infrastructure programme, the Guinea side was a potholed piece of metalling that had seen no maintenance for twenty years.  And the line in the road was obvious, not to mention the change in smoothness of carriage.

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The border between Guinea (foreground) and Sierra Leone (background) marked by the new tarmac and road markings put in by the EU

The Caledonspoort border control near Butha Buthe was both very modern and heavily secured.  On both sides approaching the river the roadside was heavily protected with razor wire atop high chain fences.  Cameras and even look out posts were strategically placed.  Having said that the crossing guards on both sides were very friendly.  The Lesotho buildings slightly up from the flood plain  on a plateau, then the bridge over a dramatic gorge (but no photos of course) and then the South African control in a steep sided valley.  The road takes advantage of this valley to work through another escarpment of hills, and then we were away.

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