KwaZulu-Natal residents Terry and Lynn Espitalier were delighted to return home on Tuesday afternoon, August 2, after enduring 13 days trapped on top of Sani Pass in 400mm thick snow, reports the South Coast Sun.
The Espitaliers were among four people from Amanzimtoti, a coastal town south of Durban in KZN, who were snowed in at the Semonkong Lodge in Lesotho. The other two Amanzimtoti residents were father and son, Frank and Sheldon Wiid, while their 4×4 group leader was Gerald O’Brien of Pennington, also on KZN’s south coast.
In total, there were 20 adults and five children stuck at the lodge when an unseasonally large snow storm struck.
“I’ve never been so cold in my life,” a relieved Lynn told the South Coast Sun as the couple were driving past Port Shepstone en route to their Toti home. “Water in the car froze overnight – that’s how cold it was!”
The couple arrived in Lesotho on July 21 via Ficksburg, supposedly for a three-day outing. “By Sunday, we were snowed in,” said Lynn, as the couple were approaching Port Shepstone on Tuesday afternoon, August 2.
They had hoped to be airlifted out from the Lesotho side by July 29, but that country’s military had bigger priorities. She sympathised with the local villagers who had a torrid time following what was the worst snowfall since 1968. “The villagers’ roofs collapsed and there was no grazing for the thousands of sheep, horses and cattle.”
They had the option of chartering a helicopter to Maseru, but that turned out to be overly expensive.
Meanwhile, with more heavy snow predicted for July 31, it rendered any chance of driving out impossible. “The military have flown overhead and said there’s no chance,” O’Brien told the Mid-South Coast Mail.
Fortunately, the trapped tourists had enough food left to last them, but anxieties built when Terry Espitalier’s medication ran low. “I’ll never go away on holiday again without packing an additional two weeks’ worth of medicine,” laughed Lynn Espitalier when it was all over.
The couple paid tribute to O’Brien’s expertise in guiding the 4x4s through the black ice-covered mountains on Tuesday. On August 1, they attempted to clear the pass. “We had a little more snow on Monday night. We spent the last two days high up in the mountains trying to clear the pass but the snow was very deep,” said O’Brien.
Fortunately, by Monday morning at about 4.30am, eight people had been airlifted out – six by charter and two by disaster management due to their medical condition. According to Lynn Espitalier, Frank Wiid was evacuated, as he had not been doing too well. His son Sheldon was also taken with. The Espitaliers drove out through Quagga’s Nek, under O’Brien’s guidance.
Lynn Espitalier lauded her good friend, Carol Lane who assisted the Espitaliers to effect banking transactions for their business in their absence. She also thanked her daughter and her boyfriend for minding their dogs. “I’m cured for life – I’ll never go snow sightseeing again,” exclaimed Lynn, as they made a beeline for Toti on Tuesday.
– Caxton News Service