Lesotho is called “The Mountain Kingdom”, boasting the highest average elevation in the world. Shepherding is the main lifestyle leaving much of the population untouched from modern change and difficult to reach. Kuebunyane, our destination today, is an island amongst these mountains. A full day of driving from Maseru would position you on the opposite side of a river valley. It would require a two thousand foot descent on foot, passage across a river, and the grueling ascent to arrive. The airplane reached Kuebunyane in 27 minutes.
The wind at the grass strip was challenging. Before beginning the approach I briefed my personal limitation of 85 knots ground speed (we like to land at 70 knots or slower). Anything higher than this would require an aborted approach. I had concerns that we wouldn’t be able to land. After establishing my last turn towards the runway the aircraft settled in at 84.9 knots! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
We crossed a small ridge, reducing the power as we hit an updraft, and I prepared myself for the ensuing downdraft. The air below the aircraft fell away and I carried extra power to keep ourselves aloft before closing in on the runway threshold and cutting the power. I used maximum braking and everyone lurched forward in their seats before the aircraft slowed to a comfortable speed. My wife gave me a pat on the back as I silenced the motor. Everyone was thrilled to arrive and we felt God’s presence guiding us safely to Kuebunyane.