Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Topic started by: IanTheTooth on July 19, 2017, 08:03:13 pm

Title: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 19, 2017, 08:03:13 pm
Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Sub: Southern Drakensberg Traverse Bushmans/Sehlabathebe to Sani Top 75km

I’m sure many of you would have read about the Grand Traverse, a six day 200km long hike along the top of the escarpment from Mount aux Sources to Bushman’s Nek and wondered if this would be possible on a motorbike. Others of you will have wondered when you go in at Sani why you have to ride almost 100km inland before you can head South to Quacha’s Nek and why you can't go a more direct route. Well, you wouldn’t be the only ones, myself and Fred (an alias, Fred does not want to be identified by name or image on the internet) have been planning an escarpment edge ride out on Google Earth since 2012 and more recently I mentioned this to Iain and Stuart in Matatiele who had wanted to do the same thing for probably a longer period of time. 
 
The problem is that it is not flat at the top. There are no paths and for the whole ride you will be working your bike over boulders, grassy & heather humps interspersed with significant climbs over rock steps and valleys. The most significant obstacle in this ride is Mashai ridge. From the escarpment there is a 4km cliff on the North side culminating in a saddle at 3265m that you can get a bike (or a sheep) over.  If your bike dies on you, you will have to kiss it good bye and start walking and depending which part you've got to it may be more than one day's walk.

The four of us had set a date in stone a while ago. It had to be a weekend when Fred was flying into Natal for a couple of weeks. In retrospect, we couldn't have chosen a worse weekend if we'd tried. It is the time of year of the shortest days and coldest nights and over this weekend a cold front had brought snow up to Lady Gray and on the day of our ride the evening forecast was for -7 degrees and a dusting of snow. Just to make it worse Stuart had family issues to deal with and had to drop out a couple of days before. 
 
Ian and Stuart have done the real work on this trip. The pair of them had recce'd from their farms to the Mashai Ridge, the most difficult part of the ride, and when their wives were doing a charity walk up Sani they rode from Sani Top to Majoe Matso pass finding on the way back a very useful bridle path along the Sani river.

Iain had also found a cottage for hire in Sehlabathebe village called "The Croft" which was kitted out with beds, bedding, gas stove, kitchen equipment and big wood burning stove. The only thing that we took a bit of time to locate was the key to the long drop and our poor driver was just about to explode by the time he found it. This meant we were already 2  hours further  ahead than if we'd started at Iain's farm " The Meads" and driven through the border at Ramatseliso's Gate.

Attached: the route in blue and pictures of the croft, Stuart and Iain recce in grey 

Next:  the ride
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 19, 2017, 08:11:23 pm
 :sip: look forward to this one

This looks epic
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: 1ougat on July 19, 2017, 08:15:57 pm
 :sip: looks epic
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 19, 2017, 08:16:36 pm
Iain had also found a cottage for hire in Sehlabathebe village called "The Croft" which was kitted out with beds, bedding, gas stove, kitchen equipment and big wood burning stove. The only thing that we took a bit of time to locate was the key to the long drop and our poor driver was just about to explode by the time he found it.

Heading up that country in a few weeks. Learnt the camp site near Sehlabathebe was sold and in ruins but you can still camp/wild camp there. Do you mind sharing the info for The Croft? Either here or PM please. I can't seem to find anything on T4A of Google.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: JMOL on July 19, 2017, 08:48:13 pm
 :sip:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: m0lt3n on July 19, 2017, 09:06:00 pm
Intrigued!
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 19, 2017, 09:12:08 pm
TinusBez. Iain MacDonald farms to live but he lives to ride. He has a lot of accommodation on his farm and I know that he has a list of places to stay in that area of Lesotho but what he really wants to do is to show visitors some of the riding available in the area. A word of caution: be very honest about your riding ability. he will take you at your word. Contact him at

http://www.rockrabbits.co.za/index.php

facebook: rockrabbits 
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: 1ougat on July 20, 2017, 12:16:09 am
what bikes did you use?
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 20, 2017, 05:41:00 am
Thanks Ian

Cheers
Tinus
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Slim Jim on July 20, 2017, 08:05:31 am
 :sip: . this one is going to be good !
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 08:14:31 am
what bikes did you use?

little bikes
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: armpump on July 20, 2017, 08:15:26 am
sub
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Lou1 on July 20, 2017, 08:37:21 am
 :sip:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: LoopSoosStroop on July 20, 2017, 09:20:30 am
 :thumleft:

Following this one!
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: 1ougat on July 20, 2017, 09:57:23 am
what bikes did you use?

little bikes

Wat n verbasende insig
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 11:05:29 am
Croft to Ngwanwane

When we arrived on Saturday afternoon the wind was howling and cold. Iain’s wife had given us a feast of food to get through so after our steak and wors we wondered what tomorrow would bring and if we would be able to do our planned ride. The wind howled all night long. I had a good and comfortable sleep in the room with a loft ceiling on top but those in the body of the cottage had spent some sleepless time wondering if the roof sheets would blow off.  Iain had talked of getting up at five but when I stirred at about 7am there was not much movement. The wind was still howling and it was still bitterly cold. However, it was not snowing and it was magnificently clear. We had cellphone contact there so Iain could check if there had been any fires on the farm.  Along the top of the escarpment we often had quite reasonable cell phone signal.

 By the time we had our bacon and eggs and Fred had nipped down to the Chinese shop for some extra petrol we finished up leaving the croft at 9am. It was substantially warmer and the first part of the ride was a pleasant introduction to the ride to come. The weird thing about the edge of the escarpment is that you don’t see it coming. You just arrive at it.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: slicknick on July 20, 2017, 11:08:57 am
This I need to follow. Have hiked the GT unsupported in 2011 myself :eek7:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 11:12:11 am
more (the fat geriatric in the blue jacket is me)

PS no taal on this thread please. I have to get my wife to translate if you do.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: woody1 on July 20, 2017, 11:20:42 am
The chap with the WHITE face... was he suppose to be at work ? :laughing4:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Odd Dog on July 20, 2017, 11:27:59 am
 :) Exactly what I thought.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Edgar on July 20, 2017, 11:28:51 am
The chap with the WHITE face... was he suppose to be at work ? :laughing4:

Probably wanted by Interpol or something like that.... :imaposer:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: lone riderer on July 20, 2017, 11:32:57 am
 :sip:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: ChrisL - DUSTRIDERS on July 20, 2017, 12:27:51 pm
The chap with the WHITE face... was he suppose to be at work ? :laughing4:
I was thinkin why do the one guy wear such a big squire helmet ;)
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: LoopSoosStroop on July 20, 2017, 12:30:40 pm
Flippit dis snaaks
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: billy-joe on July 20, 2017, 12:39:02 pm
sub'd, love the 'berg man
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: onderbroek on July 20, 2017, 12:54:35 pm
Subbing to come read later
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Dirt Junkie on July 20, 2017, 02:33:52 pm
sub
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 20, 2017, 04:20:36 pm
Beautiful country! Gooi nog
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 07:57:57 pm
Escarpment to Tsoelike catchment

After our stop on the edge of the escarpment we had to make the next big step. At some point we had to cross the rim of the bowl around the catchment area of the Tsoelike River which from the Natal side you see as Mount Mzimude. At 3180m it is not quite as high as the Mashai ridge but still pretty intimidating. The Tsoelike river is of course the same one  that goes past Sehlebathebe and along the border to Quacha's Nek. From the bottom we took the left fork at the cleft up which Iain and Stuart had already navigated towards the frozen waterfall and the large cave.  As Iain said, it is not pretty riding and sometime in the future someone will find the real way through.

 At three thousand meters there is not much in your engine and even less in you and rock steps can tire you out very quickly. At one point I was draped over my bike like a big soft jelly baby more intent on just holding it upright rather than making forward progress with it when a man came down from above and rode it out for me. I'm sure they will keep a very special place in heaven for  Iain after such a good deed!

As we came towards the crest there was a lovely patch of smooth grass to ride over. I got to it first and fell flat on my arse. It was a frozen solid bog. Iain had a good laugh. He had another good laugh when Fred, who'd taken a different line on the other side of the valley, did exactly the same thing. You can see him picking up his bike in the pictures.

When we got to the Tsoelike river it was also frozen solid. On the cliff next to it was a stone hut, the only one we saw on our trip. At this time of year the high berg is eerily empty. All the herds boys and their animals are at a much lower altitude.   
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 08:02:19 pm
more
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 08:08:27 pm
more
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 08:14:08 pm
more
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:10:25 pm
Mashai Ridge/saddle


The Mashai ridge was the real make or break point of this ride. For many years we wondered if it was possible to get past this enormous obstacle and if we did it would be the point of no return, we would have to continue on to the other end.

As it turned out it came up on us quite quickly and when you are there it is quite obvious that there is only one way through. We sat on the North side in the sun and out of the biting wind having our lunch. When we were riding the weather wasn't an issue but as soon as you stopped it got cold very quickly. From where we had lunch the rest of the trip was laid out in front of us all the way to Hodgson's Peak North above Sani Top.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:14:22 pm
more
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:17:31 pm
Rhino Peak


While I was mapping this ride I did notice that Rhino peak was the large freestanding berg extension with fantastic views of the escarpment on both sides but I didn't realize how accessible it would be to us on bikes. I would say from Sani you could hit this easily as a day trip, especially if you take the bridle path through the Sani flats.

When my dad was 60 my parents came out from Scotland to see their new granddaughter and I dragged my dad up Rhino Peak from Drakensberg Gardens. He knew that he couldn't refuse but he knew that he shouldn't be doing it. Standing on the top of Rhino peak as a 60 year old some 28 years later I had very similar thoughts.   When I phoned him up and told him about it when I got home I think he thoroughly enjoyed the irony of it all.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:21:19 pm
more
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: JonW on July 20, 2017, 10:25:22 pm
Nice ride Ian  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:25:47 pm
Sani Top and home

From Rhino Peak and Majoe Matsoe pass onwards the ride became pretty straight forward as the escarpment flattens off in the bowl above Underberg.  The last bit included about one and a half kilometers of tar. When you are sitting stationery on a bike and going at road speed you quickly realize how bloody cold it is.

 Stepping off the bike into a warm bar was a very special feeling and the first beer went down just a treat! Amazingly enough our driver had arrived at Sani top just in time to see our headlamps approaching. It was just past 3 in the afternoon and I think a very respectable time to be out of harm's way. As we drove down the pass the cloud came down over the escarpment and the rain started at Underberg so the lord only knows what it was like on top.

 Although this was a truly successful adventure it could easily have ended in tears and I have to thank Iain and Stuart for all the preparation that they put into this. I was pretty stiff for the next two days.


What's Next?

Iain is already planning the next bit from Sani to Mount Aux Sources. Catch him at:

http://www.rockrabbits.co.za/index.php
facebook:  rockrabbits
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Xpat on July 20, 2017, 10:40:42 pm
Fantastic - respect!  :thumleft:

Do you think average middle aged bimbo like me can do it on KTM 500 or is that too big? I wouldn't be able to do it in winter - do you think it may be doable October/Novemberish or heat stroke would be too much of a risk? Ta
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 20, 2017, 10:58:59 pm
As you see Iain used his 530, mainly because he wasn't sure if his wife was going to pick him up in Underberg and he would have to ride home, but he was pleasantly surprised by how well the big KTM handled the ride and I know both him and Stuart regard the 500 as the ultimate extreme adventure bike. I would do it at Easter if I had the choice. Ian
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Xpat on July 20, 2017, 11:51:16 pm
Thank you - didn't recognize that 530.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 21, 2017, 05:51:16 am
Thanks for the share Ian, great trip.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Slim Jim on July 21, 2017, 07:40:01 am
 :thumleft:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: charliepappa on July 21, 2017, 08:56:42 am
I like those threads!!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: billy-joe on July 21, 2017, 10:08:41 pm
so was this just a day trip?  please don't misunderstand the 'just' in the sentence, I just perceived it to be further and more technical than a day's ride?

maybe I should go read the report again!  how many km was the trip?  would a 4x4 be able to do the trip?  sorry for all the questions!
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Bokveld on July 21, 2017, 11:56:26 pm
   Not my cup of tea, but fantastic pictures.Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: SchalkL on July 22, 2017, 07:36:26 am
The chap with the WHITE face... was he suppose to be at work ? :laughing4:
:imaposer: :laughing4: :imaposer:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: TinusBez on July 22, 2017, 09:10:26 am
I phoned Ian about The Croft. It is a privately owned place.

Sehlabathebe do have accommodation/camping and he also mentioned Jonathan's lodge which is inside the park.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 23, 2017, 04:29:59 pm
so was this just a day trip?  please don't misunderstand the 'just' in the sentence, I just perceived it to be further and more technical than a day's ride?

maybe I should go read the report again!  how many km was the trip?  would a 4x4 be able to do the trip?  sorry for all the questions!

Yes. this was a "day trip." If it wasn't we would have spent a miserable night under a rock crag wrapped in our space blankets. My speedo on return said 78.5km and on a 250 4 stroke I used 6.5 liters to give you some idea of what the going was like. My guesstimate from Iain & Stuart's recce rides was 7.5 hours but Iain had pretty good idea where we needed to go in the uncharted bit and it turned out he was spot on each time so that shrunk to an actual 6 hours. It may have been a bit easier if I had re-jetted like Fred did but probably not quicker.

4x4 drive. I would imagine that you could get from Sani Top to Rhino Peak in a 4x4. It won't do much for your resale value and take a sleeping bag because it will take you more than a day. Mashai ridge and Tsoelike catchment I think you would be building your own roads, however you would not be the first, Adam Kok  and his Griquas took 300 ox wagon over pretty similar territory.


Adam Kok's Road. The last big adventure ride to be completed in Lesotho. Iain & Stuart tried once and finished up sleeping in the mountains. He thinks he's got it right now. Any takers?


The only problem concerning this proposed exodus was to find a suitable route over the mighty Basutoland Mountains and the Drakensberg that lay between Philippolis and Nomansland. In 1859, Adam Kok set off with a hundred armed men to find a suitable route around the south of Moshoeshoe’s territory. They passed through what is now Dordrecht then to Tsomo and finally to somewhere near present day Matatiele. During this exploratory journey, they encountered tribes hostile to the Griquas and so Kok decided not to use this route but rather to trek over Basutoland. They therefore returned to Philippolis through Moshoeshoe’s country marking out a workable route over the precipitous mountains. On the way, someone was accidentally shot on the pass leading into Basutoland from the south. To this day, the route is known as Ongeluk’s Nek. Kok carved his name on a rock at the spot where the accident happened and it is still clearly visible. Kok then visited Moeshoeshe to get his permission to trek across his territory.
 
Kok and about 2000 followers; about 20 000 head of stock; something like 300 wagons and numerous donkey carts set off, early in 1861 to cross the mighty, uncharted and the most incredibly precipitous mountains to reach Nomansland on the eastern side of the Drakensberg range.
 
Having trekked past Smithfield and Zastron they camped for some time below Hangklip in the Mohales Hoek District of Basutoland. On the old Dobson map there is a village marked ‘Adam’, possibly where Kok camped. Near a place called Mekaling there are grooves chipped into a sandstone slab where the trekkers set and tightened their iron wagon wheel bands. There was a serious drought during 1961/62 and the trekkers suffered severe stock losses. They crossed the Orange River at Seaka and then trekked up the south bank of the Orange as far as Mt Mooroosi. This in itself is an arduous journey crossing many streams and gullies, valleys and steep mountains. It was, however, nothing compared to what lay ahead.
 
Much is written about the historical events leading up to this trek, but very little, if anything is recorded about the arduous and harrowing trek itself. Near Mt Moroosi, the Dobson Map clearly shows ‘Adam Kok’s Road’. It climbs the steep Mkochomela range near Tosing. It is said that when traversing such steep slopes throughout the trek, they fixed the two smaller front wheels of the wagon to the topside of the wagon and the two larger rear wheels to the lower side in order to level out the wagon making it less likely to tip over. (One wonders how they did this?—they must have devised an ingenious way of adapting the axles or the story may not be fact!). However, they often did dig trenches across the slope in which the upper side of the wagon ran thus levelling off the wagons.

Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: billy-joe on July 24, 2017, 10:31:58 pm
very interesting, thanks Ian!  sounds like a pretty tough ride!
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Roxtar on July 25, 2017, 01:36:52 pm
I sense a sick note is threaded into this tale somehow......... :biggrin: :imaposer:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: McSack on July 25, 2017, 05:00:47 pm
Jeez that is a serious ride and you old bullets still seem to be goers hey ;)

Shot for sharing Ian.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 25, 2017, 08:30:36 pm
Hope it goes well with your big adventure Grant. Come and show us the trophy afterwards.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on July 29, 2017, 04:56:57 pm
While I was trying to hunt down a copy of Capt. Dobson's 1909 map showing Adam Kok's road I came across this classic prayer attributed to Adam Kok.

In the last paragraph of her book “World Blackout” Sarah Gertrude Millin writes that in a discussion about the war situation with General Smuts in September 1940, the General said…”she (America) will come in, believe me, with us. Even then, the war remains a serious affair – yes, even with all my hopes. Did I ever tell you the prayer of Adam Kok, of the Griquas?

“He said ‘God, in spite of all our prayers, we keep on losing our battles. Tomorrow we are fighting a big battle. We need help very badly, God, and there is something I must say to you: the battle tomorrow will be a most serious affair. It will be no place, I can tell you, for children. I ask you therefore, God, not to send your Son to help us. Come yourself.”
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: King Louis on August 01, 2017, 11:53:03 am
Orsum ... thanks for sharing! :thumleft:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: CUZZY on August 01, 2017, 03:23:57 pm
Nice Ian. Fookin cold !
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: Ryderod on August 01, 2017, 03:45:19 pm
The chap with the WHITE face... was he suppose to be at work ? :laughing4:

Yep, was also thinking that!  :laughing4:
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on November 25, 2017, 01:05:22 pm
Found this nice clip of Iain McDonald and Stuart Joyner on the top of Hodgson's Peaks. Bit windy!


&feature=youtu.be
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on September 22, 2018, 06:01:03 pm
Seeing as there has been a bit of interest in this over the last few days I thought I would post the actual GPS tracks and the GPS tracks I cut from it of the day trip from Sani Pass to Rhino Peak.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: wilfwalk on September 23, 2018, 07:08:01 am
Thanks for the historical angle. If we all knew a bit more of these historical events perhaps we’ d understand things in a better light. Wonderfully informative. Thanks
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: IanTheTooth on September 23, 2018, 10:50:08 am
Yes, The messages of history. I was quite stunned by the SABC politburo take on the recent festival and recognition of "coloured" people in South Africa. They had no problem with the idea that Adam Kok and the Griquas (they originally called themselves the bastards so they had no problem working out where they came from, the British administration complained about the slur and they renamed themselves Griquas) moved to the area of Kokstad because there was no one else there at the time but reject completely the idea that areas that white settlers moved into in Natal may also have been empty. I'm pretty sure that in all cases there was a small population of bushmen who got a bit narked.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: BLK on September 23, 2018, 11:32:58 am
Great thread,thks.
Title: Re: Drakensberg Grand Traverse – by motorcycle
Post by: zacapa on September 28, 2018, 09:40:22 pm
Nice one Ian! Appreciate your contributions on this forum here!
Cool runnings...