Wild Dog Adventure Riding

Riding: Plan, Report and Racing => Ride Reports => Topic started by: Amsterdam on April 26, 2019, 06:44:36 pm

Title: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 26, 2019, 06:44:36 pm
April 2019 Lesotho highlands ride

The plan

It is easy to get inspired by well written ride reports and posts with various route options.  After reading Xpat’s report “Lesotho Boogie Woogie” http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=232705.msg4186774#msg4186774 I felt all inspired.  Inspiration doesn’t always lead to action but I was determined to make this one a reality.  I contacted Losper as well for some additional route planning info, start and end in Barkly East.

Finding a few buddies to come ride with was easy.  Unfortunately one fell off his mountainbike and had to withdraw. One more partner thought the better off it and pulled out a few days before.  So early one Saturday morning Jason (age 35) - @JAmBer - and I (age 60) set out from Cape Town and headed for the mountains.

It is hard to make a trip along the N1 sound exciting so I will spare you the detail.  Suffice to say that a lot of the discussion went along the lines of me saying “the distances per day don’t look too bad at all, easily achievable”.  If you have ridden offroad in Lesotho before you will understand from our comments that this was a first for me.  JAmBer had done a few of the sections (of day 2) before.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 26, 2019, 06:47:22 pm
Day 1, lets go

It is a great start to a ride when you wake up and the sun is shining.  This feeling of excited anticipation diminishes a bit when 3 kilometers into the ride JAmBer pulls over and says his GPS isn’t charging and the front end of the bike is not straight.  A bit of spannering later and all is good and we are off again.

At Volunteershoek Pass I am struggling a bit to get up the hill.  Not so much the traction but more the vague feel of the front end.   I decided it was all in the head and carried on.

We passed Tiffendel, decided that Ben McDui was something for another day and proceeded to lunch at Tenahead.  The road was a little muddy and the front vagueness was beginning to mess with me.  Not a good start on the first morning of a 7 day ride. 

Just before getting to lunch there were two streams to cross.  Some of you may have seen my miserable attempt to cross water some years back.  It has left some deep psychological scars and anything deeper than a dog’s waterbowl still gives me cold shivers.  JAmBer doesn’t have the same hangups and proceeds rapidly through the water while I stand on one side looking scared.  However, my need for lunch is stronger than my fear.



Typically, lunch in out of the way rural South Africa is a guaranteed disappointment but not so at Tenahead.  Suitably reinforced we carry on.  But not before I make the first of several luggage adjustments to bring the weight further forward to improve front end feel.  The next section is something where years ago I ended up turning back on the 690.  My plan was to get to the same point, survey the scene and proceed with caution.  JAmBer didn’t know about this plan and by the time I get to the steep and muddy downhill he is already halfway up the next hill. 

The rest of the ride to Matatiele is mostly scenic and easy dirt roads. All in all a long day’s ride but 260 kilometers done.  You see, I knew it was going to be easy.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on April 26, 2019, 06:59:38 pm
Alright, bring it on!  :thumleft:

 :sip:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Herklaas on April 26, 2019, 07:13:42 pm
 :sip: Ok, en, wat nou? ek wag?  :3some: :lamer:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: JAmBer on April 26, 2019, 07:15:29 pm
Ha! you were right to be cautious of the rivers. I may have been gung-ho at the river crossings at the start of the trip, but after drowning my bike in one of em, I wasn't by the end!
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: rubiblue on April 26, 2019, 09:44:31 pm
Awesome. Heading on similar routes next Wednesday with dad and brothers. Super excited reading this.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: GRyPH on April 26, 2019, 09:57:40 pm
following this thread  :biggrin:  :ricky:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: punisher on April 26, 2019, 10:06:16 pm
 O0
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: hedleyj on April 27, 2019, 01:51:24 am
JL why the reference to age. You are not a day older than 35 in your mind, are you?

Noted is some potential editorial influence creeping into this work, it may be direct or merely subliminal, but there it is.

I look forward to your further editions, bring it on.

 
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: BlueBull2007 on April 27, 2019, 03:48:54 am
Excellent, I'm in! Nice to see Jamber out there - a helluva good bloke.

That stream crossing fail vid is something else! :eek:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Slim Jim on April 27, 2019, 05:20:04 am
 :drif: some more please...............................
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: OomD on April 27, 2019, 06:57:17 am
Reading and enjoying!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 01:50:01 pm
Day 2 - Matatiele to Thaba-Tseka

A short bit outside Matatiele we turn off the R56 onto a large dirt road.  Today is a 200 kilometre ride so it feels good to cover some distance early on.  What we have not recognised yet with Losper’s and Xpat’s routes is that they start the day by taking you away from the comfort of your B&B, along easy roads, before leading you onto ever harder to do sections.  Suddenly we stand on the edge of a sodden field with no track visible at all.  The GPS clearly shows we have to go across so we go blindly forward.  After a while we get onto a large grass plain with the mountains ahead of us.  In my early morning keenness I don’t stop for photographs but ride on enthusiastically, humming the theme song from Bonanza (surely somebody remembers that old TV Western?). 



Every once in a while the bikes sink into the marshy soil but nothing that can’t be solved with a little twist of the wrist.  This picture of pastural bliss ends too soon and we are on the last stretch of the road to the Ramatseliso border post.  I have had very mixed experiences with border crossings over the years.  Admittedly, I didn’t expect that this was going to be a tough one, but it was somewhat surprising anyway to be through both sides in less than 5 minutes.  Just a friendly “hello, how are you, where are you going, have a safe journey” and we get ready for the next section.

JAmBer had done this road before and didn’t seem to be worried about it at all.  I had looked on the T4A map at home and clearly remember that the section from Ramatseliso via Sehlabathebe to Taung was marked as 28.3 km/3:34 hours and 82.5 km / 9.16 hours.  Sure, it would be a little faster on the bikes but I was mentally ready for at least 8 hours of tough riding.  But it was nothing like that.  In fact it was all easy going and  instead of 3.5 hours this first section only took 30 minutes.  Before we knew it we were ready to get some snacks at the Chinese supermarket at Sehlabathebe.  We didn’t need fuel, which seemed a good thing at first glance but it is available inside the shop.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 01:55:19 pm
Day 2 - Matatiele to Thaba-Tseka (continued)

A little further on the road deteriorates a little as we tackle Matebeng pass.  There were definitely sections where you had to pay attention to the road and the wash-aways but it was quite easy going.  I was beginning to think I should have brought the 701 for the comfort.  At the stop at the cellphone tower JAmBer makes a similar comment about his 990.  But the small bikes make everything easy and we head down the hill into this beautiful valley.

I have done several rides with JAmBer and I know that he rides faster than I do.  So I just plod along at my “happy hacker” pace and when I spot him under a tree at the bottom of the valley I pull up and we have some peanuts for lunch.  Some local lovelies walk past and we share some peanuts with them.  They look at me and say “thank you madala”.  Hells bells, I haven’t shaved for 2 days and now I am an old man?
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 01:58:25 pm
An hour later JAmBer decides that another break is in order.  There are some shade trees on the other side of the river and with an enthusiastic roar of youthful optimism he storms at the river.  A few seconds later he is grateful that he is not on the 990 as the two of us struggle to get his 450 out of the mud and onto the hard pack.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 02:02:40 pm
Day 3 Thaba-Tseka to Katze dam

We both have a GPS with the route so there is no need to continuously look for the other.  But at major changes of direction I typically find JAmBer waiting for me.  And if I can’t see him then the ploughed earth normally shows where he has disappeared too.  In the absence of both I ask the only guy around.  He points over the hill and says: “your friend went that way”.  Since JAmBer has done the Amageza and the Baja I know his navigation skills are superior to mine so I wait for a little while.  He returns, speeds off in the right direction and blasts off on a fast twisty gravel road.  I follow him for a little while until the GPS shows we are of course again and I return to the river and wait.

The next section looks interesting as we will now ride along the riverbanks and we have to cross the river several times.  JAmBer returns and proceeds to ride in the muddy section, on the side of the river, as it is clear of rocks.  For a slightly heavier rider like myself it is also clear of traction.  JAmBer’s tracks seem to skim lightly over the muddy section whereas my bike is going slower and slower as the back of the bike begins to get stuck.  I leave the river and start riding on the bank.  It is somewhat slowish going as the you pick your way between the rocks.

At the first point where we have to cross the river we carefully wade across to find a solid and not too rocky section.  The river is shallow and the main aim is not to do something silly and get your boots full of water.  The flow of the water is minimal and it is simple stuff.



On these type of sections I mostly follow JAmBer’s trail through the tall grass.  It is easy to see where he has disturbed the grass and I reason that if he is not lying down in a heap then there are probably no nasty holes/rocks to catch me out.  This technique works a treat as I see JAmBer lying in some stinky mud hole a bit up ahead.  It is at these type of sections that you realise it is a good idea to go with two riders as it is bloody hard work to extract the bike from a bog hole that seems to suck the boots of your feet.

Picking my way along the banks I begin to be more and more grateful about my decision to take the 500 and not the 701.  A lot of the goat/cow trails are narrow and rocky and the lighter bike just conserves so much energy.  A big group of young boys/men wave us away and point to the other side of the river so we cross again.

Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 02:04:59 pm
Day 3 Thaba-Tseka to Katze dam (Continued)

Today is another short section and we make it to Katze Dam lodge a little after lunch time.  So far so good, three days riding and lunch on all three days. 

After lunch I use the WiFi to read Xpat’s ride report to get a feel for what will be waiting for us tomorrow.  And you know what, reading a ride report of a tough ride from the comfort of your lounge with a beer in hand is one thing.  Now, being at the start of this  proper off-road over the mountain section, I find I am studying the report with much more intensity, especially as I have never ridden anything like this before.  And suddenly reading about @Straatkat breaking his leg on the next section and that taking a wrong turn at the shepherd’s hut can take you hours to get back on track again makes me all a little nervous.  JAmBer doesn’t seem to worry about a thing but I woke up several times during the night to reread the sections and look at the photographs.  And, with hindsight, I can tell you that it was much harder in real life than it looked like from the comfort of my lounge.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 02:08:01 pm
Awesome. Heading on similar routes next Wednesday with dad and brothers. Super excited reading this.

Enjoy it.  This rates amongst the best riding I have done.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 02:10:28 pm
JL why the reference to age. You are not a day older than 35 in your mind, are you?

Noted is some potential editorial influence creeping into this work, it may be direct or merely subliminal, but there it is.

I look forward to your further editions, bring it on.

Nope, not in my mind.  And with the right combination of anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants almost not in body either.

You may remember that she, who shall not be named, does not do biking or anything associated with it.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on April 27, 2019, 02:55:25 pm
To be fair, I'm only responsible for route on days 3, 4 and 5  :biggrin:

Your original route if my memory serves me didn't head to Sehlabathebe, but rather headed from Matat via Ongelugsnek to Semonkong. That IMO would give you a bit more exercise than the route you took up to Thaba Tseka. I agree that the route from Ramatseliso via Matebeng to Thaba Tseka is big bike territory.

Would I have known that you are considering that route, I would definitely try to lure you into the Drakensberg traverse from Sehlabathebe, via Rhino peak to Sani (Day 2 here: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236081.0 (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236081.0)), and then next day from Sani to Katse over mountains over a trek I plotted only recently. That would definitely cure you of any big bike desires - though you might not like me much after that   >:D >:D >:D

On the positive note - if you would do that, Katse to Mohale would have been a breeze  :ricky:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: McKracken on April 27, 2019, 04:22:21 pm
Brilliant so far!  but next time please wait for me to come with!
Sitting in Spain waiting for the flight to bring me back to the bikes!
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 05:15:56 pm
To be fair, I'm only responsible for route on days 3, 4 and 5  :biggrin:

Your original route if my memory serves me didn't head to Sehlabathebe, but rather headed from Matat via Ongelugsnek to Semonkong. That IMO would give you a bit more exercise than the route you took up to Thaba Tseka. I agree that the route from Ramatseliso via Matebeng to Thaba Tseka is big bike territory.

Would I have known that you are considering that route, I would definitely try to lure you into the Drakensberg traverse from Sehlabathebe, via Rhino peak to Sani (Day 2 here: http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236081.0 (http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=236081.0)), and then next day from Sani to Katse over mountains over a trek I plotted only recently. That would definitely cure you of any big bike desires - though you might not like me much after that   >:D >:D >:D

On the positive note - if you would do that, Katse to Mohale would have been a breeze  :ricky:

We live and learn.  As a first attempt at Lesotho, this was a good route.  But we will be back and may try some of your other routes then (after the winter though, snow is not too appealing for this type of riding).
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 05:18:46 pm
Day 4 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge

Riding along the edges of the hills I do my utmost to somehow follow the purple line on my GPS.  I am not very successful at it and the one moment I am too high on the hill and then too low.  Realising that one should take these lines as guides only, and not as a real track improves my riding a bit.  I look up and can’t see JAmBer anywhere.  But it is clear I have to go down and then up the other side.  And the bit “up the other side” is quite long.  The ride report said that the other guys just gunned it up the side of the hill as fast as they could until the bit where they dropped into the tracks and worked the bikes up together.

The idea of going very fast up this hill is not too appealing so I proceed at a moderate speed.  It is actually the thought of flipping the bike over backwards that is foremost on my mind.  Fortunately the traction is good and I go a long way up the hill.  I pass JAmBer and keep going.  Maybe I am not so bad at all and will actually just ride all the way up.  It gets steeper and steeper and I stop and wait for JAmBer to catch up and pass me.  He does and goes on, right up to the point where he stops and falls over.



I start the bike and continue up, at an angle to the slope.  It is going well but I am heading to some big rocks and need to turn.  The problem with the turn is that you are first pointed straight up the hill, then as you turn you end up leaning the bike somewhat downhill.  Inevitably the bike goes over and catapults me down the hill.  With Straatkat’s broken leg in my mind I let go off the bike so I won’t get slammed between the hill and the bike.  It was a successful manoeuvre that gave me enough speed to do several head over heel rolls as I disappeared from whence I came.

Normally after a good fall I just stay down for a bit and mentally work my way around my body checking the function of the various parts.  This time there is no opportunity for that as there is a strong smell of petrol.  The bike is lying upside down and fuel is leaking out.  Picking a bike up on a slope like this is hard.  I tell myself “cowboy up cupcake” and somehow get it back on its wheels.  Further up I see that JAmBer is having his own challenges.  He gets to a steep sloping rock and even his gummy tires can't find purchase as he slides sideways down the rock.  I know that this is not the way to go but somehow end up at the same rock and the bike slides out from underneath me the moment the rear is on it.

We stop to regroup for a moment and stake out a path that will most likely lead to success (i.e. the top of the hill).  JAmBer kindly offers to ride my bike up as I am looking a little out of breath but, this is the essence of the ride, and rather than accept this so early in the day I prefer to die trying.  After some clutch slip, wheel spin and several Dutch expressions of encouragement I get to the top of the hill.  JAmBer follows shortly afterwards.

Whilst it is not all plain sailing at the top, most of it is quite rideable.  We pass the shepherd’s hut and ride for a while without a care in the world.  It is early in the day, weather is good and we are already on top.  What can possibly get us now?
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 27, 2019, 05:22:25 pm
Day 4 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge (continued)

At the next bunch of huts there is quite a steep downhill section.  JAmBer is nowhere to be seen but some local girls point me in the direction that he went.  I follow the pointers and am quite chuffed with going all the way down the hill without stumbling.  Still somewhat odd that JAmBer is still not anywhere but I soon find out why.  I was only supposed to go partially down the hill and then make a sharp left.  So back up the hill I go until the point where I find JAmBer fixing his bent bashplate under the watchful eyes of some kids.

We are not in a hurry, only about 20 kilometres of rough stuff still to go until we get to the dirt road.  It is only 1 PM and 5 hours of daylight left.  Should be easy to walk it in that time.  Thing is, we aren’t walking.

And neither is anyone else at the next river crossing we get to.  The river is wide at this point and it flows quite strongly.  But as usual, there is someone there to give us some pointers.  First you must ride partly downstream until you get to the middle of the river, then turn a little upstream and go to the other side.  Two horsemen appear and demonstrate the technique as they cross.  It is clear, this is a so-called “flooded boot” river crossing.  I see JAmBer do it and he seems to manage quite easily. 



Once he is through it is my turn.  I get to the middle and am momentarily stuck on a stone.  The water is pushing quite hard and I have visions of swimming in this stream.  But it is too early in the day for swimming and on this trip, it is not me who will be picking his bike out of the river.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on April 27, 2019, 09:28:06 pm

We live and learn.  As a first attempt at Lesotho, this was a good route.  But we will be back and may try some of your other routes then (after the winter though, snow is not too appealing for this type of riding).

 :thumleft:

Between Losper and I, we can keep you busy in Lesotho for weeks, just shout  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: TK on April 29, 2019, 04:12:18 pm
Awesome guys. I will definitely be going back after the winter for a bit of LEBENSRAUM.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Buff on April 29, 2019, 05:33:21 pm
So much awesomeness going on here, thanks for the RR  :thumleft: Please keep me in mind if you're planning on doing this again, once my 450 is up and running then I'd love to do a Lesotho trip on it, although I won't mind using my 690 either :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 29, 2019, 06:30:17 pm
Day 4 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge (continued)

Once through the river I expected the track to open up but it is not to be.  Not only that but it leads us to yet another river crossing.  And this one looks more challenging than the previous one.  If this trend continues I am not sure where this will all end up.  Studying the GPS shows we still have to cross the river several times.  But, one never knows, as the rivers are not plotted with great accuracy.  Logic dictates that we should first walk this one.  And since we already have wet boots from the previous one JAmBer gets ready to go in.  At that moment Shoe appears.  He points across the river at a somewhat endless hill and makes it clear we need to go over the top once we have crossed the river.  This is easier said than done on many levels.

After his little scouting in the river JAmBer puts his boots back on and gets on the bike.  I know about river crossings so I get the camera ready.  Shoe points and gesticulates as JAmBer eases the bike into the river.  First bit seems simple and not too deep.  Then the bike seems to hook behind a rock and the little bit extra gas to get it loose also sees JAmBer disappear under the water.



Shoe immediately walks into the river to help JAmBer to lift his bike.  As expected the engine has died and the situation seems to have stabilised.  I put my stuff down and wade in.  I grab the front wheel and Shoe takes up position at the back.  We slowly rotate the wheels while JAmBer struggles to keep the bike upright.  After getting the 450 through we get my 500 and repeat the process, but without the drowning part, of walking the bike through the river.

Once on the other side JAmBer starts spannering and soon thereafter the bike comes back to life.  Not exactly running smoothly but after a few coughs and farts it settles down to a steady idle.

I am not keen at all to go back into the river again and ride up the hill.  This hill is beyond my skill level and I only get to the ⅓ way point.  I walk the rest but can see there is no way I can get the bike up there.  Several kids have gathered and keep pointing to the top.  The oldest one looks at me, points at her friends and says: “Father, we push”.  Sweet thought, but most of them are not quite as tall as the bike so it does not seems to be much of an option.

Back down to the river we go but no amount of wishful thinking changes the fact that a few 100 metres further the path stops and the rock face goes straight into the river.  JAmBer wades back into the river.  This first bit is deeper and flows faster than where he just drowned the bike.  But he is keen and suggest we push the bike back to the other side to continue.  I walk in, take a few steps and get pushed over by the current.  It seems like madness to me to try this again, so late in the day (it is now 5 PM) and while we are tired.

I use the universal language of two hands against the side of the face and ask the kids if the Chief will let us sleep on top where the huts are. “Yes Father, he will”.  We go back to the max rideable point and distribute all our gear to the kids.  Next moment we walk up the hill following our train of excited pint sized porters.

Once we get to Chief Motebang it is clear that he does not receive a lot of adventure bikers here.  But he understands our predicament and seems to be okay with two unexpected guests.  JAmBer travels ultralight and only has a dry jacket inner.  I am older and wiser and have some dry thermals and pants.  As the sun sets Chief Motebang’s blind dog and a big pig come closer and sit expectantly next to a big bowl.  When his wife empties a bucket of milk into  it for their supper it is a picture of rural bliss.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 29, 2019, 06:31:55 pm
Day 4 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge (continued)

Not so much for JAmBer though, the last bit of warmth disappears with the setting sun.  Luckily they have made a fire in the hut and we all move inside (except the dog and the pig). The next moment Chief Motebang, his wife, two daughters, a chicken, two cats, JAmBer and myself all huddle around the fire.  The lack of a chimney doesn’t seem to disturb anyone but we dash outside every once in a while to get a gulp of fresh air.  His wife prepares some rice and vegetables and we are both offered a plate.  Life is good, we are dry, warm and fed, though slightly light headed due to the lack of oxygen.

Later a ¾ foam mattress, two pillows and a blanket are brought inside.  Chief Motebang points at it and the family leaves the hut.  The chicken and cat stay with us to keep us company.  As you can imagine, two adventure bikers sharing a narrow mattress in a hut in the mountains means we both stick to the very edge of our allotted space.  But what happens in a hut, stays in a hut.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on April 29, 2019, 07:36:42 pm
Good stuff!  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Highsider on April 30, 2019, 03:34:45 am
Fantastic RR, keep it coming.  I was worried about the level of the rivers, looks much higher and faster on your trip!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 30, 2019, 08:19:17 am
So much awesomeness going on here, thanks for the RR  :thumleft: Please keep me in mind if you're planning on doing this again, once my 450 is up and running then I'd love to do a Lesotho trip on it, although I won't mind using my 690 either :thumleft:

We will definitely go back but not on the 701.  There just is not enough space to carry all the spare clutch plates that I would need.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 30, 2019, 08:22:43 am
Fantastic RR, keep it coming.  I was worried about the level of the rivers, looks much higher and faster on your trip!


Thanks.  I had not even considered the river crossings before we went on this trip.  They were really at the maximum doable level for me.  Any higher and we would have had to reroute at times.  Thing is, there are not many options available that I saw and back tracking is just too depressing to seriously consider.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 30, 2019, 04:40:32 pm
Day 5 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge (continued)

Needless to say we were up and about early.  You know how your surroundings always look brighter in the morning?  The village looks peaceful and nice as the sun comes up.  We gather our riding gear and square away with Chief Motebang. 
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on April 30, 2019, 04:42:24 pm
Day 5 - Katze to Mohale Dam lodge (continued)

He and one more guy walk down to the bikes with us.  On the way down we check which lines we have to take to get over the obstacles.  Now that we are rested it doesn’t look too daunting.  Once at the bikes I push the start button and the 500 fires up.  The 450 is completely dead though.  Clearly the swim has done something to the electrics.  Illogically we decide to first ride my bike to the top, remove the battery and then used it to start the 450.  I say illogically as this resulted in my having to walk up more than once having to fetch bits and bobs.  Luckily the start problem was merely a completely drained battery.

The ride up the hill was quite exciting.  I needed a push in 3 places, JAmBer just once.  Several times it looked to me that he was going to flip the bike backwards but apparently if you only get to 89 degrees from the vertical you are safe.

We say farewell to the Chief and carry on past the village, back onto the goat tracks.  The people were right though, by going over the top we didn’t have to cross the river again.  A few kilometres further it opens up a bit and I immediately take the opportunity to make a silly mistake, fall over and whack my head on a big rock.  Luckily my head is kept safe and in one piece by my helmet.

The foyer of Mohale dam lodge is full of folks from a government department on some boondoggle.  They are all milling around, perfumed, after-shaved and dressed in their finest conference clothes.  As we walk in you see several surreptitiously sniff the air and then stare at us as if two madmen have just entered.  The receptionist enquires where us mountain men have come from, explains that there is no room at the inn but points us in the direction of the restaurant where we have a fine brunch.  We are chuffed with our achievements.  Marakabei lodge is a mere 20 kilometres further and by mid afternoon we have a place to stay the night.  And we are there well before the late afternoon rain arrives.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on April 30, 2019, 10:13:10 pm
Sorry, I should have explained the next water crossing after the one where you drowned the bike. It probably wasn't clear from GPS track only, but at that point you were not supposed to cross the river, but ride in the river along the side you were on right next to the bank and emerge on the same side about 50 - 70 meters further on - i.e. just get around that big rock by riding in the river, but stay on the same side of the river.

I have done it even when river was high - I was there also in April last year and didn't even dare to ride the crossing where you guys drowned 501, but rather coopted two locals and we pushed the bike across with engine switched off. On my own I wasn't going to risk drowning the bike.

But kudos for making it up to the village on the bike. I tried myself, but it was dark already, so I ended up sleepin down right next to the river on my first pass through there

 :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Slim Jim on May 01, 2019, 06:44:34 am
WOW WOW WOW  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 01, 2019, 08:17:16 am
Sorry, I should have explained the next water crossing after the one where you drowned the bike. It probably wasn't clear from GPS track only, but at that point you were not supposed to cross the river, but ride in the river along the side you were on right next to the bank and emerge on the same side about 50 - 70 meters further on - i.e. just get around that big rock by riding in the river, but stay on the same side of the river.

I have done it even when river was high - I was there also in April last year and didn't even dare to ride the crossing where you guys drowned 501, but rather coopted two locals and we pushed the bike across with engine switched off. On my own I wasn't going to risk drowning the bike.

But kudos for making it up to the village on the bike. I tried myself, but it was dark already, so I ended up sleepin down right next to the river on my first pass through there

 :thumleft:

We looked at options to get past that rock after the "drowning crossing" but I could barely walk in that part of the river.  Once I fell over my water enthusiasm for the day was extremely low.  We cleverly didn't take a sleeping bag or anything like that so I wanted to find shelter and not wait too long.  Maybe if it had been much earlier in the day we would have found an alternative.  The hill was not too hard in the morning with a few helping hands and the promise of warm food and cold beer somewhere in the distance.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: wilfwalk on May 01, 2019, 11:13:38 am
Excellent report and photos, thanks. Its humbling to experience the hospitality of poor people. Most impressed with both of you guys vasbyt !!
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 01, 2019, 11:49:53 am
Excellent report and photos, thanks. Its humbling to experience the hospitality of poor people. Most impressed with both of you guys vasbyt !!

Thanks.  It was one of the great things of out of the way adventures to realise that people are awesome and almost always willing to help.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 01, 2019, 11:51:23 am
Day 6 Marakabei to Semonkong

As we turned off the tar onto the dirt road it didn’t look like the rain from the night before would give us too many problems.  A few puddles here and there, but nothing slippery yet.  The further we left the tar behind, the muddier did the road become.  And it is one thing when the road is flat but the slightest camber or slope made it very difficult to stay upright.  The good thing was that JAmBer took it upon himself to point out the difficult parts by laying his bike down as a marker for me.  On the steep part he struggled to get the bike upright again.  The moment he partially lifted it he, and the bike, just slid sideways down the hill.  But mostly there is an alternative as well and by taking a slightly different route I managed to get to the bottom without an issue.

Just as I had had enough of the mud we went over a hill, the sun came out and the path was dry.  It did go down quite steeply to the river but, as I could see a bridge across, I was completely relaxed.  That is, until I got onto the bridge.  It was one of those narrow steel bridges and the entire ride across I was waiting for my luggage to get hooked in the side and throw me over the side.  Never before have I managed to keep my gaze fixed on the horizon like I did for this crossing.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 01, 2019, 11:52:58 am
Day 6 Marakabei to Semonkong (continued)

Once across it quickly became clear that we would have to go up again to get out of the valley.  The first bit was not too challenging.  And the GPS indicated that this was an existing T4A route so it should be quite doable.  I just looked up and wondered how anyone can get a vehicle across here.  For me a good indication of the challenge ahead is to see how far JAmBer gets up the slope before something happens.  I didn’t have to wait too long to get my answer.  The rocky bits in the gulley were quite tough so he decided to try and ride on the sloping side.  But this had a thin layer of loose gravel on top and he unceremoniously slid into the first available rock.  I tried to walk up to give him a hand but you couldn’t even walk on the stuff so I observed him from a distance.  JAmBer had a Mitas EF07, a tire very suited for these conditions.  I had a quite worn Mitas C02.  To be honest, I don’t think it made a difference. 

This was more a mental challenge than anything else.  When I looked at the place that appeared to be the top of the pass I felt somewhat despondent.  This was just crazy.  The GPS showed we still had 40 kilometres to go which I felt was too far to walk so I abandoned the thought of abandoning the bike.  The weather forecast had said we could expect rain at about midday and the thunder up ahead was a great motivator to not hang around too long and to keep going.  And from there on it was a case of walking a short section, determine the path to take and launch yourself at the rocks and steps.  At some stage Pauli, a local herdsman, showed up and offered to push.  With Pauli moving a few rocks and giving me a push in a few places I battled on, rushing to beat the rain.  JAmBer, at 35, doesn’t seem to mind it too much to launch himself at the steps and inclines, fall and pick himself up again.  I use my age, 60, as an excuse to try and stay upright whenever possible.  Not always successful but trying anyway.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 01, 2019, 11:55:19 am
Day 6 Marakabei to Semonkong (continued)

All good things come to an end, as the did the dry weather once we got to the top.  It was not so much the rain that fell at that moment that was the issue, but more the rain that had been falling for the weeks before.  We mostly abandoned the path and rode next to it on the edges of the fields.  Unfortunately the place was waterlogged and at some stage my lack of pace got me stuck on a slight incline.  I tried to walk to JAmBer up ahead but could hardly walk across the track.  It was clear that I would not get there without a proper run up.  For a while I stood there in the rain contemplating my options.  It was only 1 o’clock and the rain was easing up a bit.  But it would take 3 sunny days to dry out so waiting was not an option.  The only option was to drag the bike around and head back down hill for a bit.  I then had another run at the hill but it was just too snotty for me.  JAmBer was just past the tricky bit and he decided to carry on while I found a bypass.

Once we got to Semonkong we were cold and done for the day.  Semonkong Lodge offered the option of warmth, food and beer.  But first we had to clean the mud off the bikes, a 2 hour exercise with the somewhat limp hosepipe.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Highsider on May 01, 2019, 04:03:56 pm
Great RR thus far, reading with keen interest.


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Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: DikZol on May 01, 2019, 05:51:48 pm
Really great pictures and report!!!
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 02, 2019, 02:19:06 pm
Day 7 Semonkong to Mohalies Hoek, Day 8 back to Barkly East

For this day @Losper had offered two alternatives.  Before we went on this trip we were convinced that we would take the hard section and then use the escape route if it got too tough.  But after six days riding we were all heroed out.  A quick trip to the waterfall and then onto the easy route.  It wasn’t too long before we stood next to yet another river.  Zooming into the GPS revealed that the alternative to this crossing was a long way round.  It actually didn’t even look like a serious crossing at all but the slightly murky water made it hard to see.  With some reluctance I removed my dry boots and waded in.  This confirmed that we had lost our bottle as the water barely reached above my ankles.

From there on it was nice and at times very scenic riding for the rest of the day.  On the last day we shunned anymore dirt and hightailed it back to the vehicle for the long drive to Cape Town.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 02, 2019, 02:21:09 pm
And a few last pictures.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Amsterdam on May 02, 2019, 02:30:24 pm
In summary

Let me start by thanking Xpat and Losper once more for providing these awesome routes.   And JAmBer for coming along.  And you guys for reading and commenting.  This has been the most awesome riding in a long time, definitely the hardest.  But with the right bike, the right gearing and the right attitude a reasonable rider can do it.  Not recommended as your introduction to off road riding though. 

If it hadn’t been for the rivers slowing us down a bit every day’s ride would have been doable in a day.  We took a day longer due to the river crossings taking a bit more time from Katse to Mohale.  By stringing it together like we did, it is a lot of riding and, as Xpat recommended beforehand, we should have thrown in a rest day along the way (which we didn’t).  If anyone is planning to do this route I would suggest starting and ending in Semonkong if possible.  We were quite done with off road riding for a bit once we got there.  But everything depends on where you live and what is easiest to get to.  We left the vehicle in Barkly East with Rita, the kind lady of the Old Mill Inn.

The following is the info I received from Losper.  As mentioned before, we didn’t stay at Mohale Dam Lodge but at Marakabei lodge.  This is okay if need be but it is a bit of a run down dump.  Also, we stayed at Semonkong Lodge and not at Ramabanta.  Semonkong is a nice lodge to spend a day or two.

We had the larger tanks on our bikes 20 litres for JAmBer and 18 for me.  This gave us plenty fuel range, even on day 1 without refuelling at Tenahead.

Day 1 Barkly East to Matatiele  (arrange with Ashley for fuel at Tenahead) (stay at Resthaven)
Day 2 Matatiele to Thaba Theka   (stay at Motherland guesthouse)
Day  3 Thaba Theka to Katse dam  (stay at Katse dam lodge)
Day 4 Katse to Mohale dam (stay at Mohale dam lodge)
Day 5 Mohale to Ramabanta (stay at Ramabanta trading post)
Day 6 Ramabanta to Mohales hoek (stay at Hotel Mount Maluti)
Day 7 Mohales hoek to Barkley East
 
Tenahead fuel  Ashley 072 156 0871 (he is also a biker) (must arrange with him beforehand)
 
Matatielle  Resthaven guesthouse
 039 737 4067
Email: info@resthaven.co.za
 
Thaba Theka Motherland guesthouse
Tel: +266 28900404
Cell: +266 63040404
 motherlandguesthouse@gmail.com
 
 Katse dam lodge  (stay in the Backpackers, same as hotel but half the price)
 +266 22910202                                res.katselodge@lhda.org.ls      rec.katselodge@lhda.org.ls

 Mohale dam Lodge
+266 2293 6134    Rec.mohalelodge@lhda.org.ls        gm.mohalelodge@lhda.org.ls

Ramabanta Tradingpost lodge
+266 22312238     +26622340202       tradingpostram@Leo.co.za
 
Mohales hoek   Hotel Mount Maluti 
 +266 2278 5224   info@hmmlesotho.com
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Losper on May 02, 2019, 03:16:16 pm
Awesome guys, glad you enjoyed it.
Lesotho is pure riding heaven.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Highsider on May 02, 2019, 04:03:04 pm
Brilliant RR, well written and informative.
Well done.


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Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: JAmBer on May 02, 2019, 04:48:04 pm
... at that point you were not supposed to cross the river, but ride in the river along the side you were on right next to the bank and emerge on the same side about 50 - 70 meters further on - i.e. just get around that big rock by riding in the river, but stay on the same side of the river.

Yeah, I actually figured this was the idea, so I tried walking it. On both sides of the river. But it was about 1m deep in places (up to my crotch when standing in it) with a fast current and rocks all over the place. I couldn't stand up straight in it, and there was no way we'd get a bike through like that.

Jan's actually glossed-over some of the trouble I went through trying to find a suitable route through the river, but I spent hours looking for a way through, up and down the bank. I even thought to take a contour path further up the hill, but there were some very steep drops and it just didn't look safe, especially given the fading light and our low energy levels.

I'm a bit of a goal-oriented person, so when the goal for the day is to get to a certain town or hotel, that's where I want to be, and I will keep riding 'till I get there. Many of my friends will tell you of trips we've done where I've rolled into the camp alone or helping someone else home, in far-away places like middle-of-nowhere northern Namibia after midnight due to punctures, collapsed suspension, or assisting others with their problems. I once spent hours alone on the Namaqua 4x4 trail fixing a broken 690 and nursed it back to camp well after dark when many others on the ride had given up with perfectly good bikes. That's all part of the adventure for me. So for me to have given up and gone to sleep in a hut, you must know that it was really an issue...
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Sheepman on May 02, 2019, 06:50:51 pm
Brilliant report - well done guys  :thumleft:
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: JAmBer on May 02, 2019, 07:12:13 pm
I would like to echo Amsterdam's thanks to Xpat and Losper. I hadn't read any of the reports before going and didn't really have any idea what to expect from the routes. Each day was a luckypacket draw and each one was awesome!

Most days, you'd be lulled into a false sense of security, cos it started along nice easy dirt roads and the km flew by. But it quickly ratchetted-up and your average speeds would tank, making it very difficult to judge how hard you need to push to finish at a sensible hour.

On the day of the questionable river crossing and "traditional ethnic evening", we'd actually stopped for a snack and a chat just before 15h00, thinking we could afford to take it easy because there was only 30km or so 'till the lodge (most of which was good dirt road, from the GPS), and we had hours before sunset. We were blissfully unaware of what lay ahead of us. 3km later we struggled for 2 hours to find a path through the river!

There were also a good few incredulous moments when I had to double-check the GPS track to verify that, yes, the plan was indeed to go "UP THERE?!" It was comforting to know that someone had been on the route on a bike before, so you know it was do-able at one time or another!

Most of the time, Jan would have me ride in front as a sort of guinnea pig. I lost count of the number of mudholes I got stuck in, or how many "suggested routes" didn't work out quite as well as the recommender thought it would... and I had to dig myself out while he rode around along a better path. (but, nice guy that he is, he'd usually come back to help!)

Reflecting back, I had an absolute blast. There are so many routes to explore in Lesotho, and the land is open (without fences), so you can literally ride anywhere. Pick a compass heading and go for it.
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Xpat on May 02, 2019, 07:38:45 pm
 Glad you guys enjoyed it  :thumleft: :thumleft:

As said, we have plenty more routes available all over the Lesotho, so just shout and we will come up wth couple of very nice and juicy trips for you. Just skip the long intro through Easter Cape next time :pot: :ricky:

Edit: the Simpson Desert thingy I'm doing in the other thread is also a must! It is similar Lesotho in freedom of movement (actually better in the aspect as in Lesotho terrain does limit where you can ride - which brings its own attractions though), but you will be able to ride out of second gear for most of the time... 
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Andre v S on May 05, 2019, 09:50:47 pm
Great ride guys and superb report!
Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: Flowers on May 06, 2019, 07:32:38 pm
Great report from the greatest Dutch adventurer since Jan van Riebeeck

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Title: Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
Post by: BlueBull2007 on May 07, 2019, 05:28:58 pm
What a nice read,with great pics and amazing video's. How you found the time to take those vids I don't know...

Thanks for your labour of love, Amsterdam & and huge respect to you!