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Author Topic: National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho  (Read 1980 times)

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Offline SGB

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« on: August 11, 2006, 10:20:59 am »
A while back, A mentioned that he heard that the road from Taung to Ramatseliso has been fixed up and we should go there and look at the possiblity of riding this route on Adventure bikes.  He did not need to do a lot of begging to convince me, and we chatted to some friends and the "Womens Day Ride" was on.  Detailed research around the conditions in Lesotho followed and the planned route went through a couple of of very scientific iterations before we were satisified that the ride could be fitted into a productive day.  The date was chosen because most of our riding friends were not invited to any celebration events on the day, so we had to find some alternative entertainment to keep us out of trouble.  Looking at the weather reports and closely following all newspaper stories containing the word "snow" and phoning the various border posts over the preceding days revealed that things are safe enough and the ride was on.

Ten riders came along, All on KTM 640's, execpt B- KTM 450 EXC; Me - KTM 990 Adv; G - BMW 1150 GS; and A - KTM 660 Rally (The one he rode on the Dakar a few years back).  G must have felt (amongst all the KTM's) like I do at Jan du Toit's farm.

We planned to leave Durbs early in the morning and converge at Himeville Arms, to be ready to go by 7:30.  When I opened the back door at 4:15, it was raining outside.  Kinda unexpected, but what the heck, rainsuit it is then - and left at 5:00 with G and H on their scooters.  The rain was gone just after Cato Ridge, and the low cloud cover for the reat of the trip to Underberg made sure that we were not cold - quite pleasant actually.  The rest trailered to Himeville where we kitted up and left on time for the SA border post at the bottom of Sani Pass. The dirt road is smooth and sweet up to the Sani Pass hotel, from there not that great.  Lots of rocks stuck in the road surface waiting to stuff up front rims. Timing worked well and we arrived a few minutes before the friendly policeman came to unlock the gate.







The border formalities were done in a jiffy and off we went, up Sani Pass.  The road is not the greatest I have seen, the Citi Golfs and SMART's would have to wait until it is fixed up a bit, but the bikes all ran up without any problems.  We started seeing snow quite soon, although it did not influence the riding, all next to the road.  We went up into the cloud, and visibility was not all that great.  Breaking through the top of the clouds was a pleasant surprise and what a great day it was.  Blue skies and an awesome view of the snow capped mountains - we could not hope for any better.  Another quick stamp (and some cash) at the Lesotho border post and we were on our way.  The iced puddles in the road indicated that it was a little cooler here than under the cloud.







We continued along towards Black Neck and the snow quickly became thicker and more - made a quick stop at the top - 3250 m AMSL - significantly higher than Sani Top at 2860m.  The road was now reduced to two tracks with a snow "middelmannetjie" and we had to start paying attention a bit.  My 990 already woke me up a little when I took a corner a little fast for comfort and hugged the outside edge doing a combination of poorly executed braking and turning movements, leaving some skid marks on the road and elsewhere.  






We stuck to the muddy tracks and avioded the white stuff at all cost and glided quietly down the pass towards Mokhotlong.  Arrived the St James crossing just before Mokhotlong, re-grouped and decided to head to Thaba Tseka for fuel.  The fuel range was fine for all the bikes and we figured that it was closer to the "unknown" road, and accepted that we had to ride an extra 60 km to get there and back.  That's what we came for, riding.......  This turned out to be the best decision of the day, little did we know what was lying ahead.....  



The road to Thaba Tseka has no strights longer than 3rd gear, and we were turning all the time - this place should be called the Corner Kingdom rather.  Slowing the 990 down into those corners turns out to be a little more of a job than the lighter bikes.  Me on top also makes a difference - again a few skid marks were left in various places on the road and otherwise.  And some entertainment for those behind.... Stopped for a cooldrink and energy bar and a couple of re-grouping stops, as the comfortable riding speed varies a little within this motley crew.  With me and Mr. C both being part of the group, the range of skill in between is quite wide, and that's putting it mildly.  We were doing good for time and the plan was working out well, as planned, and we were generally happy with the situation.  Thaba Tseka had fuel and we were now totally in control of the situation, things just could not be better.



The track back to Taung, just after the Senqu river bridge was over in a flash, and we were now on the track we really came to explore.  Things went well, and although the road was not as good as the Thaba Tseka one, we were still making good progress.  The scenery along the track is great.  The Mercedes truck on the side of the road, or rather halfway into the road, felt like a good place to grab onto a bumper just to get the bike under control again and prevent it going striaght for the Linotsing river.  Again things worked out and life was good.




At the next stop, A asked if I would like to ride his Rally bike, and we swopped machines.  What a great experience, and although the skill range was narrowed down slighlty, the pecking order did not change at all....  The raw power and excellent suspension was really impressive and I was seeing Camel grass through my visor.  What a memorable experience!  There were a few unexpected deep ditches that dictated some quick corrections (refer skid marks...), but again, enjoyed the ride.  Wider gearing, narrower handle bars, harder seat - this machine is built for speed, not comfort.  Different suspension (extra valving to slow down 1" before bottoming) different engine (no balancing bars, big bore, different cams, ignition, etc, etc).  Those journalists that write about the 950's uncomfortable seat should ride this thing to shut them up for keeps!  The Camel grass suddenly became slippery and I suddenly woke up from my little dream world.  






Were were now ascending the Matebeng pass and the snow became deeper very fast.  Now, for those who have not driven, ridden, skied, or walked on snow - that white stuff is really slippery.  So outriggers out and paddling and fighting was on.  This only lasted for a short while and we realized we have a problem when the TLB which was scooping the snow off the road could also not go any further.  Decision time.  We were only 30 km from Ramatseliso border and we had more than an hour left.  Without the snow, the plan was wonderful.  We checked with some locals and they said that we have no chance.  We were on the northern side, and the downhill side was not getting any sun and was even worse.  It soon became clear, after A attemped to cut a slot through the snow with B's 450 and W (with a smile) jumped into the road to stop him and save the TLB tractor, that there was no way of getting all these bikes over the pass.  

U-turn time.  What a pity.  We knew that it was a long way back to Sani, and made some sums.  We had enough fuel (which would not be the case if we filled at Mokhotlong...) - we just had to go back.   Also, sleeping outside was not a great plan - as I said - it gets quite cool here.  My thermometer was reading 0 deg C and it was 15:00.  Back to Sani it was.  We carefully rode down - paddlers out - and hit the road back.  N had a little crash (MLOT) and W went down too in the process of avoiding him.  A hole in the tank was the only major damage other than a few scratches and indicator lights.  Some putty fixed the problem and we were off again.  Uneventful ride to the T-junction at Taung, now for the long haul back to the St James crossing.  The km's ticked away slowly and the ride felt very long.  Darkness followed and the full moon showed up spectacularly from the Thaba Tseka mountains.  The 450's light did not work very well and we assisted by shining some lights for B and slowly made progress through the dark, together with the odd Sotho and his goats, sheep, dogs, horses, friends and the like.  Worked out the hordses don't need head lights, their eyes shine when you appraoch them from the front.  Some of that yellow tape on the back side would be welcome though!





At the St James crossing, we re-grouped and the group was running a little low on fuel now.  A went off the Mokhotlong to see if we could get there, but none available.  We decided to hit the remaining 40km, phoned ahead to tell Johnathan at Sani Top Chalet that we were on the way.  The light shining plan for B worked well and we were making steady progress and riding to preserve.  The snow on Black neck was still slippery as H found out when he left the mud track and tried the white stuff.  We arrived at Sani top after 20:00 and some challenging conditions.  Night time, cold, bikes, snow, Lesotho - all things that should best be avoided according to the book, but we made it with no serious problems - All the bikes and riders were in one piece and we were all smiling.  The Curry and Rice that Johnathan cooked up and the Rum and Cokes for the nerves did not touch sides and we all felt great.  The Buell riders from the Harley shop in Gillitts were also there, and we did some good "kuiering" with them.  (They had a hard ride from Durbs to Sani Top for the day.) Oh yes, we did phone home to let the wives and other women know that we will not be home for dinner.  



Time to crash - Johnathan gave us some beds in a near by dormitory and the rest slept in the pub.  It was postulated that there were no more blankets and stuff, but the next morning we saw a room with a whole lot of all of the above.  How is that for "spanwerk"!!....  But hey, we had a warm place to sleep, be it using blankets or fire or whatever.  Much better that outside in the snow!



Woke up the next morning, well rested (don't know when last I had to lie down for 8 hours) and had some good coffee.  We paid our cash, found the Lesotho border official, and we were off just after 8.  The (work) office had to wait a while, I mean these things happen....  Another scenic and casual ride down the pass, and back to Himeville, limping in on the smell of petrol....  But we made it!  And we were happy.



We fueled up at Himeville and the rest loaded their bikes.  Me, G and H rode back home, and I thought to myself that we actually ride the most amazing machines.  Fighting in the snow yesterday afternoon, and here we are cruising at speeds well above the legal limit on the windy tar roads of the Natal Midlands on the same bikes. Wonderful...

Total distance: Home to Home: 890 km, which means that we did about 500 km in Lesotho.

Everybody arrived home, and even got some work done (after lunch)....  What an outing!  What an Adventure.  Thank you to A and all the other boys, you were just a great crowd to do this with!  When is the next one?

The importance of some basic preparation cannot be over stressed.  Lesotho is really not for sissys and any problems you encounter that you cannot fix will cost you dearly.  Take some tools, tubes, tyre repair stuff, air, Q-bond, Pratley steel, Binddraad, Cable Ties, Duct tape to mention a few.  These things are not heavy!
   
Who's coming along 8 - 10 Sept? - See Trips Planning section in this Forum.
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Uncle Bob

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #1 on: August 11, 2006, 10:27:51 am »
What's that word again?... oh - RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT RESPECT.

Great ride.
 

Offline Lootch67

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #2 on: August 11, 2006, 11:16:07 am »
Epic! Glad you survived it. Hope I get to do Lesotho soon. Did you guys have any problems with the locals?
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Offline wino

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #3 on: August 11, 2006, 11:33:57 am »
wow, wow, wow! one great ride report!
 

shark_za

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #4 on: August 11, 2006, 11:37:42 am »
Awesome S.

How did the GS find the route? Did he have to manhandle it a little or were the roads ok?

And the 450, how did it do for juice? Siphon some from the 50L you said A's bike has ?
 

Offline SGB

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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2006, 12:19:20 pm »
Hello Shark

Quote from: "shark_za"
Awesome S.

How did the GS find the route? Did he have to manhandle it a little or were the roads ok?


The GS was a handful, but G rode very carefully and did not take chances.  Ride to preserve....

Quote from: "shark_za"
And the 450, how did it do for juice? Siphon some from the 50L you said A's bike has ?
 

B has a bigger tank (About 14 l me thinks) on the 450, so he was fine - only needed 1 l to make it to Himeville.  The 990 needed some fuel and some of the 640's with smaller tanks.  The newer 640's (28 l) and the Rally (50 l plus) carried enough to see us all through.

Locals - no problems at all, I only saw one kid picking up a rock, stopped and asked him what his plan was and he decided to rather put it down again.  I speak Sotho and know most of the swear words.   Generally they were all very friendly and not bothered by our presence.
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Offline JourneyMan

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2006, 12:23:26 pm »
Great ride and report! Well done SGB and the rest!

Gnomad might be forgiven if he thinks he's seeing reports here of his home country! :lol:
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Offline sidetrack

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2006, 02:05:37 pm »
Enjoyed the report !
Little by little, one travels far

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Ride reports :
http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=134175.0 Penge's pass and the Old Forest http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=9421.0 - Orange Atlantic adventure http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=7514.0 - 805 km day trip http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=20260.0 - East Cape Bash http://www.wilddog.za.net/forum/index.php?topic=70199.0 - Two KTM thumpers head north
 

Offline Gnomad

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2006, 06:11:53 pm »
You guys need the studded knobbies I use if you're going to play in the snow like that!

What kind of elevation does it take to get snow like that? I believe it is late winter for your guys down there, seeing that much snow does surprise me a bit. As long as it all works though, and you kids had fun.
 

Offline Dirt@ngel

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2006, 11:37:44 am »
Thanks for sharing an awesome trip - pretty amazing pics!  Hope we see more of these!  :)  

I must admit that it looks bloody freezing!  :shock:
 

Offline Mark Hardy

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2006, 09:40:18 am »
Respect,RESPECT,RESPECT, Hope to do a trip there next year, just need to get more offroad experience under my belt and then will do a 3/4 day ride out that side of the world. Have riden up and down sani pass on mountain bikes and that was a BLAST, just going up nearly killed us.
 

Offline bmad

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Awesome
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2006, 09:45:33 am »
What a pleasure to see and hear about DS bikes doing what they are supposed to do.

I envy you guys, truly epic!! :shock:
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Offline mango

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2006, 07:52:21 pm »
Great stuff, and hats off to you guys....
 

Offline X Banana Boy

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #13 on: August 14, 2006, 01:09:28 am »
Very cool ride.  Hats of to the KTM's and the Debbin peoples.  :D
 

Offline GIDEON

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2006, 03:17:39 am »
GREATE report thanks you lot


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Offline SGB

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2006, 08:49:31 am »
Quote from: "Gnomad"
You guys need the studded knobbies I use if you're going to play in the snow like that!.


You bet!!

Quote from: "Gnomad"
What kind of elevation does it take to get snow like that? I believe it is late winter for your guys down there, seeing that much snow does surprise me a bit. As long as it all works though, and you kids had fun.


The Sani Top is at about 2860m above sea level, Black Neck is the higest point of the trip at 3250m.  The Matebeng pass, where we made the u-turn is 3000m at the highest point.  That part had the most snow, we got to about 2800m.
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Online KiLRoy

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2006, 02:18:44 pm »
Thanx for the nice report SGB.  Whats with the Debbin boys?  Why so few on the forum, or are they lurking?? :lol:   Get some of them to join and report on your beautiful part of SA plse....

H
 

Offline LuckyStriker

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2006, 02:56:44 pm »
WOW
Great report!
I can't believe I only read it now, five days after it was posted!

epic trip
 

Offline SGB

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National Womens Day Celebration in Lesotho
« Reply #18 on: August 18, 2006, 12:16:50 pm »
Quote from: "KiLeRSA"
Thanx for the nice report SGB.  Whats with the Debbin boys?  Why so few on the forum, or are they lurking?? :lol:   Get some of them to join and report on your beautiful part of SA plse....

H


Will spread the word.  There are not that many computer literate bikers around here.....  :D
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