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Author Topic: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river  (Read 2757 times)

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Offline Losper

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Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« on: April 06, 2019, 11:07:59 pm »
So,  Xpat calls me and asked me if I wanna join him on a trip to find the origin of the Orange river.
It took me exactly 2 seconds to think about it and the answer was: HELL YES!!!

The Orange river is called the Senqu river in Lesotho and it's origin is about 20km south east of Afriski at an altitude of 2940meters. Xpat has been exploring in that area on previous rides so the route plan was sort of pre planned.
We met up at Caledonspoort border post and trailored our bikes to Afriski. We left the vehicles there,got on the bikes and headed to Letseng mine where we took the gravel road and decended down to 2360meteres where we "booked" in at the Chalets in the Sky "guest house".

We were both on 500's, which is the perfect weapon for this kind of exploring ride. We got up at 5am and were on the bikes at 6am.
Find attached a map of the planned route up to the origin(red line) and then down again(green line) to the lodge.We were not sure that we would be successful to reach the origin (there was even a small chance that we would sleep in the mountains that night). The distance from the base at the lodge to the origin of the river is only 13km (as the crow flies) but we had to take a detour route that was 45km long (red line) because of the 600 metres we had to ascend to get to our destination. 
 
« Last Edit: April 06, 2019, 11:13:16 pm by Losper »
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Online Oubones

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2019, 04:12:04 am »
 :imaposer: :sip:
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Online Ganjora

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 05:14:02 am »
More please
 

Offline IanTheTooth

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2019, 05:48:30 am »
A real ride report!
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Offline SchalkL

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2019, 07:01:13 am »
 :sip:
Sometimes you don't need a plan, just balls :)
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Offline MonkeyNot

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2019, 07:29:23 am »
Sub

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Offline Offshore

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2019, 07:37:53 am »
 :thumleft: :sip:
 

Offline Losper

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2019, 12:48:36 pm »
The first 2 or 3 km was a great 2 spoor with a  few interesting water crossings and then we started the ascend.
Xpat has a 15 liter tank fitted to his 500 but mine was standard, on the photo's you will see a my black fuel bladder hanging over the light and handlebar.There was light rain the previous night and that made the grassy/gravel  surface just wet enough to help with traction.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 12:53:43 pm by Losper »
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Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2019, 06:35:05 pm »
Just for a context: Orange source has been a target of mine for a while as getting there was the last missing piece to complete Drakensberg traverse from Sehlabathebe in south all the way to Afriski in the north. By Drakensber traverse I mean riding along the Drakensberg escarpment. I have made it together with Highsider and under guidance of Iain McDonald from Sehlabathebe to Sani through Rhino peak in November, then I have managed to get from Afri Ski to Mokhotlong over the highest mountain in Africa south of Kilimanjaro Thabana Ntlenyana. And the last missing piece was getting from Mokhotlong to Afriski.

I have already done Afriski to Chalets in the Sky in the Khubelu valley few km east of Letseng mine and few km west as the crow flies of Source of Orange. So the last missing piece was getting from Mokhotlong to Source of Orange.

Over the past 5 months I have tried 6 - 7 times to find the way up the escarpment first from Mokhotlong following the Orange valley upstream, and then following Khubelu river upstream in the hope that I will find valley scalable fo me on 500 to get up on escarpment. All in vain though. And as I was about to give up, I remembered that about a year ago I have made it up on the ridge once before from Chalets in the Sky when I tried - again in vain - to cross over to Orange river valley. This approach was about 10 km south of CITS (Chalets in the sky) lodge (official name I think is Maloraneng lodge) so actually in the opposite direction of source of Orange, but it will get me on the high ridge that I failed to scale so far anywere else and I could then try to follow the top of the ridge to the source.

Here is a map with the routes I have ridden in my failed attempts, as well as the final successful one with Losper:


So that was my last hope. I have contacted Losper, whom I kept informed about my misadventures all along, after New Year's but didn't hold my breath as I fully expected that he may not have time right after return from year end holidays. Fortunatelly, he could still squeeze in 4 days of riding and I was elated as he is much better rider than me giving use much better chance for success (or rather giving me less room to chicken out as I like to do o9n my own) and I was really keen to finally make it to the source.

Here are pictures from my first few failed attempts following up Orange valley from Mokhotlong:










































Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2019, 06:39:03 pm »
And this is where I had to turn back on 2 or 3 occassions, once with the boiling clutch fluid. The bit ahead was still doable, but I have walked over onto the other side and I couldn't find any realistic route from there up the steep mountain side.













So I gave up on the Orange valley approach and instead moved to CITS in the adjacent Khubelu river valley to see if I can find route up the range from there. I tried 3 - 4 times, but in vain again.










Which brings us to the beginning of this report and I will hand over back to Losper.

Offline Offshore

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2019, 06:59:05 pm »
Thanks for sharing, this is a good one.  :thumleft:
 

Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2019, 07:06:18 pm »
Losper already started on day 1, so let me add some pictures with short commentary from my side.

Here is the start of our ascent from the Khubelu valley up the escarpment. I have done this twice before on my own, battling in places, but this time it was by far the worst for me. The track was heading up steep valley almost straight east and as we were there very early that meant we had sun full force in our face. I maintain that the only appropriate helmet for adv riding/dual sporting is open face so I ride trial's helmet that makes interactions with local much easier, but it came to bite me in the ass here, as it has very short beak and hence is useless against direct sun. So I was riding up the rutted offcamber cattle tracks more or less blind getting stuck all the time and properly annoyed making Losper probably wonder why did he teamed up with this grumpy sod (we have never met before, so he didn't know what to expect). I've made it up eventually with Losper's help once or twice, but it was inauspicious start into the day to say the least.

Losper at the start of ascent:



And at the top scaling the top of the range ahead:







From my prior stint here, when I walked next 4 km, I knew that there is initially uncomfortably steep km or two long offcamber section. I approached it very tentatively and battled in places, but not keen to make total ass of myself in front of Losper (there is a reason why I like to ride on my own...) I pushed and made it through. I have learned since from Losper that my tyres were not the best - I was using C02s which are great knobblies for general dual sporting as they last, but they are too hard. I have been there again later on on my own with softer tyres and what a difference they made!


One of my whoopsies, you can see the cattle tracks we were to follow on the side of the hill at the background:




We made it through the tough bit. What followed was still very rock and quite offcamber, but somewhat easier than that initial 2 km on the top of the range. Losper checking out the Orange valley on the other side of the range:






That teethy section on the left of the horizon is where the Source of Orange is about 10 - 15 km away:







Losper thinks he is number 1. Well yes, in this company he is, but that is kind of like feeling elated at passing 30% matric pass rate...




It got flatter at the top, but still very rocky, so I don't thinkw we got out of 2nd gear, and if then for only very short periods:




Losper with Letseng mine visible on the horizon on the opposite side of the Khubelu valley:


« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 07:19:19 pm by Xpat »
 
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Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2019, 07:18:37 pm »
After about 10 - 15 km on the top of the range we have finally connected to a track I have done before heading to Afriski and after km or two on that we have turned west and followed down the shallow valley to the wide basin sitting on top of the Drakensberg escarpment right at the border of RSA. That basin - a one big marsh really is where the Orange begins its long journey to Atlantic.

Unfortunatelly by the time we arrived to the basin, dense clouds from the coast were hugging the excarpment so the views were not great. But I'm pretty sure this place has about the best views this side of Kilimanjaro as it sits slap bang next to Cathedral peaks and provides views over KZN about 1000 meters below.
















There is a little waterfal on the Orange up there, probably the first disturbance on its long journey:








« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 07:19:49 pm by Xpat »
 
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Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2019, 07:33:00 pm »
The whole Orange source basin is kind of like peninsula in the sky - little outcrop of escarpment extending over the lowland under. We rode along the edge of the escarpment in the vain hope that the clouds would open up giving us view of the KZN below. We did the obligatory photoshoot on top whenever clouds opened up enough to make it worth it:










Losper showing teh SA/Lesotho border. We might have trespassed here and there...







Orange source basin:






















































Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2019, 07:45:46 pm »
We continued along the escarpment looking for the highest point in the basin with some water on it that we could designate a source of Orange:
















If you have seen the Top Gear episode when they are looking for the source of Nile, you have pretty good idea about how our quest for source of Orange went. Basicaly the whole basin is one big marsh and it is pretty random which standing pool of water within the square km or so one chooses to be THE source. We picked this one (feel free to go up there and pick your own):




But then we switched to this one...










Offline Xpat

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2019, 07:54:56 pm »
After that we wasted some more time around the escarpment hoping the clouds would lift:


































After lunch break, it was time to turn back and head back up the valley we came down earlier:







Back at the top of the range where we connected again to the track from Afriski


« Last Edit: April 07, 2019, 07:56:09 pm by Xpat »
 
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Offline Offshore

Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2019, 08:19:41 pm »
Well done, this is a Pioneering RR, Original and Hardcore. :thumleft:
 

Offline Tuareg

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2019, 08:38:26 pm »
Lesotho is a special place full of opportunity for adventure........
Great ride report of an incredible ride......
Thanks for sharing  :thumleft:
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Online Grunder

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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2019, 09:21:41 pm »
Thank you

Man, Lesotho... So close yet so far!!

I must keep my eyes open. Maybe join Losper once on a trip when they go with the ATs (or spectate with some beers)

Would love to be able to explore Lesotho for myself.

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« Last Edit: April 08, 2019, 08:26:37 am by Grunder »
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Re: Mission: Finding the origin of the orange river
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2019, 09:46:09 pm »
Very nice!
Mm, you will have to back to take photo’s when the clouds are not in the way. :pot:
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