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Offline Amsterdam

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Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #1 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.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 01:05:08 pm by Amsterdam »
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Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2019, 06:59:38 pm »
Alright, bring it on!  :thumleft:

 :sip:

Offline Herklaas

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2019, 07:13:42 pm »
 :sip: Ok, en, wat nou? ek wag?  :3some: :lamer:
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Offline JAmBer

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #4 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!

Offline rubiblue

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #5 on: April 26, 2019, 09:44:31 pm »
Awesome. Heading on similar routes next Wednesday with dad and brothers. Super excited reading this.
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Offline GRyPH

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #6 on: April 26, 2019, 09:57:40 pm »
following this thread  :biggrin:  :ricky:
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Offline punisher

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #7 on: April 26, 2019, 10:06:16 pm »
 O0
just wanna have fun , and ride ... and ....... ride
 

Offline hedleyj

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #8 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.

 
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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #9 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:
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Offline Slim Jim

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2019, 05:20:04 am »
 :drif: some more please...............................
 

Offline OomD

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #11 on: April 27, 2019, 06:57:17 am »
Reading and enjoying!  :thumleft:
 
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #12 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #13 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?
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #14 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #15 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.

« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 01:13:26 pm by Amsterdam »
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #16 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #17 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #18 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.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #19 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), 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:
« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 03:22:21 pm by Xpat »