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Author Topic: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high  (Read 1805 times)

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Offline McKracken

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2019, 04:22:21 pm »
Brilliant so far!  but next time please wait for me to come with!
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #21 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), 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).
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #22 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?
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 01:18:50 pm by Amsterdam »
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #23 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.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #24 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:

Offline TK

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #25 on: April 29, 2019, 04:12:18 pm »
Awesome guys. I will definitely be going back after the winter for a bit of LEBENSRAUM.
 

Offline Buff

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #26 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:
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #27 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #28 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.
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Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #29 on: April 29, 2019, 07:36:42 pm »
Good stuff!  :thumleft:

Offline Highsider

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #30 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!


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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #31 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #32 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #33 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. 
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #34 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.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 01:29:57 pm by Amsterdam »
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Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #35 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:
« Last Edit: April 30, 2019, 10:14:40 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline Slim Jim

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #36 on: May 01, 2019, 06:44:34 am »
WOW WOW WOW  :thumleft:
 

Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #37 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.
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Offline wilfwalk

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #38 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 !!
 

Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #39 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.
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