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Author Topic: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high  (Read 1808 times)

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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #40 on: May 01, 2019, 11:51:23 am »
Day 6 Marakabei to Semonkong

As we turned off the tar onto the dirt road it didnít 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #41 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 didnít 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 couldnít 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 donít 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, doesnít 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #42 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 oíclock 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.
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Offline Highsider

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #43 on: May 01, 2019, 04:03:56 pm »
Great RR thus far, reading with keen interest.


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Offline DikZol

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #44 on: May 01, 2019, 05:51:48 pm »
Really great pictures and report!!!

Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #45 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 wasnít 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 didnít 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.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #46 on: May 02, 2019, 02:21:09 pm »
And a few last pictures.
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Offline Amsterdam

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #47 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 hadnít been for the rivers slowing us down a bit every dayís 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 didnít).  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 didnít 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
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Online Losper

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #48 on: May 02, 2019, 03:16:16 pm »
Awesome guys, glad you enjoyed it.
Lesotho is pure riding heaven.
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Offline Highsider

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #49 on: May 02, 2019, 04:03:04 pm »
Brilliant RR, well written and informative.
Well done.


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Offline JAmBer

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #50 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...

Offline Sheepman

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #51 on: May 02, 2019, 06:50:51 pm »
Brilliant report - well done guys  :thumleft:
 

Offline JAmBer

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #52 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.

Offline Xpat

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #53 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... 
« Last Edit: May 02, 2019, 07:50:42 pm by Xpat »
 

Offline Andre v S

Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #54 on: May 05, 2019, 09:50:47 pm »
Great ride guys and superb report!
 

Offline Flowers

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #55 on: May 06, 2019, 07:32:38 pm »
Great report from the greatest Dutch adventurer since Jan van Riebeeck

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Offline BlueBull2007

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Re: Lesotho - A river too deep, a mountain too high
« Reply #56 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!
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