Lesotho, what can I say? I just love the place! It has some of the best riding you can ever hope for, scenery that will blow your mind, great friendly people, and a remoteness that only the mountains can bring. Lesotho is a must-do for every adventure biker!
Ever since I first visited Lesotho in 2007, I had a longing to go back and do a proper quality ride through Lesotho. My earlier trip was just a run up and down Sani Pass so I could not really call it a Lesotho trip at all. I wanted to get this sorted out and do a real trip!
My trip started in Harrismith where I again met up with Sephton on his KLR. We would leave from his house and attend the Wilddog Free State Bash in Clarens. The Bash is a get together of a bunch of Dual Sport Riders arranged through the Wilddog Forum.
(Click on any pic to see the original sized pic in the picture gallery)
After the bash was done and dusted and I had said my good byes to friends, I headed off to the Caledonspoort Border Post outside the town of Fouriesburg. I would be entering Lesotho proper for the first time!
Border formalities were a nonevent and I was stamped through in quick time. My plan for the day was to head to Katse Dam. It was not a long ride and I knew it was a tar road, so I was very happy to take things easy on the first day, there was no rush. As I got closer to the mountains I rose higher and higher as the elevation reading on my GPS kept climbing and climbing. As far as I know Lesotho is the “highest” country in the world as its lowest point is something like 1,400m above sea level, I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds cool. One thing that had me a bit worried was the rain clouds covering the top of the mountains. It does not take a genius to figure out that if you need to cross those mountains, you will need to go through those clouds. I am not a very confident rider on tar twisties, let alone tar twisties in the wet, with knobbly tires. Needless to say, I was pretty nervous at this point.
The Mafika-Lisiu Pass leads up the mountains and is spectacular to ride. It is steep, twisty and tops out at 3,090m with some of the best views imaginable. Pity the top was shrouded in cloud cover though
Luckily soon after the summit as you start to descend towards the town of Ha-Lejone, the skies cleared and I was riding in bright sunshine. This is also where I caught my first glimpse of the Katse Dam. What a beautiful dam. I really have a thing for lakes and dams, they are just so incredibly peaceful and so nice and calming to look at. Much more calming than the sea, for me personally that is.
I finally arrived at the Katse Lodge and settled down for a cheese burger and beer, just what you need after an awesome ride. As I was sitting chomping down the burger and gulping down the beer, I looked west and saw the weather coming in fast! Within a few minutes it was dark and the mother of all rainstorms descended on the dam. I love big heavy badass thunderstorms and this one was a winner. It only lasted 20 minutes or so, but was so nice to watch. There is very few smells that beats the smell of the fresh earth after a heavy thunder-storm!
When the storm passed I went to my room (I booked one of the houses used by the dam construction crew when the dam was built, and it is cheaper than the hotel), unpacked my bike and went for a quick ride around. Everything was just so fresh and clean after the rain. It was bliss.
I spent the late afternoon chilling on the deck of the hotel, just watching life go by. As the sun was getting closer to the horizon, you could see the water taxi (a wooden canoe) take people from one side of the dam to the other. I realize that it must be such a pain the arse for these people to be rowed across this dam every morning and every evening in a wooden canoe. But then looking at the view they had crossing that dam I could not help but think that they actually have a better commute than me travelling between Pretoria and Johannesburg every morning and every evening. It is all relative I guess. That evening I was treated to one of the most spectacular sunsets. Lesotho does pretty well in this department I must say. I went to bed very happy and content with the day, and was very nervous and excited of what the next day would bring.
The morning I awoke with rain pelting down on the tin roof of my little construction crew house. My heart sank. I was really looking forward to a great day of riding, not a day of wrestling mud and getting wet. I knew I had to be on the road early as I had a long day ahead of me. I reluctantly got up and dressed, went outside to pack the bike, and I could see that the skies were looking like they are clearing up and the rain had stopped. All was good in Lesotho again!
I hit the road early and headed for the town of Thaba-Tseka, smack bang in the middle of Lesotho. After a quick snack and a fill up in town, I headed east towards the town of Taung, where my route will veer off the main road from Katse to Sani. I would not be going east but rather south towards the towns of Mashai and Sehonghong.
The crossing of the Senqu river was a milestone for me as this signaled to me that I am really into the heart of Lesotho! When I crossed it, it was just a narrow causeway over the river, but now there is a massive bridge crossing the river. I guess you cannot stop progress!
At Taung, I hooked a right and headed for Mashai and Sehonghong. There is roadworks between Mashai and Sehonghong, so now and then you get these sandy patches where the road is being worked on. The last thing I expected in Lesotho was soft sand! My Mozambique and Sodwana sand skills paid dividends as I cruised through the sand much to the cheers and comments from the grader operators!
I was very excited to reach Sehonghong. This was the start of the road that would go over Mathabeng Pass and lead you into the Sehalabathebe National Park. Just after Sehonghong you need to negotiate a fairly steep and very rocky decent where they are building the road. The rest of the road towards Mathabeng pass was wonderful to ride. This is my favorite type of riding to do where you have a river on one side and a mountain on the other. I just love it! There were so many little rivers and streams to cross. The day was heating up, so I stopped at one crossing, took of my jacket and dipped it in the ice-cold mountain river water. It was so refreshing and then the riding was spectacular!
When you reach the top of Mathabeng Pass you are rewarded with some pretty good views over the Sehalabathebe valley. The eastern side of the pass is much easier and in better condition than the western side. This is due to the building and servicing of the cell phone tower at the summit, where vehicles would travel from Ramatseliso’s Gate up to the summit. The decent was very relaxed and the ride to Ramatseliso’s Gate was wonderful. I had the massive mountains to my right and slightly behind me. I vowed to myself that one day I would ride this road in the opposite direction just so that I can look at these beautiful mountains all the time!
I exited Lesotho at Ramatseliso’s Gate and headed to the small town of Maclear where I found free accommodation on a farm just outside of town, what a bargain!
I was pretty chuffed with myself. I rode from one side of Lesotho to the other side and I had no issues at all. It is something that I will keep with me forever. The fact that I did it all on my own was also very special, but Lesotho was not done with me yet…….keep reading!
The next morning I had to figure out a route to get me back to Harrismith where I started. I thought about it a bit and decided to ride over Naude’s Nek. This incidentally is the highest motorable road in South Africa and one that I always wanted to do on a bike, so why not today?
The small town of Rhodes provided me with beer, a cheese burger and fuel for the bike. Then it was off to the next pass for the day. I have read many ride reports of Lundean’s Nek Pass and this is another one that I wanted to knock off my list. The pass it situated on the way to my planned destination for the evening, the Lord Fraser Guesthouse with its infamous bar! As is customary from riding in this area, the roads and scenery was great and riding an absolute pleasure!
No pics or comments of the evening in the Lord Fraser……things are a bit foggy…….I blame the barman and those Captain Morgan and Cokes that he cannot stop serving!
The last day would see me do the run from Wepener back to Harrismith. The roads were wide, open and fast with minimal traffic, so I made it to Fouriesburg pretty early in the day. As I was filling up in Fouriesburg and gulping down a Red Bull. I got thinking……..The Lesotho border post is nearby, and there is a route that I always wanted to do that leads from Butha-Buthe to Puthaditjhaba (Qwa-Qwa) via Monontsha Pass…….hmmmmm. I have time, so why not….. LET’S GO!!!!
I made it back to Harrismith, loaded the bike and drove back to Gauteng! Lesotho Solo – DONE and DUSTED!
This trip was a very special trip for me. It was my first solo trip and it was in a foreign country on a bike that I love. To this day I am very angry with myself for selling this bike, but I will explain in a later blog post why I sold it. The highlights of this trip is too many to mention, while the low lights were pretty nonexistent. If I have to signal out some of the highs it would be:
- Mafika Lisiu Pass
- Katse Dam
- The road from Taung to Sehonghong via Mashai
- Mathabeng Pass
- Sehalabathebe National Park
- Naude’s Nek and Lundean’s Nek Passes
- The Monontsha Road in Lesotho
But the entire trip was memorable and something that I will never forget.
Here is the Interactive Map for the ride, you can click to zoom in, or you can expand to Full Screen to see the map better![map style=”width: auto; height:400px; margin:20px 0px 20px 0px; border: 1px solid black;” kml=”http://www.etiennexplore.com/wp-content/uploads/EtienneXplore_2010_Lesotho.kml” download=”yes”]
Thank you so much for reading!
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