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Lesotho…..Solo through the Mountain Kingdom

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)

Lesotho I came across an old abandoned farm house outside of the town of Clarens in the Freestate
We came across an old abandoned farm-house outside of the town of Clarens in the Free State

 

Lesotho Surrender Hill between Clarens and Fouriesburg has some of the most amazing views into Lesotho
Surrender Hill between Clarens and Fouriesburg has some of the most amazing views into Lesotho

 

Lesotho The views from the R711 towards Lesotho is spectacular!
The views from the R711 towards Lesotho are spectacular!

 

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

Lesotho Heading into the clouds on the Mafika Lisiu pass in Lesotho
Heading into the clouds on the Mafika Lisiu pass in Lesotho

 

Lesotho Of all the bikes I have owned to date, this is the one I miss the most!
Of all the bikes I have owned to date, this is the one I miss the most!

 

Lesotho What a view! Crisp, cool, fresh morning mountain air!
What a view! Crisp, cool, fresh morning mountain air!

 

Lesotho Reaching the top of the pass, the mist was so thick that I did not bother to go to the view point
Reaching the top of the pass, the mist was so thick that I did not bother to go to the view-point

 

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.

Lesotho First part of the Katse Dam
First part of the Katse Dam at Ha-Lejone

 

Lesotho The beautiful Katse Dam
The beautiful Katse Dam

 

 

Lesotho Lesotho, seriously big sky country!
Lesotho, seriously big sky country!

 

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!

Lesotho The best beer after an awesome rewarding day on the bike
The best beer after an awesome rewarding day on the bike

 

Lesotho Huge storm coming in over the dam
Huge storm coming in over the dam

 

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.

Lesotho Katse Dam
Katse Dam

 

Lesotho This is one HUGE dam wall!
This is one HUGE dam wall!

 

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.

Lesotho Sunsets in Lesotho are pretty special
Sunsets in Lesotho are pretty special

 

Lesotho Did I mention the sunsets?
Can you see the little canoe crossing the dam? How is this for an evening commute view hey?

 

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.

Lesotho Early morning riding in Lesotho is some of the best riding there is!
Early morning riding in Lesotho is some of the best riding !

 

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!

Lesotho The Senqu River crossing
The Senqu River crossing

 

Lesotho Crossing the Senqu River (Orange River in South Africa)
Crossing the Senqu River (Orange River in South Africa)

 

Lesotho Current Google Earth Image of the bridge over the Senqu, you can still see the old causeway under the bridge
Current Google Earth Image of the bridge over the Senqu, you can still see the old causeway under the bridge

 

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!

Lesotho Some roadworks had my sand skills tested!!
Some road works had my sand skills tested!!

 

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!

Lesotho The twisty track leading down from Sehonghong
The twisty track leading down from Sehonghong

 

Lesotho After Sehonghong, the track leads down into the valley leading to Mathabeng Pass
After Sehonghong, the track leads down into the valley leading to Mathabeng Pass

 

Lesotho I have seen this rock on a few Lesotho Ride Reports and I really wanted a pic with my bike at this rock......Done!
I have seen this rock on a few Lesotho Ride Reports and I really wanted a pic with my bike at this rock……Done! This is at the base of Mathabeng Pass.

 

Lesotho Leading up Mathabeng Pass
Leading up Mathabeng Pass

 

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!

Lesotho The other (Sehlabathebe) side leading down from Mathabeng pass
The other (Sehlabathebe) side leading down from Mathabeng pass

 

Lesotho Right at the top of Mathabeng Pass looking towards Sehlabathebe
Right at the top of Mathabeng Pass looking towards Sehlabathebe

 

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!

Lesotho The view from my room on a farm outside Maclear
The view from my room on a farm outside Maclear

 

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?

Lesotho Heading up to Naude
Heading up to Naude’s Nek

 

Lesotho Overlooking the Eastern Cape from the viewpoint close to the top of Naude
Overlooking the Eastern Cape from the viewpoint close to the top of Naude’s Nek

 

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!

Lesotho Eastern Cape Traffic Jam
Eastern Cape Traffic Jam

 

Lesotho I loved the ride over Lundean
I loved the ride over Lundean’s Nek!

 

Lesotho Just love the sandstone in these parts of the Eastern Cape, makes me think of the Eastern Free State where I grew up
Just love the sandstone in these parts of the Eastern Cape, makes me think of the Eastern Free State where I grew up

 

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!!!!

Lesotho Some awesome high speed roads with zero traffic in the South East Free State
Some awesome high-speed roads with zero traffic in the South East Free State

 

Lesotho Big Sky Country for sure!
Big Sky Country for sure!

 

Lesotho Sunflowers are big business here!
Sunflowers are big business here!

 

Lesotho Free State Traffic Jam this time!
Free State Traffic Jam this time!

 

Lesotho These slippery mud patches provided some scary, exited moments every now and then!
These slippery mud patches provided some scary, excited moments now and then!

 

Lesotho South Africa on the left and Lesotho on the right. The Caledon river serving as the border!
South Africa on the left and Lesotho on the right. The Caledon river serving as the border!

 

Lesotho One of my favorite photos of the Monontsha Road,. You can see the Caledon river down there, so the mountains in the background are in South Africa
One of my favorite photos of the Monontsha Road,. You can see the Caledon river down there, so the mountains in the background are in South Africa

 

Lesotho GPS Summary of my ride
GPS Summary of my ride

 

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!

 

Click here to view the entire photo gallery!

 

Thank you so much for reading!

If you enjoyed this ride report, please feel free to share this via the buttons below.

 

Cheers!

Etienne

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