The Tour de Lesotho didn’t quite work out as planned but it was an adventure nonetheless. Washed away roads halted our adventure but we still got in some good training and got to experience the country in a great way.
Christiaan and I departed unsupported from the Lions River Polo Club. Our destination, Sani Pass Backpackers, some 103km and 2600m of vertical ascent stood in our way. We carried back packs filled with what we would need for the evening as the backup car would only meet us the next day. Mixed weather conditions followed us for most of the day with rain plaguing us for a good part of it.
Michelin Man Look
Five and a half hours later we arrived at the backpackers. It was a bit disappointing that the coffee shop was closed and there was nowhere else to get food which was closely available with Underberg being 15km away.
Two big obstacles stood in our way on the second morning of our epic journey. The day would see us travel some 75km to Molumong Backpackers lodge which lay deep in the Lesotho Mountains. But first we would have to climb the beast of Sani Pass and then a few kilometres later the Black Mountain pass, which I stand to be corrected but think it is the highest mountain pass in Southern Africa at just over 3200m above sea level. In total this provided us with a total of 2200m of ascent for the day. I had ridden up Sani Pass a few years ago and knew how hard it would be, the hairpins to the top were torturous but reaching the top was awesome. A chicken burger and coke was on the cards at Sani Top Chalets, the highest pub in Africa. We also tried a Maluti beer which was quite pleasant.
South African Border Post
Black Mountain was next up; the view from the top was amazing. Lesotho; the mountain kingdom… now we know why! Green mountains extended as far as the eye could see with rivers running in the v’s of the valleys below. 20km of awesome sweeping descent greeted us on the other side. It now felt as though we were really in Lesotho. Our overnight stay was at Molumong Lodge which was a lot more comfortable than the previous night’s accommodation. It was great to also have our back up crew of Mike, Murray and Lauren there too; they would also be fly fishing along the way.
We were now truly into Lesotho. In addition to the classified mountain passes there were many more climbs of up to 5 km in length which proved to be testing. Menomeng pass which cumulated at just over 3000m above sea level met us early in the day. The rivers had risen over night with the many rain showers, and fishing was not on the cards due to the fast flowing dirty brown water. Unfortunately 55km into our trip that day we met an impassable obstacle. 20km from Mashai Lodge where we were to spend the night the bridge had completely washed away and now 30m of fast flowing rapids stood in between us and the road on the other side. We discussed and consulted maps to try and determine as to what we would do next. We eventually decided on back tracking in the car and staying at Sani Top Chalets that night, this was some 100km away and would take at least 3hours to get there with the conditions of the roads. All was going fine until we reached the foot of Black Mountain where one of the smaller subsidiary rivers had washed the away the road as well.
The bridge that was not there
Christiaan and I considered taking back packs and riding to Sani Top as we could cross the river on bikes. We decided on staying together and to try going back to Mokhotlong, fill up with petrol and look for accommodation. Whilst we got petrol the accommodation didn’t capture us and we back tracked a further 15km back to Molumong Lodge where we stayed the night again. After a long day a braai went down well that evening.
An awesome sunrise greeted us on our 2nd unplanned morning at Molumong Lodge. Our plan for the day was to ride back to Sani Top Chalets but first we would have to deal with the issue of the washed away road. Christiaan and I set off first and the car met us at the point where the road had washed away. Our new strategy was to cross the river in a different point where the water was a bit shallower. We used rocks to build the level of the river bed up a bit and then Mike would try drive across. After about an hour of this we decided that it was worth a try. After carefully lining up the car Mike went for it, carefully through, he made it! We walked across with the bikes after and we then each set off for Sani Top.
Mike crossing the river.
Once we reached our destination we decided we would continue and ride on to Underberg and stay at Laurens house for the evening. We arrived some 5 and a half hours later and nearly 100km’s.
Parts of Sani Pass washed away.
The trip was a great adventure and we got in some good hours at high altitude. It was however very disappointing not being able to do what we had planned but there isn’t much that we could do about it. Maybe next year?
More photos from the trip can be viewed here