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TG Newsletter: LESOTHO

Lesotho - Kingdom Of Calamity

(19 - 21 April 2024)

Ettas decided to go explore Lesotho with a group of experienced adventure riders.  Unfortunately for him, the only ones available to join him on this adventure was the pained, the complained, and the short.  He ended up taking Chikita (with a backache), Skinny (with a lack of oomph), and Crispy (with a height deficiency).

Here is the trip as recalled by the Knee-High-One…

Beautifully Brutal!

I was recently asked by one of my Motogirl friends, “Why do you ride in these way-out places?”’  Hubby’s answer is a firm, “Cos she’s certifiable.”

There really isn’t anything mystical about it.  For me, it’s the gobsmacking scenery and the feeling of accomplishment.  Nothing focuses the mind and tightens the sphincter more than sheer drop-offs, loose gravel, ruts and hairpin bends.  And somehow things taste better once I’ve hauled my dopamine-chasing ass up a mountain pass or two.

Having said all the above, riding in Lesotho has been on my radar since my first taste of Sani Pass last year.  The valley leading up to the pass and the views from the top are glorious. A more unlikely bunch of intrepid adventurers you would seldom find.  Imagine a hobbit, two elves and Strider tackling some frikking huge mountains sans a ring.  Cue Ettas, “Let’s do Lesotho, I know a route!”  I was in like gin… or rather tequila.

Deciding to show mercury retrograde a toffee moon and go travel was easy for me.  Shaking off a bloody-minded shoulder problem that has been bugging me for months was not so easy.  Chikita was also carrying a MotoGP related back injury (…don’t ask) but this amakrok sick, lame and lazy cortisone crew were off!  Ettas was gonna have his hands full!

Trying to pack was a conundrum – limited space on a small bike vs. trying to prep for Lesotho temperatures.  The weather is unpredictable, so we had to make sure that we had our big girl panties on; all three of them!  This space saving strategy would require a ‘cutting the ribbon’ ceremony to remove the bottom pair each day we were away.  I didn’t realise my handicap at the time of agreeing to this absurdity.  Have you ever tried to floss when there’s no gap?

After marking our territory thoroughly with the locals in the pub the night before and on newly installed paddle court glass at Notties Hotel in the morning, we wound through the Midlands countryside on the Lower Lotheni Road to Himeville and were treated to sublime waterfalls and butterflies – some on the flowers and some in my stomach.

The ever-present sleeping Dragon mountains lay ahead waiting for us but first up was The Whistling Goat for elevensies (thanks for finding this culinary gem, Karen!).  Ever heard of a Fromlette?  It’s a chunk of home-made bread wrapped up in an omelette.  Delicious!

Sani Pass beckoned and I ‘hit it’ with an abundance of nerves and enthusiasm.  I panicked after losing the front wheel in some gravel on the lower road and whiskey-throttled myself into some trouble!  What a start!  Ettas gallantly rescued me from under the bike amidst the cloud of dust.  Imagine that!  My shoulder was now feeling hunky-dory, but I could feel my ankle swelling in my boot.

I soon found the solution.  Besides deliberating on whether to keep my boot on for the rest of the trip, it also amazingly didn’t hurt riding and only when walking.  Thankfully this was a bike trip, not a hike trip!  We zoomed on up and up and stopped just before the hairpins for the blissful vistas and to bite the heads off some jelly babies.  If I didn’t see anything else for the rest of the trip, Sani Pass alone was worth it.  I didn’t realise at the time how prophetic that thought was…

There was a stop/go for some yellow equipment at the top of the pass that was smoothing out the higher hairpins.  I had a few stop-and-go’s myself trying to navigate the tight turns but successfully made it up and enjoyed the customary chilled and very expensive beer at the top.  Going through the border post we obviously scored well as we had to pay an attraction fee (R100!).  Some of us are clearly more magnetic than others.

Quite soon after leaving Sani we were winding it up the 32km long Black Mountain pass (Kotisephola Pass) on a top tier curvy non-potholed tar road.  Us Saffas quite appreciate these!  The summit is over 3000 metres with one of those big yellow photo frames where we posed for some piccies.  Whilst we appreciated the Chinese tarmac, we were hungry for more and headed off towards Mokhotlong.

Along the way we passed a dirt road that descended steeply off into a valley to the left and some of us wondered where it went to.  After refuelling in a bustling Mokhotlong we followed Ettas back out on the A1, the way we had come in?!?  I was confused – were we heading back to Sani?

As he turned off and headed down those exact steep hairpins that we had passed earlier I think we all grinned in our helmets.  We weren’t going to wonder for much longer!  I was getting my tight sphincter wish – loose gravel and sheer drop-offs, down and down we went and then up again.  The rollercoaster soon led us to our destination for the day – St. James’ Lodge.  A smiling Cecilia let us know that camping or staying in the backpackers was similar in price – we opted for the warmth of the dorm.

Sundowners were had overlooking the village, watching the school kids on the soccer field down below and the terraced fields stretching up the side of the mountains alongside us.  There was a huge stockpile of wood and Ettas got the fire going in the communal lounge, but we had to exit quick as the broken flue smoked us out like bees from a hive.

As we unpacked, a fishy odour overtook the dorm.  Skinny’s dinner had tried to escape!  Canned pilchards had split under the rok-straps’ pressure and messed everywhere – shew, we didn’t have to worry about our BO offending anyone anymore.  I was traveling with ‘seasoned’ companions – they broke out the camping stoves and rustled up the damndest 2-minute noodles with the uncanny fish followed by spicy chicken.  We compared energy bars and Ettas introduced us to some FARbars.  The energy bars weren’t getting us very far though.  Our beds were calling and Skinny tried to stay awake a bit longer with some sit-ups.  She was on her own…!  It was onaanFarbar that we were passing out so early.

The crisp early morning cold and streaming sun along with a clearly bemused Cecilia witnessed our maiden panty snipping ritual the next morning.  Skinny mastered the technique quickly as she whisked the first layer out the back while I managed to ingloriously give myself a vedgie.  Chikita’s pole dancing days clearly counted in her favour as she reversed the parted panty out from under the rest with ease.  Ablutions out of the way, we set off just before 7am up a rugged road behind the lodge heading straight for the heartland of Lesotho.

I was jolted awake out of my reverie very quickly after nearly doing another whisky-throttle up a stony pass with no-name and reached the top in a breathless shaky state.  If anyone asks, what’s the most important part of a bike - it’s the clutch!  What a brekkie spot!  I had read about making bacon-twisties in the air fryer and we noshed on that and energy bars looking across the mountainous range that lay across the horizon as Chikita stretched her painful back.

The rest of the ride was a blur of mountain passes and concentrating on picking the right line.  We were trying to make good time as we had far to go.  Kilometres are irrelevant in the mountains - it’s time you are chasing.  Every time you dared pick your head up to take in the views, you would invariably end up bouncing off a rock, in a rut or dangerously close to an edge.

Several of the settlements we went past would see many children running to the road with outstretched begging hands, “SWEEEEETS!”  A few of those who were unhappy at us for not filling them, lobbed a stone or two.  It was disconcerting but the harsh reality of Lesotho’s poverty is not something you can ignore when riding there.  The radiant smiles and friendly waves still far outnumber these incidents and the blanket swathed shepherds on their donkeys and horses make for quite the sight.

So, we stopped to support the community in the best way we knew how.  A shebeen blasting tunes overlooking the horseshoe shaped Senqu/Orange river was selling cold Zamalek and we loosened up those dead cabooses with a lekka jig.  A few of the ladies overcame their shyness and joined in – numbers were swapped and Chikita promised to whatsapp the piccies when we got home.

It was at this junction that we turned off the ‘main road’ that heads to Thaba-Tseka and started a journey further south winding along with the Senqu river towards Sehonghong/Molao.  Hours and hours of tough riding was deflating spirits, overheating brakes and flogging the bodies.  My kidneys felt like they had been displaced.  One mountain range was starting to meld into the next.  Ettas was marching on machine-like and keeping up was becoming more and more difficult.  In the indefatigable words of Chikita, “You know we do this for fun?!?”

Heading up yet another sticky mountain pass near Qenehelong I couldn’t believe these monstrous things didn’t all have names – they should have!  I picked a dodgy line in my tiredness and ended up in a rut that I couldn’t get out of – luckily Skinny was keeping an eye on me and saw me trying to get out by balancing precariously atop a ditch.  She quickly parked and rode my Blu out to a safer spot.  Phew!  Ettas and Chikita (carrying her lumbago like a weightlifter) came back to find us, adding extra kilometres that were not needed nor wanted at this stage.

The afternoon was passing expeditiously when we reached a bridge with a massive washed away gap in the middle.  There was no way we could go back the way we had come!  Setting up camp crossed our minds.  We went a bit upstream and closer to the water trying to find a path but were blocked by steep boulder lined banks.  A friendly group of ladies on the opposite side saw us and waved us over to where there was a path down the bank through the cobbled water and up the other side.  We muddled on.

The most spectacular and daunting Tsoelike River Pass lay ahead.

The sight of the winding road far down below in the canyon at Tsoelike pass has you gulping deep breaths into your helmet.  Not for the first time in the day I said “My f@k Frikkie” out loud.  Making it to the bottom of the pass and seeing the green suspension bridge built by German missionaries in the 1930’s heralded a feeling of relief as we reached it.  I felt like an extremely overdone piece of meat… gaar sussie, gaar!

When we reached the A4 and most importantly - tar, I could have kissed the road, but I was too busy hanging drooped over my handle bars like a wilted weed and most probably wouldn’t have been able to get back up.  Luckily, I wasn’t the only one.  Skinny curled into the foetal position on the ground and Chikita’s extensive vocab matched her aching vertebra.  Ettas really need to find some tougher riding companions!

We had a decision to make – push on to the right for another two or more hours to the Maletsunyane Falls, which we all wanted to see OR head left to the much closer Qachas Nek for the night.  After 10 hours of riding, we headed to Qachas Nek and on realising that the border was still open we hoofed it to the office and scrambled to exit Lesotho.  Ladybug!  Ladybug!  Fly away home.  The border guard was an affable fellow and looked at us in disbelief when we said ‘Mokhotlong’ to his question on where we had come from today.  “But that’s a 12-hour drive!!!” he said with incredulity.  No shit!

The road from the border to Matatiele was shite.  The only way to describe it would be a mixture of half graded tar and potholed dirt.  We all took a deep breath, hanged cable and just tried to ignore our painful limbs.  We hit a KFC and chowed down before finding some beds to crash our sore bodies onto.  As chance would have it the aptly named Resthaven guest house was full of Trygve Robert’s Mountain Passes South Africa Lesotho 4x4 tour party and Skinny struck up a conversation with him.  After a while he said to her, “Do you know that adventure biking lady – I think her name is Skinny… I can’t recall her surname?”  It was funny when he realised, he was actually talking to her.


The chocolates on our pillows were heavenly that night.

The next morning, I dropped my pants for another round of foofie sliding as the next panty layer was snipped off.  The Tank Girls made round two look even easier than the first.  I was left wondering whether saddle sores or thrush were going to make an appearance.  Objective for the day: Have an easy ride back to Notties via Himeville.  We did just that.

We took the back roads we hadn’t used before with the distant Berg on our left as we wound through the Midlands with lots of stops to smell the proverbial roses and cow dung.  The variable shades of autumn colours framed a babbling brook and an avenue of trees.  A jumping buck joined in the fray as it darted alongside us before disappearing through a fence.  Even the scrumptious Whistling Goat got another visit to fill our tummies.

We found our way down to just north of Midmar dam, where we stopped at the Taste Buds Farm Stall and Chukker Pub near the Lions River Polo club.  The emerald green lawns looked perfect for camping and the pub was buzzing.  No matter how hard we tried though they were having none of these smelly bikers camping on their immaculate lawn, even if we promised to spend lots of dosh at their bar.

So, we buzzed up the R103 to Glensheiling caravan park, chasing the rocket fuelled Dee Arrrrs.  For the first time we put up our tents and Ettas’s bonfire kept us warm.  Those 2-minute noodle recipes and tequila did the same job from the inside.  The next morning’s sunrise bled out all over the sky to end our marathon run.

“If you don’t terrify people just a little bit… then what’s the point?”


The Tank Girls and a Crispy pulled their big-girl-panties up (all three of them) to join Ettas on a bumpy, rocky, steep ride through Lesotho.  If he thought the ladies were going to make it easy for him, he was sorely mistaken.  Hopefully, the scenery made up for the incessant carping.  Do we really get smarter as we age?


Video produced by Jolandi Mentz (19 Apr 2024)



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A chiropractor, a psychologist and an orthopaedic surgeon walks into a bar.  We couldn’t afford any of them, so we left.

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Christy Filen

(Skinny & Chikita)

Instagram: @skinnyvanschalkwyk


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