Bike Touring Lesotho (part 1): Lesotho, Sesotho, Basotho

Bikepacking across the tiny ‘Mountain Kingdom’ of Lesotho was one of the most anticipated passages of our current tour. It didn’t fall short of expectations…

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From the bustling South Africa coastal town of Port Elizabeth we hopped a bus and overnighted directly North to the border city and capital of the tiny landlocked country of Lesotho. From Maseru we began a eleven day journey across the ‘Kingdom of The Sky’.

Lesotho is an extremely small country completely surrounded by South Africa. One would think that Lesotho would be a miniature replicate of its surrounding giant, but that is not at all the case. Upon crossing the border we immediately felt as if we had entered a different Africa. The English language no longer gets us very far, poverty is far more evident, and, when in public, we are definitely quite the spectacle.

About half of our trek across the country was on the tarred central road that careens over the mountains and crosses massive passes with names such as God Help Me. The other half of our time was spent on an extremely rugged dirt road odyssey through a remote mountainous portion of the country that culminated with a 5,000 ft descent down the legendary Sani Pass. Here are details and photos from the first half of the passage (stay tuned for part 2 which I will preface as one of the most magical rides of my touring career):

Bike Touring Lesotho
Yeti sighted at the border assembling bikes. Unfortunately the bus companies in South Africa require bikes to be boxed for transport.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Surly ECR
A couple of helpers.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Bird
This guy kept staring at me at a Maseru backpackers (hostel) where we stayed.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Tumi's Bike Shop, Maseru
Tumi’s: Sister company of Mike’s Bikes.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Bike Shop, Maseru
Tumi’s was made from a couple of discarded shipping containers.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Bike Shop
Tumi himself. Thanks for finding a welder to repair my Salsa Anything cage; c’mon Salsa, where is version 2???
Bike Touring Lesotho - Donkey
Carrying building materials.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Donkey
Baby twinky.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Horse
And, a man riding a Besotho pony, the most common transport in Basotho (people of Lesotho) villages.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Horse
Commuting.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Pony
Ponies, as they are called, are just small horses.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Tracks
Animal tracks make fine single track.
Bike Touring Lesotho - Village
A typical Lesotho village with stone rondovals.
Semonkong Falls
The Maletsunyane Falls at Semonkong – one of the highest single dropping falls in Africa.
Semonkong falls
Another view of the mammoth canyon.
Besotho Children
Two Basotho shepherds. Basotho people speak Sesotho, which sounds like Lesotho, and Basotho.
Lesotho Shepard
Another shepherd against the vivid green landscape.
Lesotho Horseman
Basotho pony.
Spiral Aloe
A Spiral Aloe, I think.
Maluti Beer
Maluti Beer, pride of Lesotho.
Lesotho - Baby Horse
Baby pony… not sure what you call that.
Lesotho - Man
Bike Touring Lesotho
Our rondoval in Roma.
Surly Troll - Ortlieb Panniers
Gin’s bike got a few gear changes including a new rack and panniers (from Grant at cycletouring.co.za, a tubeless 2.2 Continental X King and a Specialized saddle we found at a shop in P.E.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Cresting our first pass… Bushmen Pass. Lesotho is the is the only independent state in the world to lie entirely 1,000 meters 3,281 ft) in elevation. Over eighty percent of the country lies above 1,800 meters (5,906 ft.)
Lesotho Man
A gentleman I met harvesting grass on the mountain for roofing.
Lesotho Shepards
Two shepherds with a DIY banjo.
Bike outing Lesotho
Gin (bottom left) cruising down from Bushmen Pass into a village.
God Help Me Pass
Indeed.
Lesotho - Blue Mountain Pass
Running from storms at Blue Mountain Pass.
Lesotho -Mountains
Not sure what range that was, but I wanted to get closer.
Bike Touring Lesotho
A long descent into Likalaneng.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Share the road.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Huge unnamed mountain pass.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Not sure what this means.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Many shades of green in the mosaic of fields.
Lesotho Shepard

Lesotho
These folks were singing, and I think they may have been singing to us.
Lesotho
The hills have eyes here, note the silhouette of the man on the right.
Lesotho Shepard Lesotho Children Lesotho Children Bike Touring Lesotho
These children chased Gin for about a kilometer.
Bike Touring Lesotho

An inventive young man and his car, complete with a steering column.
Bike Touring Lesotho
The Pass of Jackals.
Lesotho Shepard Bike Touring Lesotho
We were there a little while ago.
Bike Touring Lesotho Bike Touring Lesotho Bike Touring Lesotho Bike Touring Lesotho
Descent into Thaba Tseka.
Bike Touring Lesotho
Still going down… Gin on left.
Leotho Shepherd

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