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…
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):
Yeti sighted at the border assembling bikes. Unfortunately the bus companies in South Africa require bikes to be boxed for transport.
A couple of helpers.
This guy kept staring at me at a Maseru backpackers (hostel) where we stayed.
Tumi’s was made from a couple of discarded shipping containers.
Tumi himself. Thanks for finding a welder to repair my Salsa Anything cage; c’mon Salsa
, where is version 2???
Carrying building materials.
And, a man riding a Besotho pony, the most common transport in Basotho (people of Lesotho) villages.
Ponies, as they are called, are just small horses.
Animal tracks make fine single track.
A typical Lesotho village with stone rondovals.
The Maletsunyane Falls at Semonkong – one of the highest single dropping falls in Africa.
Another view of the mammoth canyon.
Two Basotho shepherds. Basotho people speak Sesotho, which sounds like Lesotho, and Basotho.
Another shepherd against the vivid green landscape.
A Spiral Aloe, I think.
Maluti Beer, pride of Lesotho.
Baby pony… not sure what you call that.
Our rondoval in Roma.
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.
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.)
A gentleman I met harvesting grass on the mountain for roofing.
Two shepherds with a DIY banjo.
Gin (bottom left) cruising down from Bushmen Pass into a village.
Running from storms at Blue Mountain Pass.
Not sure what range that was, but I wanted to get closer.
A long descent into Likalaneng.
Share the road.
Huge unnamed mountain pass.
Not sure what this means.
Many shades of green in the mosaic of fields.
These folks were singing, and I think they may have been singing to us.
The hills have eyes here, note the silhouette of the man on the right.
These children chased Gin for about a kilometer.
An inventive young man and his car, complete with a steering column.
The Pass of Jackals.
We were there a little while ago.
Descent into Thaba Tseka.
Still going down… Gin on left.