I first had the idea of venturing into Lesotho alone whilst I was busy (trying to) study for my surgery part one exam. As with most ideas, it was even more interesting and absorptive when surrounded by a looming exam. Megan had just taken some leave to go to a wedding in Cape Town, so I had a bit of leave to spare and no-one to spare it with. So on finishing up with exams, I threw everything I might need onto the spare room bed and gazed on with a mixture of excitement and ‘what the hell am I doing!?’. It took me about 2 weeks to plan and two days to pack. I had lots of fantastic advice, and some crappy advice, this encompassed my route, my equipment, and my skill set amongst other things. I did have to purchase some extra gear for the trip, which we would be needing for the GAT too, so I didn’t feel that bad about its impact on my trip-savings. This gear included a soft 5 Litre fuel cell, a 12 volt kit, a Hella to 12V adaptor, an air compressor, and a pair of inner-gloves of which one came home.
Packing – the usual mayhem
The decision to do the trip solo was a surprisingly easy one. Initially out of necessity, the solo aspect of the trip became central. I was looking forward to some alone-time on the bike, and in the wilderness, and as any biker knows ‘Sometimes it takes a whole tank of fuel before you can think straight’, and I was going to be needing a whole-lot of fuel.
The route I planned was around the East side of Lesotho via the beautiful Natal Midlands to a town called Himeville, where I would bunk down for the night. From here I would make my way up the legendary Sani pass and on to Katse Dam for my second night on my own. My route would then go far South West to make my way to Maletsunyane Falls, the highest falls in Southern Africa. After this I planned to make my way up to the Afriski ski resort at 3200m where I would head home via a night in Golden Gate national park. This was what I had planned, and we all know what they say about the best laid plans.
My route (or so I thought)
Day 1: Home to Himeville:
Luckily I had everything packed and ready to go the night before. So when my alarm went off at 04h00 I jumped into my gear, activated my GPS, pounced on the bike and excitedly sped out of the Garage and into night, eager to leave Joburg in the rear-view mirror, along with all the thoughts of exams, finances and worldly troubles.
There really is something special about riding a motorcycle at night. With adventure on my mind, a whole trip ahead of me, cool air on my face, and the solitude of my helmet I started chipping away at the 640Km to Himeville. I looked forward to the sunrise that would greet me as I left the tar and hit the dirt, and what a sunrise it was.
Sunrise on day 1
The differences between solo riding and riding with Meg or friends hit me early. When stopping for breakfast, there was no-one to ask if they were ready, there was no-one else to suggest a time or spot to stop at. Already I had to get my arse into gear and be more decisive, it becomes easy to see a spot and quickly think- ‘Nah, there will be a better one over the next rise.’. If this is done enough you will completely miss breakfast and will be stopping for lunch instead. So I stopped for some breakfast on a quiet dirt rode forming the driveway to a farm.
Breakfast – dual-sport style
After getting the winter woolies off and realising I hadn’t left space for them in the panniers, I hit the road again. The Midlands are strikingly beautiful; wide, flat, fast dirt roads lead me through the most amazing scenery.
About to hit the dirt – smiles for miles
The roads are lined with wild flowers, with green fields and trees stretching out into the hills on both sides. While riding there were about 3 times where duikers (a small antelope) would bounce across the road and into the bushes and there were constantly flocks of pheasant and guinea fowl to be encountered. I felt like I was in a bloody Disney movie.
Riding a bike cant get anymore hardcore than this…
By the end of the day I had put a huge amount of distance under the tyres and made my way onto the tar roads of the sleepy little town of Himeville, where I stayed at the Himeville arms, a great place near the base of Sani at the Lesotho border. The Arms is well known to the adventure biking community as a stop-over on the way up Sani Pass, a good place with friendly staff, clean linen, and most importantly, a massive bar.
The KZN midlands – ugly as hell
The Mommy-frightener and I, on the way to Himeville
After getting changed back into people-clothes I made use of the bar and put a few away with a steak, egg, and chips. Whilst trying to get over the dodgy feeling of drinking on my own, I met a really cool guy who was already well on his way to stupor, as it turned out, he was a border-official at Sani Pass, where I would be crossing the next day.
Just to top of the action of my first day on the road I received an injury. Being on a motorcycle trip, one doesn’t expect to twist an ankle and get carpet burns on your back and gear-changing foot from slipping on a water bottle whilst intoxicated in the dark, but that’s what happened to me. At least there wasn’t anybody around to wet themselves laughing and further damage the ego. After the shock had left me I had a good laugh at myself and hit the hay in a happy, and very satisfied mood, after all, I had the fabled Sani Pass to climb in the morning!
My room at Himeville Arms, the water-bottle is waiting for the opportune moment to strike
Part 2 to follow!