Sunday, April 3, 2011

Trans Lesotho Day 4

Motete to Khatse
89 km (including some minor detours)
2273m vertical ascent (including some minor detours)
just under 9 hours

An early start on a long wet muddy jeeptrack. The downhill-side was dry and fast; cold toes from wind on the still-wet shoes. At the bottom we turned off onto a singletrack and started climbing immediately. The bottom bit of this singletrack was a lot of fun to ride. It was wide, a smooth surface from years of donkeys and people, with the occasional obstacle to keep it interesting. It soon became steeper, and then it was a bike-carry-and-drag to get to the very top. A man with a horse rode next to me for a while, indicating something about his horse - i couldn't make out whether he offered me a lift on the horse, or whether he offered my bike a lift on the horse. A lift for the bike would have been well appreciated, but 'Lumelang', 'U phela joang' and 'Kea Leboha' only gets you so far ... Francois and Ray waited for me at the top. It was a pretty view ... and a spectacular piece of singletrack down. Mostly cattletracks, and sometimes a chosen line would just disappear, or dead-end in rocks. More technical at places, but THE BEST piece of singletrack of the whole tour.

At the bottom we joined a gravel road and followed it (up, down, up, down, up, down, steep up, down) till we met David along the way. After some ice cold cokes we were on our way again. Stopped at a spaza shop where we had more cold coke, then up a short tar climb and off onto gravel road next to the upper parts of the Khatse dam.

You would think that a road next to the dam would be kind of level .... WRONG. This road went up, down, steep climb, down, steeper climb, down, endless climb, down again ... up, down, up forever. (wellll all 22 kays of it).

I lost the front group due to all the climbs and nothing technical to slow them down. The only people behind me were those who had bike problems (Tumi singlespeeded after breaking his derrailleur, and Paddy fixed very muddy punctures) or those who got lost (Fiona went searching for a diamond mine and Nick, Hardy & Brian all rode a few kays extra on the other side of the river) -  so this was a solitary ride up and down between villages. The kids in these areas had more contact with travellers - there were frequent requests for sweets (which we haven't heard deeper in Lesotho)

Finally saw the dam wall. The last time i saw it, was about 20 years ago when it was still under construction -  there were flags high up the mountains indicating where the water levels would be. A whole lot of water.

Once over the dam wall, i realised i didn't have the last map with me - and had no clue where I was supposed to go. I cycled up the hill (if you go wrong, it's always better to have to come down to correct the error) and then cycled to the education centre to ask where the Khatse lodge was. Met McGregor (they cycled all the way to the bottom of the dam) and since he could speak Sotho, could easily ask for directions about where the other cyclists went.

Munchies at the lodge, then Tamara took us to our overnight houses. A celebratory dinner with lots of awards for all the riders - and then off to the white linen for a well deserved sleep.

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