Lesotho is a tiny landlocked country high up in the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains (altitude 1800m – 3400m). What it lacks in overall size, it makes up for in sheer vastness and ruggedness. Rough dirt roads and natural trails makes it ideal for mountain biking. The Highlands Adventure is for regular mountain bikers wanting challenging riding with a touch of a cultural experience in a compact tour.
|START/FINISH||Afriski to Semonkong|
|TOUR GRADE||4: CHALLENGING
This ride is for regular mountain bikers, who have a good level of fitness. Routes include frequent moderate to difficult technical sections.
|BEST TIME OF THE YEAR||SEPTEMBER – APRIL|
|ADDITIONAL OPTIONS||Donkey Pub Crawl; Take a ride on a donkey from Semonkong Lodge into the village and ride from shebeen to shebeen tasting the local brew at each. This can be done on the last day of the ride provided the group arrives before 15h00.
Abseil Maletsunyane Falls: This is the highest commercial abseil in the world requiring training before attempting the 200m plus descent next to the falls into the Maletsunyane Valley. This can be arranged provided the entire group are happy to extend the tour by a day.
|BICYCLE HIRE||Detour Trails can facilitate bicycle hire, but as this is a ride for the more serious, we recommend that riders bring their own bikes as they will be more comfortable on them.|
SUMMARY OF ITINERARY
|DAY||DESCRIPTION||DISTANCE||RIDE TIME||OVERALL TIME||MEALS INCL|
|1||Arrival & Transfer||–||–||–||–|
|2||Afriski Trails||20 -25km||700m||700m||BL|
|5||Thaba Tseka Summit Trail||62km||1250m||1150m||BL|
|6||The Mast Trail||60km||1200m||1750m||BLD|
|7||Trail into the Abyss||68km||2300m||2300m||BL|
|8||Travel to Durban||–||–||–||–|
Day 1: Arrival and transfer to Lesotho
Meet at a central location in greater Johannesburg, usually ORT International for a bus ride down to Ficksburg on the SA/Lesotho border. From here the Detour Team will escourt the riders through the border, for the drive to Afriski Resort high in the Maluti Mountains. The evening is spent in the Afriski restaurant and pub enjoying great local beer and cuisine before settling in for a good night’s sleep in the cozy chalets.
Day 2: Afriski Trails – A day of acclimatisation to the rare air
Stats: 20-25 km, ascent 700m, descent 700m (These vary and the choice is up to each rider as there are many options
After a leisurely breakfast we’ll hit the trails (at 3000m plus) that surround Afriski and spend the morning getting comfortable on our bikes and sucking oxygen!
While the trails are all man-made, they offer a variety sure to keep all riders happy. There is even the ski lift to drag lazy riders up the slope. This enables each rider to decide how much riding they wish to do. After a morning on these trails, it’s back to the chalets for a light lunch and preparing for the real action ahead… the first day in proper rugged Lesotho mountains!
Day 3: Motete Monster – Rumble down the Motete River to the Malib Matso and Katse Dam Headwaters
Stats: 73 km, 2800m ascent, 3500m descent
Riders must not be fooled by the distance as the going is slow. Initially it is pony trails littered with rocks, but gradually changes into more regularly used trails of the local people and their livestock, making the going a little quicker.
The trail is not accessible by the support vehicle, so riders need to be self-sufficient for the day’s ride. As will become the norm, riders will have to carry all weather gear, tools, basic spares, packed lunch, lots of liquid and a stash of trail snacks for the journey.
Depending on the rider’s fitness, there will be an option to bail after 40kms where the Mothership will be waiting to take riders to the overnight stop, while strong riders have the option of riding the full distance. The destination is on the northern most headwaters of Katse Dam, in an old village for the workers who built the dam.
Day 4: Katse Amble – Explore the Highlands water system
Stats: 50 km, ascent 1300m, descent 1200m
With a lot more dirt road than trail, this is one of the easier days and we will set off (at a reasonable hour) after breakfast, but don’t be fooled as there are still a few typically steep Lesotho climbs. We’ll ride through more populated areas so interactions with local Basotho are more than likely and always add some colour to the day. The route follows the Katse Dam providing spectacular views of the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme, heading towards the mighty dam wall (at 185m, the highest in the Southern Hemisphere), which we are privileged to cross to get to the Katse Hotel, our destination.
Day 5: Thaba Tseka Summit Trail – Alone on top of the world
Stats: 62 km, ascent 1250m, descent 1150m
After a few kilometres of dirt road, the riders turn off into a small village and onto a rough pony track which meanders its way along the valley of the small Khohlo-Ntso River getting progressively steeper as it heads up towards the river’s source. There’s a steep climb (partly hike-a-bike) up onto the Thaba Tseka Plateau (or Top-of-the-World) where the riders will feel totally alone, unlikely to even meet one shepherd or horseman. There’s an exciting gnarly descent off the plateau into the next valley before a climb over a ridge and meeting the dirt road which leads to Thaba Tseka village and the overnight stop at Buffalo Hotel.
On the ride through the town through Thaba Tseka town there will be plenty of contact with the locals and even some shopping opportunities.
Day 6: The Mast Trail – Rough riding at new heights
Stats: 60km, ascent 1200m, descent 1750m
A spectacular day on the bike! By now all riders are into the swing of Lesotho riding, so it’s time to up the ante with something special. After a quick transfer up an unnecessary 15km tar road climb, the riders set off on an old disused road that slowly disintegrates into a wonderful rough and rocky trail. The ride traverses some of the most beautiful scenery and landscape that dates back to Gondwana times.
After about 30km of sublime trail, it’s onto a dirt road and the first signs of rural life. After a few flat kilometers the road winds down a fast and furious descent into the Mantsonyane Valley below. The support crew will be waiting at the river, to provide refreshments, load up and head to St James lodge.
Day 7: Trail into the Abyss – The Senqunyane Valley beckons
Stats: 68 km, ascent 2300m, descent 2300m
Many riders will find this hard to believe, but if they enjoyed the previous day, they’re in for a real treat as this trail is ‘adventure personified’! The trail runs along the ridge between the Mantsonyane and Sengunyane Rivers on a dirt road from the relative civilisation of the Mantsonyane village progressively deteriorating as the trail winds its way into the more remote rural farmlands before a spectacular helter-skelter plummet into the majestic Senqunyane Valley sure to excite any technical rider.
The ascent out of the Valley is a mix of tough riding, scrambling and hike-a-bike, but is well worth the reward of the exhilarating ride into the valley. Once out of the valley, the trail meanders through wheat fields to a rough dirt road leading to Semonkong. Surprises for the day aren’t over as the road serves up a few incredibly steep ‘kicker’ climbs and fun descents.
After arguably one of the most challenging and rewarding days that could be had on a bike the riders finally reach the oasis of Semonkong Lodge.
Day 8: Travel to DURBAN
After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to bid farewell to the Maluti Mountains and head for Durban, the nearest city which has an international airport. The transfer is a relatively long 5 hours or so giving the opportunity to see a little of the east coast of SA.
It is advisable to overnight in Durban and fly out the next day to avoid any time pressure due to delays. The Detour Team can advise and assist with places to stay and arrange airport transfers.
R 17 500 (inc. VAT) per person sharing, there is a single supplement additional charge of 30% if you require a single room.
MINIMUM NUMBERS: 8
- Donkey Pub Crawl: Take a ride on a donkey from Semonkong Lodge into the village and ride from shebeen to shebeen tasting the local brew at each. This can be done on the last day of the ride provided the group arrives before 15h00.
- Abseil Maletsunyane Falls: This is the highest commercial abseil in the world requiring training before attempting the 200m plus descent next to the falls into the Maletsunyane Valley. This can be arranged provided the entire group are happy to extend the tour by a day.