September 2015 Lesotho Tour - Day 1,2 & 3- CT to Aliwal North / to Fouriesburg / to Underberg

Apologies to those of you who have been waiting in anticipation for the ride report of our recent Lesotho tour.   The tour will be split over 3 blog posts so as not to bombard you with too much info all at once. So please be patient, the next instalment to follow within 24 hours. Something to look forward to…

The long-anticipated Lesotho week started with us leaving Hout Bay together with Paul in the bakkie, 3 bikes in tow early on Saturday morning.  The trip to Aliwal North is exactly 1000km and there is no way that you want to attempt that on a KLR or other 650 single for that matter.  Towing the bikes was definitely the better option.

We planned to meet up with guys from East London, PE, Cape Town and Johannesburg for a ride around Lesotho, taking in Fouriesburg, Golden Gate, skirting the Drakensberg to Underberg, Sani & Matabeng passes in Lesotho, Naude’s Nek, Rhodes and Lundeans Pass before getting back to Aliwal North and heading home the scenic route via De Rust with the bikes in tow.

The trip to Aliwal was uneventful and longer than expected.  There is really nothing glamorous about spending 12 hours in a car – fortunately Paul shared the driving.  We met up with the group at the Toll Inn at Aliwal.  Porra’s bike had a leaking petcock and he was trying to fix it with Pratleys putty – not a good start.  Kwagga had a baptism of fire, riding up with Baksteen and Frenchy.  Mud is now his friend.

The Toll Inn at Aliwal is well worth a visit with their historic bridge, the river and friendly animals.  We parked the bakkie and trailer there pending our return a week later.

We celebrated Jorg’s birthday at the start of the tour and Baksteen very generously presented Jorg with an entire box of condoms (probably 3000) for his birthday – go figure!  We did something a bit more demure and had a tshirt printed for him reading Jorg’emeister.  Rather fitting I thought as he is the master of all things mechanical when it comes to our KLRs.

So without any futher ado..

Day 1 Cape Town to Aliwal North

Had to wake at sparrows to leave, so everything felt like a blur....
Hexrivier Pass
had a giggle at the 'ice cold bodies' - what are these people transporting? 
ofcourse there were windmills along the way...
2 KLRs and an XT 
The graceful Dutch Reformed Church in Beaufort West
DYK?  The old church, built in 1930, was demolished and in its place the handsome new neo-gothic church was completed in 1892. The church was designed by the architect James Bisset and its graceful white spire is the focal point of the town.
some serious looking BMWs on this trailer
Can't imagine a belt driven chain is cheap to maintain...
they are everywhere
"The long road ahead" with Paul & David 
Arrived at the Toll Inn in the dark and joined the clan to watch the SA vs Japan game

Day 2 Aliwal North to Fouriesburg

The first leg to Fouriesburg was around 350km in windy weather with rain forecast for later in the day.  We rode as many dirt roads as possible and found scenic roads to Van Stadensrus, a little dorp that must have looked a lot better 50 or 60 years ago, and it feels like you are travelling back in time in the Free State.  Porra was thoughtfully leaving a trail of petrol just in case we need to find our way back.

Frenchy decided to go it alone and discovered that the route preference settings on Garmin do make a difference, so he spent most of the day trying to find us again.

We stopped at a very derelict Wepener for fuel, and ran through to Hobhouse where we stopped at a delightful spot for a longish break, decent coffee and freshly baked cake.  The rain was threatening and we high-tailed it to Fouriesburg on a combination of gravel and tar.

Porra’s bike was still leaking fuel which wasn’t a good sign for the week ahead.  The boys filled-up with (mainly alcohol) food at the Country Inn, where we had stayed at the end of our previous trip to Lesotho in 2013.  Good hospitality, food and a comfortable stay with a lot of rain overnight.  McSack was enthralled by the local talent – or maybe that should be the other way around!
Woke to a glorious day, ready to start our adventure
Norbs' KLR was in the dog box because it sprung a petrol leak the day before
Frenchie doing some last minute prep
Views from the Toll Inn
beautiful peacock plumage
Where I go, birds will follow & the other way around
The Magnificent six arch sandstone bridge, built in 1881, guards the entrance to the Inn and is a national monument.

We were led down to the river by Skye the Labrador
We found McSack
The journey begins... next stop Fouriesburg  - some footage below of the group leaving the Toll Inn
our first Ry/Go - at least work is being done on the roads for which we are grateful
Glorious riding weather

Jorg leaving the KLRs in his dust
Baksteen with Norbs following hot on his wheels
A rare sighting!  Norbs on his fugly 
playing it safe... i was hoping for a bigger splash

Derelict house at Vanstadensrus
We stopped at the Workshop in Hobhouse for a cuppa and a slice of cake
What great hospitality!

Must be good if Baksteen's little finger is doing the talking
very unassuming from the outside but very welcoming on the inside
The owner, an artist and avid biker, created this BMW looking piece of art
Norbs kicking up some dirt
the little blue bike vs its bigger cousin

Norbs not feeling the love
Zombi's?  no.. Just the after effect of the Jagermeister it seems

Happy birthday Jorg'emeister
 I especially had this tshirt printed for the birthday boy - seemed appropriate!

(apologies for the smaller pics - cellphone pics not
 great quality when passed on several times and enlarged)

Day 3 - Fouriesburg to Himeville 

Monday morning arrived with a gloomy sky, but thankfully the rain had more or less passed over.  Porra’s bike was being objectionable and refused to start.  After various attempts at towing (tanks Kwagga) and jump-starting, he was forced to make the call of shame to Rick (his long-suffering brother) to come and fetch him from Johannesburg.  The rest of the group were sadly forced to elect a new entertainment committee.

We left about an hour or so later to Clarens for fuel, and on to Golden Gate for a slow drive through the National Park.  Golden Gate is probably best viewed in the late afternoon or early morning on a clear day, and the overcast conditions didn’t do it much justice.  We passed by Bergville and kept close to the Drakensberg on the dirt roads through the villages.  The young kids all wave and are excited to see the passing bikes, while the school-going teenagers are way to cool to acknowledge your existence.

The roads were reasonably good, but the 400km that we had to cover at slowish speeds meant that the day was quite long and we were thankful to reach Himeville in the late afternoon.  The overnight stop at The Old Hatchery was ok, we ate in their restaurant and did the chains and checked the bikes for a last time before Lesotho.  The rain was still threatening and there were some showers overnight.  Kwagga was trying to find a new radiator cap for what ultimately proved to be a leaking gasket while Frenchy attempted some trout fishing without success.

woke to a spot of rain after a good night's sleep and ready for the journey ahead
so Norb's fugly STILL misbehaving and made the call to cut his trip short and head back home
even Rolex tried his best to get the fugly going but alas it was not meant to be...
McSack was not doing a rain dance.. he was in charge of securing the tow rope
Kwagga's oopsie... ok, not his fault this time.. tried to tow start Norbs
Leg stretch at the Golden Gate, the Free State's only national park.
More famous for the beauty of its landscape than for its wildlife

real horsepower
we spotted some Eland grazing quite close by
Amazing how well they blend into their surroundings.  We had to look very closely to spot all 10 of them 
Paul leading the 2nd group :)

our accommodation - the Old Hatchery in the Underberg

To follow:
Day 4 (Underberg/Sani/Mokotlong), Day 5 (Matabenge Pass/Qachas Neck), Day 6 (Naude's Nek/Rhodes)

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