Kingdom of Lesotho - By special request only | 12 Day - 10 Days Biking

Day 1

Arrival day

You will be met at the airport off your flight by a transfer service who will bring you the 5kms to the country lodge we have based ourselves at. 

Late-afternoon we will finalise the bike documentation, and handover will be done with the SAMA rep and John. Any adjustments needed to your bike can be done at this time.

Meet up in the bar for a pre-dinner drink when we’ll all meet each other, have the initial briefing, discussion and time for questions about the upcoming adventure.

Day 2

BLOEMFONTEIN (SA) to MAFEKENG (Lesotho) 209kms

Packing everything into the 4×4 we plan to leave after breakfast at around 09.00.

Today will be a mixture of mainly gravel country roads ideal for the big adventure bikes, well packed with no loose or sandy sections, and some asphalt. Big open spaces characterise the landscape as we head due east. We pass through farms, arable, dairy and game and it’s not uncommon to see an occasional member of Africa’s herbivore grazing in the fields. 

Arriving at our first Lesotho border crossing at Van Rooyens Gate this should be a quick and painless experience paying the vast amount of about 3 euros to enter the country!

We are now in Lesotho – notice the changes in almost everything – scenery; the houses are normally rondavals (circular huts); villages are rustic and though Lesotho is  much poorer than its neighbour it seems majestic, is clean, and the locals are very welcoming.  All the asphalt in Lesotho has been recently done by the Chinese in exchange for diamond mining rights. The amazing sweeping passes are a delight for road bikers.

A further 70kms brings us to our destination for the night at Malealea Lodge.

We have arranged for you all to have rondevals which are circular huts with beautiful thatched roofs, and room to spread out. Each is decorated with charming paintings of local scenes for your enjoyment and has a spacious, tiled bathroom with a standing shower en-suite.

Day 3

MAFEKENG (Lesotho) to CLARINS (SA) 06kms

Today we will be biking up the west side of the country avoiding the sprawling capital of Maseru, which is located along the Mohokare River in a shallow valley below the Maloti Mountains. We will take to the trails and lesser roads to avoid the “built up” areas until we get to the bustling market town of Butha Buthe where we will refuel and then bike the final 55kms on tarmac to our next destination in the pretty little village of Clarens. En route we will cross back into South Africa through the small Caledon borderpost. 

The inspiration of artists, eco-lovers and tourists who want to simply enjoy exploring this tranquil, magical landscape, Clarens is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate and is one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa.

There is a large village green surrounded by all types of small shops and businesses, including a pub popular with bikers. Our 3* hotel is within easy walking distance of all this. The staff always welcome us back and supply plentiful food for our evening meal.

Day 4

CLARENS (SA) to KATSE DAM (Lesotho) 230kms

We leave after a good buffet breakfast and it’s just 40kms back to the friendly border at Caledon – our third crossing!  About 10 minutes and about 3€ again each to register and get our passports stamped, and then we’re back in Lesotho.

Always be prepared for the unexpected, from rockfalls to landslides, to animals being herded down the main road and everything in between when riding in Lesotho.

167 kms of amazing asphalt starting in Clarens.

We wind our way through picturesque countryside, surrounded by towering mountains and deep valleys. We ride over the Mafika Lisiu Pass 3,090m (10,137ft) above sea level which crosses the Maluti mountain range. It is one of the highest passes in Lesotho. 

The view back north towards Clarens is stunning on a sunny day. The road was built in the 1990s and links Pitseng with Lejone and onwards to Katse. There are sheer drops virtually along the whole length of the road with enough hairpin bends to keep even the most jaded biker smiling.

At 167km into the day we can either take to the gravel or continue 37km on the asphalt to our hotel for the night at Katse. This asphalt section is every bit as enjoyable as the previous sections.

Our accommodation has large gardened terraces looking out over the Katse Dam Lake. The lodge is simple, but all rooms have en-suite showers and satellite TV. 

The food is excellent and the staff, as always in this country, very helpful and willing.  Hopefully a spectacular African sunset to be watched as we sit on the terrace after dinner with a drink, looking out across the lake.

Our hotel for tonight is a converted farmhouse with 12 beautifully appointed rooms. It’s the best boutique hotel destination in the Drakensberg Mountains and has a well renowned restaurant serving an excellent selection of dishes.

Day 5

KATSE DAM (Lesotho) to HIMEVILLE (SA) 259kms

Leaving our lodge, we turn onto the small road that leads us across the top of the Katse Dam wall.  Rejoining back to the main road we turn northwards winding our way through small villages of typical circular huts (rondevals) surrounded by wild peach trees that are a brilliant pink when in bloom.

60kms up the road we reach the small busy village of Lejone. No fuel stations to be had in this part of the country so we refuel from plastic bottles at the side of the road.

Turning east the next 60kms are off-road following a trail that winds up and down hills and valleys with spectacular views across the river far below. Some very steep inclines which when wet can be very slippery. We are in the heart of the real Lesotho now with locals waving, children playing with basic trolley toys made from pieces of metal and tyre, and the “masked” herdsmen in balaclavas, swathed in their warm Lesotho blankets and wearing white gumboots, riding horseback.

If you have brought any small toys, pencils, soaps etc this is the area to hand them out. Even your unwanted daily tee-shirts are gladly taken.

We pass one of the biggest diamond mines in the country and then arrive back at the main road where we turn south heading for the notorious Sani Pass.

Winding our way up some very steep, bending road sections until we eventually arrive at a large plateau-like area, we arrive at the “top” of the pass and go to highest pub in Africa, the Sani Top pub, for refreshment. From here we can look down the first section of the pass and on into South Africa about 25kms away. A very special view if we are not in the clouds!

Having done the paperwork to exit Lesotho again we start our ride down this infamous pass. Sani Pass has loose gravel and short rocky sections in places and care must be taken as the drop offs are impressive but the main challenge is the first 1km after the top where we will encounter half a dozen very pronounced hairpin bends.

About 18kms down we find the South African border post, and a further 25kms – some undergoing major works to improve their road – we arrive at our very comfortable country hotel.

Our hotel for tonight is a converted farmhouse with 12 beautifully appointed rooms. It’s the best boutique hotel destination in the Drakensberg Mountains and has a well renowned restaurant serving an excellent selection of dishes.

Day 6

HIMEVILLE (SA) to THABA-TSEKA (Lesotho) 266kms

Having relaxed after yesterday’s Sani descent and having enjoyed a wonderful breakfast, we are off – destination Lesotho again!!

125kms of pleasant, twisting and undulating country roads. Then we’re onto the more off-road mountain trails climbing up to 2300m where our next border called Ramatseliso’s Gate is. Having passed this – frequently no-one on the Lesotho side so you won’t get a stamp in your passport – we start the winding descent through valleys and past isolated mountain villages until we reach the tarmac.  Final 33kms on road to our accommodation in this local town. A privately-owned guesthouse, very friendly, helpful staff, good food —– a local experience! Maybe have a wander around the local area and take the chance to chat to some Sotho people.

Day 7

THABA-TSEKA (Lesotho) to SEMONKONG (Lesotho) 210kms

From Thaba-Tseke to Semonkong is another 228 km of amazing, new Chinese road. We cross many passes the highest of which is the Mokoabong Pass 2,880 m (9,448 ft) with its fast sweeping curves and huge drop offs and stunning scenery. The last 86 km of great asphalt leaves me wondering why do the Chinese put speed humps on a steep uphill section?  

 They are no problem for the GSs but must be a nightmare for overladen trucks – not great for Su in the 4×4 either! Either way stand up as you go over them or risk getting kicked over the bars.   The last 4 km into our hotel are a little tricky. Muddy and rutted in places with a steep descent and a river crossing 100m before arrival at reception. First gear, stand up and slowly, slowly catch the monkey. You could always ask Johnny Maroc to ride your bike down for you but it will cost you a beer for him to walk back up to you.    

Our lodge tonight is situated on the banks of the Maletsunyane River. The accommodation, built of traditional stone and thatch, offers just the right balance of rustic elegance with comfortable en-suite rooms, and warm comfortable beds. The lodge has a popular pub called the Duck and Donkey, where we eat and spend the evening.

Day 8

SEMONKONG (Lesotho) 0kms

Though not technical the previous four days will have been strenuous with the tight, sweeping bends and tracks we’ve biked on through Lesotho so far, and there’s still lots more to come. So this easy day will be welcome.

In the morning we will bike a 50km loop to visit the famous Maletsunyane Falls, one of the highest single dropping waterfalls in Africa, creating a haze of smoke as the water plummets the 186 metres into a spectacular gorge.

IT IS FROM THIS “SMOKE” THAT SEMONKONG – THE PLACE OF SMOKE – GETS ITS NAME.

Our lodge is in the Guinness book of records for having organised the longest ever vertical abseil down a waterfall!

Back to the hotel for lunch and in the afternoon you can either choose to relax on the terrace in front of your comfortable room or join up with everyone in the lodge’s fully licensed Duck & Donkey Tavern – popular with the locals too. If you’d like to join one of the activities on offer you can choose between mountain biking, pony trekking or one of a selection of cultural tours.

Dinner in the Tavern.

Day 9

SEMONKONG (Lesotho) to RHODES (SA) 299kms

Leaving our lodge, we are heading south on tarmac 170 kms to cross back into South Africa at the tiny border crossing of Qachas Nek. Through the border and a further 40kms we get to Matatiele where we regroup, refuel and grab a snack at the fuel station’s Steer’s outlet. Some chips and a hamburger!!

The first half of the remaining 150kms is good tarmac but watch out for police speed controls and the dreaded road humps. Then we turn right and set off on the trails through a beautiful area running south of the Drakensberg Mountain range.  Very picturesque and pleasant gravel track. Lots of farming and trout fishing in this part of South Africa.

70kms of winding tracks initially running through valleys close to the river but then starting a steady climb up into the Tenahead Mountain Reserve, a wild and lonely place with spectacular views from the bends of Naude’s Nek Pass as we continue our climb.  It is the second highest driveable dirt road in South Africa – Sani Pass being the highest – so you’ve done them both!

The summit of the pass is at 2587m and our night’s 5* accommodation with Spa is located at 2500m.

Cosy fireplace to gather around and have a drink before enjoying a wonderful meal.

Day 10

RHODES (SA) to MAFEKENG (Lesotho) 246kms

Feeling refreshed and after a wonderful breakfast we set off for Rhodes – a small village unique for being the only one in SA that can only be accessed by gravel. There are no tarmac roads to this very popular place. 

Stop for a coffee at the Walkabout Inn and then for those wanting to do the optional ride up to Tiffindell ski resort this is where they start from.  

The off roading is generally easy but there are two short rocky sections that less experienced riders must pass with care, and some steep bends. Big drop offs along most of this ascent.

Tiffindell Lodge is set in a bowl at 2,720 m (8,924 ft). The station has only two runs, the length being only 2 km between them. 

From Tiffindell we will then return down on the rocky Wartrail route and join up with the others waiting for us at the bottom.

Then onwards for a further 100kms on pleasant trails running parallel to the Oranje river and Lesotho until we cross the river and back into Lesotho, at the Telle Bridge border.  This is one of our more official crossings but won’t take more than 15 minutes. 

Onto tarmac for a while and then off onto the mountain tracks again for the final 60kms to our accommodation – where we stayed the first night in Lesotho.  Seems ages ago!

On route we will cross the Makhaleng River, enjoy impressive views of the Thaba Putsoa mountain range and climb the Gates of Paradise Pass!

Day 11

MAFEKENG (Lesotho) to BLOEMFONTEIN (SA) 203kms

Today our final border crossing between Lesotho and SA. Back through Lesotho’s border post at Hermon we stay mainly on the asphalt back to Bloemfontein so we can get there and have time to hand back the bikes for their inspection; unpack and repack everything and then meet up in the bar for a well-earned pre-dinner drink and swop stories and thoughts about our last 10 days travelling in, out and around the amazing country that is Lesotho.

Day 12

Departure day

Breakfast together and then time to say our “au-revoirs” and go home to reality. You will find it almost impossible to forget anything about your eight visits to and from “The Kingdom in the Sky”.