Mike Martel, Lesotho

Inching Along In Lesotho

| Blog Lesotho

Our climb didn’t stop at the border post, we climb higher over the rocky terrain deeper into Lesotho. We stop several times to take a break and drink some water, but Mike’s bike slides so dangerously close to the edge he is forced to drop it and leap off. Three tall Basotho people watch us from their perches around the hill side. They make it to our side within seconds, and help us get Mike’s bike back on its wheels.

We barely notice the Basotho people in the fields tending to their herd. They stand tall and straight, with a brown grey woolen blanket wrapped around them and nothing on their legs but a pair of gumboots. Their trusty dogs lie at their feet. They stand all day watching and taking care of their flock of Merino sheep and Angora goats. They are different to the most people in Africa. First off, they ride horses and hold dogs as pets. Normally Africans hate animals and will throw rocks at anything that comes too close to them. The second difference is, they haven’t succumbed to the western clothing, except I got a glimpse of bright blue undies when a breeze whipped up one mans blanket exposing his bare body.

I am curious, and dying to talk to someone about their lives. I am approached by a few children on the backs of donkeys, but none of them speaks any english and all sign to me asking for money, alcohol and food. Tainted by Ethiopia and the horrific blatant begging, I ride off leaving the children behind and do not even entertain the idea of giving on demand.

We ride higher and further into the center of the country. Looking all round me, I see endless mountain ranges and ahead of me is just another corner. From time to time we warm up and kiss the valley floor before rising up to over 2000 meters above sea level just to freeze once again. Below my wheels I glide over hard compacted dirt with the occasional asphalt patches. Like most countries around the world, it has sold its precious resources to the Chinese in exchange for beautiful asphalt roads.

Mike pulls along side me and doesn’t turn his bike off. I have to wonder if something is wrong. Sure enough, his battery is going flat and isn’t charging correctly. He suspects that his regulator isn’t functioning as it should be. I ride behind him watching him to ensure I do not get too excited leave him stranded in my dust. His bike progressively gets worse and starts to backfire and only inch up the hills. We are lucky we are off the dirt and onto asphalt permanently now. But looking at my map we still have another 100 kilometers before hitting a half decent village with a guest house.

A minivan pulls out in front of Mike as he zooms down a hill to ensure he can get up the other side. The mini van full of people force him to apply the breaks and his bike stalls. We turn him around and I push start him back down the hill. It starts, thank god for that, but how long will it last, I wonder. We ride on for another 10 minutes and I start to think of back-up plans. We passed an empty bakkie a wee while ago and as far as I know they are still behind us. Mike’s bike stops again, this time on the flat. I can see frustration in his eyes. I look behind us searching for that bakkie. I am surprised to find it turning the corner a few meters behind. I leap off my bike and with no time to spare I step out into the road with my helmet on and flag it down.

The young guy dressed in a blue shirt with his worker in overalls beside him pull over. I quickly explain Mikes bike is broken and that we need to get to the next big village and ask if we can we put the bike on the back. Then I remember, no one here speaks English. But the guy looks at me and says “Of course!” I thank him, run back to Mike who is still sitting on his bike because he can’t put it on the side stand to tell him the good news. The four of us, struggle to get the bike on the bakkie without a ramp, but somehow we manage. We use our luggage straps to tie the bike down and to stop it from shifting about as it hangs dangerously off the back of the tray.

I follow Mike who is sitting sadly on the side of the bakkie for an hour before we arrive at the village. I spot a guesthouse that looks like it could be expensive, but also could have a lot of camping areas. We also don’t want to make these nice local guys run around so we just ask them to drop us off there and we will arrange something. They still have a long drive to the capital that night. Mike gives them 200 ZAR despite their protests. We always end up paying heavily for people who try to rip us off and nothing for those who don’t. We force the money into his hand and thank him.

We get a room, as we both don’t feel like camping at all. After a long hot shower and some interesting food we contemplate our options. We have travelled only 265 kilometers but it took all day to reach the village of Butha Buthe with the crossing of Sani Pass. We are now in a good position, as it was a border town to South Africa. We decide that tomorrow Mike will ride my bike across the border and see if he can find a new regulator from a motorcycle shop that is less that 100 kilometers away. Fingers crossed he finds one.