Friday morning I woke refreshed after my Sani pass and Black Mountain experience. I was a bit achy still but ready to push on out of Lesotho and back into South Africa and on to my next SANParks experience.
There had been some big rain during the night and I was warned that the roads could be pretty bad between me and the border so when I set off I was a bit nervous to what may lay ahead. Katie’s the KLR coughed and spluttered a few times before she fired up and almost sounded as if she was only running on one cylinder……. I put it down to the damp and quite possibly the fact that I was now over 3000 metres above sea level so like me she was finding it harder to breathe.
I must have ridden almost 150 metres when I stopped to chat with a guy from jo’burg on a KTM990s who was just about to head down the Sani Pass the way I had come from. He was well prepared with his side boxes full and a gallon container of petrol bungee’d to his rear seat….obviously he knows the KTM’s tank range well.
The roads travelling north were not in great condition but nothing like as bad as what I had just done so it was quite a relaxed ride through the mountains. In places the roads were seriously steep and in one very steep section on a hare pin a fully loaded truck had given up and was now In the process of being towed up the hill by a massive digger….one or two cars and trucks behind ( 100 or so ) were not too happy.
As I carried on I stopped a couple of time for photos and became aware that everywhere there were shepherd boys just watching from the hills. Not only the shepherds but also dozens of small rondawel style houses built all across the hillsides. One other very spooky thing was the amount of cattle/sheep bells that could be heard clanging around the mountains. It was almost making music.
I stopped to take a photo of a village from the road above and was approached by a guy called Mbusa. He told me that he was an electrician but there were no jobs in Lesotho and he was very hungry. I promptly thought of a solution and offered him a portion on my cheese and ham toasty from the night before. To my surprise he actually took it and ate it, so I offered him another but he politely refused and asked if I would take his photo next to Katie so that I would always remember him. Ladies and gentlemen I give you Mbusa.
The rest of the journey was fairly uneventful up to the border post apart from my continued amazement ( I meant to say this the other day). There were a huge number of Chinese road contractors creating news roads all the way from Sani Pass…..it looks like the whole thing from the border to Sani is gong to be made into a quality tar road. not sure if I like that idea or not but I guess it is the practicality of it rather than the adventure.
At the border my passport was stamped out of Lesotho by a very laid back guy who asked me where I was from and when I told him he asked me if I supported Manchester United. I said no Manchester City just to get him going but I don’t think he had heard of them!! He then asked me what I had to give him and is co worker. Quick as a flash I pulled out the two remaining portions of yesterday’s toastie and said ” enjoy”. They were getting a bit sweaty by now anyway.
As soon as I was back on SA soil I was amazed how the landscape seemed to change. The mountains in Lesotho had seemed dark rock compared to the redness of the mountains in Freestate. I rode through a great little town named Clarens which seems to be one of those places that attracts bikers from all over the state. A quiet coffee in the town square and the biggest Chelsea bun you have ever seen and I was back on the road heading towards Golden Gate National Park. Called The Golden Gate Hotel it consists of a large hotel but also has a large number of self catering chalets which can sleep 4.
I think you will agree that the view from the braai area which goes with each unit is pretty hard to beat.
Golden Gate is the only grassland National Park of the 21 parks controlled by SANParks. It has over 60 species of grasses. If you look closely at the photograph you will see black streaks running out of the rocks. This is in fact minerals that are carried by the water after rainfall and this causes staining.
There are numerous walking trails from the hotel and one leads right to the very top of the rock in the photo. Dining at the hotel if you don’t fancy cooking for yourself or braai is buffet style. I must say that I am normally not a fan of buffet style food but this is done in such away that I loved it and ate enough food to feed a medium sized Bucks Village.
The main tar road that runs through the park is in great condition and has lots of twisties so ideal for the bikes. In fact there is also a small bikers cafe just down the road as well as Clarens which is ideal for a short ride out.
Tanya…..put this one on the list as well!!
Next time….. Men of Harlech special from Rorkes Drift.
It’s not about having what you want…it’s about wanting what you have!