Originally I thought this story had two parts, but as it turns out there is a trilogy within these photos…
Day one was not only an indulgence of breathtaking scenery and a window into a vastly different culture, but it also proved to be a test of our endurance and emotions as we rode some fantastically challenging dirt tracks and were temporary held hostage by two wonderful and remote Basotho villages.
We picked a very thin green line on the map that translated to dirt road on the legend. In hindsight, I am surprised it is considered a road at all. No doubt only versed 4×4 enthusiasts could forge many of the steep, narrow and rough areas that included river crossings, water holes and boulder fields. However, this thin line not only turned out to be some of the best riding I have ever found, it also became a magical portal that led us through beautiful places seemingly untouched by outsiders and priceless experiences that seemed to unfold time and time again.
Here is a photo essay of what happened on our first day out of Thaba Tseka. Check back in a couple of days to see how the dirt road journey continued to evolve and photos from the epic descent of Sani Pass…
Once we turned onto the dirt road and began our passage through the mountains, the first thing we happened upon I cannot even describe. An odd ceremony I would guess, but without a common language, we never deciphered exactly what was happening with this group of women roaming the hills. They did happily let me photo them, and then quickly asked for some sweets.
A high mountain still retaining some clouds from the storm the night before.
The last [obvious] store we saw for some time.
Our first turn off of a larger dirt road took us on a massive descent into a large river valley…
… and our first set of tight switchbacks.
Climbing from a steep valley.
We arrived at a village right before a big rainstorm and were invited into a small home, along with about 12 children and several adults; conversation was interesting with our two words of Sesotho and their handful of English words.
This gentleman reminded me very much of my friend/brother Leaf with his wit and antics.
The rain cleared and we continued our journey on some rough and sometimes technical terrain.
Several of the village children decided to follow us and I was extremely entertained and sometimes laughing hysterically as Gin shouted concerned phrases such as ‘shouldn’t you kids run home…’ and ‘help’, as they chased her for a couple of kilometers.
The route had plenty of fast and flowing downhills…
… and several river crossings.
And surprisingly, as we were sitting on the bank of a river filtering water, the area chief came by and offered a horse to carry Gin up a massive climb that was ahead… the royal treatment I guess.
A big climb it was.
The chunky rock road dropped off, but was a beautiful climb.
The gentleman employed by the chief to help push her bike worked up a good sweat.
This guy seemed to follow me on the way up… like I was a long lost family member.
A village started to come into sight.
And people started pouring out to help with her bike… and here a couple attempted to ride it. We were crippled with laughter and disbelief at the situation as excitement and yells echoed through the mountains.
We were then taken to the yard of the village (Ha Pone) chief.
Quite an audience as we set up our tent; this is actually about half of the original cast.
The most vivid double rainbow formed in the glade adjacent to the village as the sun was setting… and so the magic continued…
For more information on this route, including GPS and logistics, click here. Also, check out our growing list of bikepacking and dirt road touring routes.