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HomeZA BikersBiking FeaturesTo The Mountain Kingdom On My CB500X

To The Mountain Kingdom On My CB500X

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Lesotho. The mountain kingdom. This landlocked country is a mere 300 km away from where I live, but worlds apart from our South African culture. In Lesotho, they still have donkeys carrying their goods around. Here, horses are still a means of transportation and not just a leisure activity, reserved for Sunday afternoons. Shepherds wear gumboots, a blanket and a stick and sometimes not much else. They have foreign-looking cars and I am sure there are more Honda Jazz’s in one block of Maseru than we have in South Africa in total. That is just scratching the surface of the colourful culture of this beautiful country.

Another thing that struck me was that travellers who do make the effort to visit Lesotho on motorcycles always tend to visit the man-made stuff: Katse Dam, Afriski and Sani Pass. Yet the true beauty and the splendour of Lesotho is not far from these spots, and absolutely worth the visit. That is if you are willing to suffer through the mess that is Maseru. And this was exactly what I had planned.

Image source: ZCMC Media

My journey would start from Pretoria and my first port of call was to sort out the luggage on my Honda CB500X. I normally carry my camera and drone in my backpack, but on longer journeys, this does put a lot of strain on my shoulders. I opted for my SW-Motech Rear Bag to carry all the electronics, and for my undies and socks, I got my hands on the Turkana MadMules 15L bags. These were kindly lent to me by Michnus and Elsebie Olivier, the two South African overlanders behind these rugged bags. They are really well made and they are fully water- and dustproof. They can also be angled forward to clear the Honda’s exhaust. With everything packed and buttoned down, I set off on the N3 towards Harrismith. My plan was to sleep over in Fouriesburg and head into Lesotho the next morning. As I had a lot of time on my hands, I took a leisurely meander through the Golden Gate National Park.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Just before Clarens, I turned left onto the R711 towards Fouriesburg. This road is still in very good condition and remarkably free of potholes. I had dinner at Die Plaasstoep restaurant and the food was top-notch. The next morning, I adjusted the MadMules slightly, as my initial fastening points made the right-side bag sag perilously close to the exhaust. That is the beauty of these bags. They are rackless, so you don’t need scaffolding on your bike. They are also infinitely adjustable for width and angle, so they should fit on any bike.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

From Fouriesburg it is a very short trip to Caledonspoort border post. With my passport stamped, I set my course for Butha Buthe. Here you turn left to go in the direction of Afriski, but I turned right, towards Maseru. This is not a pleasant road to ride, so I suggest that if you ever want to visit the south of Lesotho to rather enter at Maseru Bridge. There was a lot of construction going on, and riding through the small villages made for slow going. When I finally got to Maseru, I turned left onto the A2 and by now I was tensed up. You have to be on full alert for the traffic and the abundance of pedestrians. Our taxi drivers have nothing on the ones that roam Maseru in the Jazz’s. Or, as the locals call them, the four-plus-one’s.

About 30 km from Maseru, I rode into the enclave of Roma, and suddenly the roads were a lot less crowded. It was as if all of Lesotho only travelled as far as Roma. I spotted a beautiful sandstone church on a hillside, and seeing that I had time to spare, I made my way up to it. The church in question turned out to be the Saint Michaels church with the Saint Michaels primary school nearby. The Honda drew a lot of attention, and the kids addressed me in English. I got the feeling that Lesotho places a high premium on proper education.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

I carried on further on the A5, past the National University of Lesotho and realised that the Catholic church must have done a lot of work in this area. After the Saint Michaels church, I saw the Saint Joseph’s Hospital and Saint Mary’s High School. I continued onward to my overnight stay, and after checking in, I remounted and headed further towards Ramabanta and Semonkong as I wanted to see the famous Maletsunyane Falls.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

The road from Ramabanta to Semonkong is absolutely spectacular. It has lots of curves and a few steep passes. It requires your full attention at all times. On one of the switchbacks, a mangled truck was plastered onto a rock face. A stark reminder that this road will bite back if your concentration lapses or something should fail on your transportation. You also share the road with animals, trucks and the occasional rock, so you cannot go gung-ho into a blind corner. But, despite the risks, this is probably one of the most rewarding roads I have ridden in a long time. There are times when you feel utterly alone, with just the wind for company and long sweeping curves stretching all the way to the horizon. I am glad I did this stretch on a motorcycle. Somehow a motorcycle is more than just transportation. It connects you to life itself.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

One thing that I noticed on these rural roads were houses that had long flagpoles up with different colour flags. And by flags I mean a coloured piece of cloth. I phoned my friend Tumelo Maketekete about this as I remembered him explaining it when we rode here with KTM in 2019. Because the houses are so far apart, and they have no means of communicating easily, they use different colour flags to advertise their wares. A red flag, for instance, means that that household has meat available. Seeing that they don’t have fridges, the neighbouring communities will then know that they can buy meat there. A white flag means there is some traditional home-brewed beer available. If the flag is yellow, there is also beer available, but this one ferments overnight and has a serious kick to it. It is, according to Tumelo, the fastest way to get drunk!

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Just before Semonkong, I saw the signpost for the falls and pointed the Honda down a terrible dirt road. It had big ruts and was in a really bad state. It carried on for about six kilometres before I arrived at a brand new conference centre with a good view of the falls. Unfortunately, the entry fee is a little steep. I had to part with R130 just to see the falls. But after the terrible road, I thought, what the hell, I am not turning around now. I had a late lunch there (also very expensive) and then my phone rang with some bad news on the home front. My mind raced as I was so far from home, that pushing home now would probably not be a good idea. I took a few photos of the falls, and the long shadows spurred me on to get back to my overnight spot before sunset.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

While I was riding the road back from Semonkong, I pushed a little more, and here I have to give the CB500X credit. This is such a sweet handling bike, and at every turn, every corner, I felt safe. When I reached my overnight stop, I decided to call it a day, and rather head back the next day.

Sleep eluded me as I was digesting the news I received. I did fall asleep eventually and by daybreak, I was packing the Honda for my return journey. I planned to go straight to Maseru, out over Maseru bridge and onto the N1 as quickly as possible. I wanted to linger more, stop more, and explore more, but that will have to wait until I do this trip again. I had breakfast in Ladybrand and then headed to Clocolan. There I turned towards Marquard and this road has gone to pot. This is nothing more than a pothole with some tar patches, For 30 kilometres I was dodging potholes and oncoming traffic weaving into my lane. When I finally reached Marquard, I stumbled upon the most amazing coffee shop with its own roastery. I immediately plonked myself down and ordered a brew. A few more minutes won’t make a difference anyway.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne

Next to me was an elderly gentleman who had to tell me about the BSA that he rode at university. This is the thing about motorcycles – people want to share their own motorcycle stories with you. After a delightful cup of coffee and a long chinwag, I set off home. The Honda performed flawlessly, devouring the kilometres while sipping fuel at a rate of 27.3 km/L. To me, the CB500X is more than enough bike for most adventures.

Even though I had to cut my trip short, Lesotho is begging me to come back and explore more. With my slightly better knowledge of the routes, I will plan better next time. My Honda will be ready, and so will I.

Photo credit: Brian Cheyne
Brian Cheyne
Brian Cheyne
I have always been fascinated by four things: coffee, photography, motorcycles and writing. However, my mother encouraged me to get a real job instead. I studied programming, so I could turn coffee into code. Much later in life, I gave myself the title of freelance motorcycle journalist. That way I could tell my stories through the lens and pen. As a bonus, I get to ride bikes every day!
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