by Rohan Surridge

Mountain Biking - Blog Entry 10

Spine of the Dragon - Blog Entry 10

Spine of the Dragon - Blog Entry 10
Spine of the Dragon - Blog Entry 10
Day 27
Start: Semonkong
Finish: Bethel
Distance: 85.7km
Climb: 2077m
After our day of bike restoration, we had three bikes cobbled together! For example, broken frame with chain link as a hanger spacer, new derailleur not compatible with the lever (so only five gears available), etc. And only 1500km to go!
In the midst of the stress of the muddy day, our climbing total equivalent to our fourth summiting of Everest went completely unnoticed!
Waking to clear skies and blazing sun lifted our spirits and the team decided that we’d go big and try to catch up some of our lost time by riding past the planned stop of Ketane right through to Bethel (a small permaculture oasis on the Senqu). This was rather ambitious of us, especially because the first 40km or so is largely on rough trail with much climbing before an hour-long walk down into the lowlands and the Ketane River at Riverside.
The trail had dried out quite a bit, but we still avoided black mud. The trail was as impressive as I remembered, with challenging rocky, technical climbs and even more tricky descents, which kept us on our toes. At times we needed to remind ourselves that the goal was to reach the Cape in one piece, so we walked some of these obstacles at times.
This type of trail is most demanding and not for the unskilled or faint hearted, but the rewards are immense. The wilderness feeling we get from being in such a remote part of Southern Africa was reward enough, but there’s much more to these trails that will keep me coming back.
Once we met the ‘road’ at Riverside, we’d covered 40km at 6kmph (which shows you what rough trails are really all about), so the next 45km had to be done at quite a pace. After a coke and biscuit stop at a shabeen, we were off again. Just being able to ride consistently without stopping for obstacles had a big influence on our average speed, which soon increased. The rest of the ride we spent following the Ketane river, but this doesn’t mean it’s down. We rode through sandstone canyons, climbed up past slick rock heaven (who needs Moab when we have it all right here) and finally plummeted down to Bethel, which is nestled on the Senqu floodplain.
Bethel is a very special place created by Ivan who is an expert in renewable energy who is always tinkering with some or other idea, so the garden looks kind of ‘space age’ with solar panels, conical reflectors and the like, dotted all over the place. In addition, he runs a school that teaches locals permaculture and sustainable food growth. Ivan is proof of the impact one man can make on a community as his influence can be seen dotted around Lesotho.
86km in Lesotho is a big day, but all three of us were full of smiles as we rode into Bethel. Fun on our bikes again!

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