Oh, Lesotho, Lesotho

16 September 2010

Apart form the puncture on day 19, I've been lucky with mechanical problems. My rear tire had started to show some signs of wear already on the day 4, when I hit the dirt road of Namib-Naukluft, but it gave me no worries there after and I forgot about it. But, on Lesotho's dirt and steep roads, it started to disintegrate.

New road before Thaba Tseka
The problem became apparent as I was climbing the Mokhoabong pass. There were some upgrading road works, which rendered the road particularly miserable. The people working there seemed surprised to see me riding a bike and they frequently asked me why I don't take a taxi. As the road continued up and up with a new section of mountain ridge showing after every bend, I started to ask myself the same question. When a truck stopped and the driver said he could give me the lift to Thaba Tseka, I had to summon the last bits of my will to say no. I actually said "no" mechanically, if he'd persisted or said something like "Are you sure?", I would probably take the best offer of the lifetime.
10 kilometers further there was the end of road works and the start of asphalt. I was relieved - and proud. Then, when I checked the pressure of the rear tire, I saw that the thread had cracked, showing the tire casing underneath.  It was essentially the same thing that happened in Asia, just that now the cracks were all around the tire perimeter. As a temporary measure, I patched the cracks with duck tape.
A rare river valley
That night in a guesthouse in Thaba Tseka I couldn't get much sleep. The continuation of the trip looked questionable. I didn't expect the tire to last on gravel road more then 50, maybe 100 km. There was no way I could find such a tire (or any kind of tire) in Lesotho and I was at least 300 km from the nearest bigger town in South Africa. Taking a lift would ruin the elegance and purity of the tour, which was now taking shape of an epic continent crossing. Finally, I decided that night that I would walk the last part if I had to. I was ahead of the plan for 7 days, so it did not look so unreasonable. Especially not during the night. Ideas have more grandeur when they are thought during the night. In the morning light they look much thinner and paler.
Duck tape makes miracles
I must admit I had some luck too: the next morning I narrowly missed the only daily bus toward Linakaneng and the taxis going there were not scheduled until afternoon. So I was practically forced to continue on a bike. Asphalt finished 100 m after the town, but the dirt road didn't seem that bad, and I continued riding, veeeery veeery carefully, standing on pedals most of the time and walking the bike when there were any signs of bigger stones on the road. Every 5 km I would stop, check the tire and re-patch the cracks if necessary. The 5 km intervals were excellent choice. The intervals were short enough so that I could assess the progress of the damage to the tire, but also long enough that my progress on the road seemed fast. Very soon I had 15 km, then 20, then 30, 40 km behind me. At the end of the day I made 54 km, and I didn't even walk all that much. My confidence was growing and the tour seemed to have been saved.
The village performers . See the Video

At 3000 m
I needed two more days to the Sani pass. The slow pace and 5 km intervals of re-patching were making miracles. Only possible problem now might be that I could run out of duck tape. The second day I made it through the 3040 m pass just at the time when a storm started to form. I found refuge in a St. Joseph's "guesthouse for self-catering guests". I didn't ask what that meant, but I self-catered myself with the guesthouse's coffee. I think I deserved it, however, since I helped the owner with solving the exercises for his math exam. If I ever decide to immigrate from Slovenia, now I know what I'll do: I'll open the math repetition class at Rafolatsana village in Lesotho.

Basotho dwelling
Down to the river

Another shepherd

Road toward Sani pass - a piece of cake, if you have enough duck tape

To the 3240 m - pass
The final day to Sani pass was a piece of cake. There was the highest pass to conquer (3240m), but the road was excellent, despite what they told me in Thaba Tseka. You should never believe what non-cyclists tell you about the road conditions. When they say the road is flat, it will be hilly, and if they say the road is awful, it will be smooth. At the Sani pass I hired a cottage with a fireplace that gave me lot of headaches. Everybody who comes to Sani pass stays there and spends the evening in the "Highest pub in Africa".
Morning at Sani pass

Sani pass

Day 23: 54 km. Day 24: 43 km. Day 25: 46 km. Total: 3045 km.


  1. Igor - wow that tire was really looking bad. Amazing how you managed to nurse it along.

  2. Part of the secret was in light weight. There's no way such a tire could last with the "usual" touring load.