The berg wind howls. The mountain bike team gives a thumbs-up as blown by the wind they peddle off from the Lesotho border post. First in line is Shaun Forster, ex Sprinkbok downhill champion and the force behind Shaun’s Power Cycles in Durban. His old record is Sani Top to the bottom of the pass in a death defying, stone dodging, 9 minutes. Today the wind is too strong – it threatens to throw them from their bikes. A long line of Boundless Southern Africa Expedition Landies follows them in a symbolic top to bottom and back again journey to promote Transfrontier Conservation.
“Kingsley for Bertus, there’s been an accident,” comes the call over the radio, “the wind has pushed cyclist Leith off his line and a rock has smashed his left ankle.” Bertus is the Tuffstuff sponsored expedition medic. We find Leith Stewart lying on his back at the side of the track. Bertus stabilizes the “patient” and in a mercy dash big Neels Meyer rushes Leith to Pietermaritzburg for medical attention. Sadly Leith’s journey to complete the Lesotho leg of the 120 day Boundless Southern Africa Expedition is over. We’ll keep you posted.
Mike Nixon, he’s the bloke who’s done the world’s seven summits and is now leading the Boundless cyclist team across Lesotho. His Zulu name is quite apt – uMashovashova, ‘the one who pushes and pedals’. He’s been on the satellite phone to Cape Town getting news as to how Leith is getting on after his Sani Pass accident. “It’s worse than we thought – a serious operation with plate and pins and no cycling for three months – but he’s in good spirits, and all he wishes is to be back on expedition,” says uMashovashova. Our destination for the day is Litseng Diamond Mine and the new home of one of the highest clarity diamonds found in Africa.
Des Mostert who’s in charge of community projects for the mine As the Landies crawl through sleet and snow and over the Maluti’s highest mountain pass, Matabeng, it’s a far cry from the usual tropical jungles and North African deserts of our previous expedition to track the outside edge of Africa. An incredible 4×4 route highlighted by the brightest rainbow we’ve ever seen in our lives, takes us down into the valley.
In the freezing cold we are warmly received with traditional song and dance at the Maloraneng Chalets which is the start or end point for one of Lesotho’s most exciting adventure 4×4 routes. The adventure fraternity is concerned about the rumor of the tarring of historic Sani Pass, sure it will end a piece of historic motoring history but fortunately Lesotho is crisscrossed by other wonderful 4×4 trails.
They’ve slaughtered a beast and the pots are bubbling on the cooking fires. The Greybeard humbly requests that they name the next big sparkle the Boundless Spirit. Tall bearded Dr Gideon Groenewald, the Peace Parks facilitator for the Maluti Drakensberg, is a real child of Africa, determined in every way to retain the Transfrontier vision initiated by great men like Dr Anton Rupert, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands and Nelson Mandela. Gideon pauses from strumming his guitar to brief us on the next morning’s activity – it’s by military helicopter to the centre of Lesotho to a community day at Katse Dam. That night the temperature drops to -13. We’ll keep you posted.
“Nobody is flying today,” comes message from the military base in Maseru, they can’t even start the engine, it’s so cold. Huddled around the Landies – gloves, beanies, scarves and thermal undies, the team discusses logistics.
There’s an entire community waiting for us on the Katse Dam and we can’t let them down. We make the call – it’s a twelve-hour turn-a-round dash in the two faster Land Rover Discoveries. We’ll meet the rest of the team back at the historic Liphofung Caves. Twists and turns, iced roads and frozen stalactited waterfalls bring us to the almost 60km long Kaste Dam.
Colourful horsemen and cow whisperers with their cattle draped in bells and plastic bags lead us in to one of the most exciting community days yet – traditional dance, speeches of thanks, Mashozi distributes spectacles to the poor sighted in a campaign called Rite to Sight supported by Grindrod. First in line is 84-year-old Edward Qhali who with a ramrod stiff military bearing tells us that he’s a WWII veteran of Tobruk and El Alamein. Mike Nixon presents two bicycles to the community to patrol up and down the pass to clear fallen rocks, there’s Grindrod lapdesks for the school kids and boxes full of learning materials donated to the expedition by Shelter Box.
In return we are presented with traditional conical Basotho hats and heaped plates of wild spinach, fatty stew and pap. We turn the Landies around and at base camp, with spotlights blaring, we catch wide eyed expedition members Babu and Rob red handed decanting a dram from the tap of the no longer secret Captain Morgan tank hidden between the chassis members of one of the expedition Landies. Can’t blame them, we all need a bit of cheer against the freezing cold. We’ll keep you posted.