Lesotho Sky MTB Challenge Recce

Day 4 – So, you’ve just had one of your best days in Africa. EVER. And you’re sitting in the 4×4 with that nice couple Christian Schmidt and Darol Howes, wondering what they can do to top Malealea and Ramabanta, and then Semongkong sort of surreptitiously happen around you.

It starts off with with golden-bleached highlands seductively nudging up against the pale blue sky; with Wild West shepherds cantering by on horseback, smoking ginormous spliffs; with sparkling rivers running through it all; and with kick-ass peaks lording over everything in their substantial shadows.

Lesotho Sky 2013 - Jacques Marais 08This is the Tongariro Circuit of New Zealand, right here in Africa, and without those annoying Kiwis. Bald ibis contrail high above, the mountain biking is so edgy my butt clenched shut for large sections along the cliffs, the trail running is of mythical proportions, and there is a waterfall that plunges an incredible 204m into a pool where I am sure the seven-headed Nkanyamba serpernt lurks. Whichever way, you will feel the adrenaline uncoiling within the pit of your stomach as you rapell this Guinness Book of World Records abseil.

Lesotho Sky 2013 - Jacques Marais 10This is Lesotho’s ‘Place of Smoke’ – named for the eerily beautiful cascade, of course – where the local Shoprite does not have a parking lot, but rather a series of wooden posts to which you can tie your horse while you go shopping for roll-ups and chewing tobacco. Every Friday, the makeshift town bustles with all types of horse traders, Mountain Men, matekwane merchants and rabble rousers and, if they wore stetsons instead of balaclavas, you’d feel time-lined back into a Butch Cassidy flick.

None of this is legend, or myth, or some kind of marketing bullshit. It just so happens that Semonkong is one of the coolest spots I have ever been to in Africa. Now imagine all of this raggamuffin cultness and juxtapose it with Semonkong’s cuisine (think springbok carpaccio and porkbelly with cracked pepper and Thai chili, no less) that would make any Cape Town yuppie sit up and drool, plus world-class hospitality, and you have a destination that should top every Bucket List ever imagined. Nuff said.

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