miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013

Day 7 - Learning Lessons

I will keep this entry short because I am completely exhausted.

We are enjoying Lesotho so much that we have decided to take advantage of our three day visa and leave the main roads to visit the Highlands, i.e. the mountains. It's ironic to talk about "Highlands" when the lowest point in this country is 1600m high. No joke.

So we venture along the A3 which, acording to the GPS is a gravel road but in real life is a beautifully paved road that could have been put down yesterday. We ascend for about 80km without even one straight stretch, but also no signs of gravel, that is an invitation to enjoy each turn on the bike. The sights are amazing but you soon forget about it because the road is just so, so, so much fun, and it never ends, and you get lose yourself in this waltz with the bike: left and right and left and right...

Any bikers' dream. We see maybe one car pass every half an hour and there's always enough visibility to be warned and get ready so you're not taken by surprise. The plan is to get to Mokhlotong (yes, that's the actual name of the place), which is the only city in the Highlands, sleep over there and tomorrow maybe see if we can cross the border at the Suni border crossing. The road here is signaled as "4x4" only, although speaking to some locals they tell us with these bikes it is perfectly doable. After having listened to so much bullshit about Lesotho, you really don't know what to believe.

About 90km from Mkhlotong the road loses the asphalt and the gravel starts. Oh well, we can do this in a couple of hours, no doubt, which would make it 4:30pm at destination. Viable. But each kilometer we overcome the road gets worse and worse. From gravel to stones, rocks, wheel tracks and occasionally, mud. It's unbelievably hard to go on at this point. But theres nothing here, and it keeps on looking like it's going to get better.

Riding accross wheel tracks is an act of faith. You've got to blindly trust the bike, press the gas firmly but carefully and never, never hesitate. If you hesitate and you stop, you will fall. On a slope, I am following Mauro, he takes the wrong side of the road and half way through our way up he thinks it twice. He crosses a wheel track almost parallel to the slope and due to the time it took him to think that over, the distance between us is too small and I have no space left to be able to hit the gas. I gear down, run out of inertia and stop. My foot feels for the floor in vain and as if it were in slow motion the bike leans on the side down to the point of no return. I get tense, don't reach out with your arm, don't reach out with your arm...

I get to the ground. I'm covered in mud all the way to the helmet. Luckily there's no stones here, only mud, so I fall soft. Ella has leaned on her side but on a slope there is just no way I'm going to be able to get her standing by myself. The locals call out on Mauro and tell him what happened, who comes back thinking the worst. I can read his eyes saying "not again, not again". But no harm was made, except perhaps my pride. Such a stupid fall.

We move on and we come accross the highest point in our route, at 3200 meters, where we finally see some snow and we find dusk as well. We're still 24km from the place we know will give us shelter. We need to camp now there's still some light. Even though we are in the highest fucking point in the route. A lady walks by while we're setting camp and tells us to go one kilometer further down the road and ask for lodging. She's scared something might happen to us, this place is not safe.

So we pack our stuff back and go back to the "road" at night. First gear and really slow. And we keep on going just like that for another 15 kilometers until we get to the backpacker spot we'd heard about. Exhausted, but happy we made it. It's 7pm.

Lessons learnt: we need to pack canned food just in case (we hadn't eaten all day) and we're going to keep ourselves over asphalt as much as possible. Oh, and over off road dirt roads like this, our average is 20km/h.

My leg has a scratch and a big ass bruise, probably because the bike fell on top of it. In the morning it is just fine, but last night it was swollen like nothing I'd ever seen in a human being. The effort after the fall didn't help at all. It doesn't hurt and everything moves to the right places, so it's just the fall. But then again, lesson learnt.

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