Road trip: Joburg to Maseru via rain, wind and potholes!
What better way to kick off the December holidays than on a cross-border trip on the 2019 Honda Africa Twin CRF1000L DTC
The day I had been waiting for with great expectation finally came. It was the start of the first-leg of our maiden, Pride of Africa/Ubuntu Adventure Ride 2019 and our destination was the mountainous Kingdom of Lesotho. Already trailing my friends by 24-hours, my plan to catch up with them required me to travel solo for a distance of just over 400km from my home. They would be expecting me on the Sotho side of the Maseru border gate before sundown. I chuckled for no logical reason whatsoever, saddled up, said a short prayer and ignited the engine.
Day 1: See you later Alligator!
I collected my sponsored motorcycle from Honda South Africa with mixed emotions. On one hand I was very excited to plant my butt on the renowned 2019 Honda adventure motorcycle, but on the other, I was apprehensive about the weather report, which indicated dark clouds and persistent rain.
Ignoring the disobliging forecast I settled into the saddle of my Africa Twin with an air of bravado. I hadn’t been on a road trip in quite a while and although this was going to be a long, interesting ride, it was one which I had always wanted to experience. By the way, did I mention that this was not only my first time on an adventure motorcycle, but, this was also my first time to Lesotho. Well, second time. My first time had been an in-and-out business trip by air which doesn’t really compare.
My travel route shadowed my friends’ motorbike tracks and on any other day I might have followed it to a T; but given that I was doing a lot of ‘first-time’ things, this was the perfect opportunity to deviate just a tad. Instead of pointing the Africa Twin’s LED headlamps in a South/Westerly direction towards Bloemfontein, my route followed the N3 South until just before the Villiers toll Plaza, took the R26 off-ramp in route to Bethlehem. The route proved to be quite a challenging stretch of road to travel due to very bad road conditions. The Africa Twin and I darted between medium sized potholes and craters posing as potholes, all the while battling crosswinds and a steady flow of water from the heavens above. If you think these are complaints, think again! I was still grinning like a cat that had slurped up some first-class cream and was especially pleased to see how well the AfricaTwin handled all these obstacles.
I stopped over in Bethlehem for some nourishment and refuelling, the Africa Twin has a 18.8 litre tank size, I managed a fuel consumption figure of around 5.9 litre per 100km, during my stop It was astounding for me to see how the onlookers I came across showed more interest in the bike I was riding over me, they were inquisitive to know how capable it was on the road as touring bike. I’m impressed with the awesome looks of the Africa Twin and one of the onlookers commended the Honda Racing Colours ‘HRC’ that it was dressed in. This bike’s road manners are exceptional, the DCT gearbox works seamlessly, and the power and torque delivery of the engine is superb across the rev range.
Leaving Bethlehem, I was relieved to note that cloud cover had partially vanished, I looked longingly at the spectacular but distant horizon and twisted the Africa Twin’s throttle a little bit more. All too soon, little towns such as Ficksburg and Ladybrand become dots in my side mirrors as I pressed on to join the N8 road towards the Maseru Boarder gate, to the warm welcome of my relieved friends.
Day 2: Adventuring to Maletsunyane Falls
After a hearty breakfast, with pillions up on two Africa Twins we left the farm in Maseru on a mission to find the nearest fuel station before joining the A5 road to Maletsunyane Falls.
Our route along the A5 road took us through a number of small villages and was quite a challenging one, I was pleased to see how well the suspension of my AfricaTwin handled the winding and rolling terrain of Lesotho, the ride was curves and hairpin bends and inclines and sheer drops like I have never seen or experienced before, in some curves I and my pillion had to lean so low and in countless times in quick succession as if we were riding a sport bike. the road was well maintained which was a blessing. There were Sotho people galloping alongside us on horseback and the scenery was amazingly beautiful. With a pillion up I noticed my bike was averaging a fuel consumption of about 6.2 litres per 100km.
We stopped over for a much-needed lunch break at Semonkong Lodge which is located at Semonkong Village. Semonkong meaning ‘a place of smoke’ in Sesotho language, lunch was simple amazing, and this was a perfect chance for us to unpack our ride he had just relished.
After having lunch off we went to Maletsunyane Falls via a twisty gravel road, my hill descent and ascent by bike when we got to the falls was scary and exciting at the sometime, switching off ABS would have helped me against rear wheel lock and sliding uncontrollable on loose material during my descent on a very steep gravel track. With ABS off and gravel mode on, to my relief my AfricaTwin made a meal of the ascent.
We then travelled back to Maseru via the same route we came in a more exhilarating manner, the bikes performed very well, and I enjoyed the dynamics of riding on those curves with a pillion.
Day 3: Heading back home
Departing from Maseru early on our last day of adventure, we casually rolled along the N8 and R26 routes towards Bethlehem. I came to a realisation that leaving Lesotho felt as if I was travelling out of a beautiful post card. My Honda Africa Twin had been simple amazing, it was pushing me through the wind rapidly like a hot knife slicing through butter, we stopped over at Bethlehem for a much-needed breakfast and fuelling.
The weather conditions in Lesotho had been completely different from what we had arrived to in Bethlehem. Where there had been sunshine and mild breezes, we were now tightly wound up in water resistant gear and riding under a never-ending rain cloud.
If we thought we had been riding in rain before we hadn’t experienced anything yet! For a moment I wondered if Biblical history was repeating itself and the world was being flooded again because the torrent of rain along the R57, between Heilbron and Sasolburg was like nothing I had ever seen in all my 40 years of life! Visibility was so low that even truck drivers had their emergency lights on and my fellow bikers and I tucked ourselves behind one keeping a safe following distance.
I doubt that even in all the tests Honda had run on the Africa Twin models they had cranked the weather simulators to this extent. Thankfully, the traction control and LED headlights saved the day as I negotiated my way through the downpour from above and oncoming darkness.
You might be wondering why we simply didn’t stop and take cover, but I have mentioned the route for the express understanding that there is no cover in that neck of the woods. No trees, bridges, little shops – nothing, zilch, zero. We simply had to band together, use the leading truck as a shield and brave it.
Emerging from the R57 and joining the R59 towards Vereeniging the angels felt sorry for us and the rain began to ease off a little. We pulled into our last stop at Engen Blockhouse One Stop North to refuel, replenish our tummies and laugh as each rider narrated the thoughts which had run through their minds during the nerve-wrecking ride through the rain.
To my immense relief, each rider reportedly arrived at their respective homes safely as the first-leg of our annual Pride of Africa/Ubuntu Adventure 2019 came to an end.
I can’t remember when last I had felt so alive! The ride had been exhilarating, challenging, scary, fun, frustrating but most importantly rewarding all at the same time. Everything I had been told and had read about the Honda AfricaTwin CRF1000L held up against every test it had been put through. There could have been no better conditions than a 1200km trip to prove that the Africa Twin CRF 1000L rightly deserves its premium position as being one of the best and reliable mid-sized adventure motorcycles, on the market – thanks to its features, simplicity in design and build.
For more about Lesotho, click here https://www.visitlesotho.travel
For more about Semonkong Lodge, click here https://www.semonkonglodge.com