Cross Lesotho starting in the north crossing the highest peaks of the Drakensberg around Katse Dam and crossing to South Africa on horseback at Shehlabathebe Nature Reserve on the southern border at the lower Drakensberg.
This is possibly one of the toughest rides in the world. In between steep rocky passes covering over 8000m of ascent and descent in 350km the ride moves on at a fast, almost endurance pace along tracks and dirt roads. Crossing the small landlocked country of Lesotho on is a real feat and you will be astounded by the fitness and abilities of your boerperd horses.
Completely surrounded by South Africa, the landlocked Kingdom of Lesotho, although formerly a British Protectorate, has never been colonized. It has a strong horsesculture and is home to the tough Basotho pony. Horses are still the main form of transport and herdsmen can be seen crossing high passes on the hardy horses, panoramic views and scenery are the norm.
En-route accommodation is the best available staying in lodges, cottages and rondavels at strategic points along the way. Taking each day as it comes and making the most of the terrain when there is the opportunity for faster riding, this is an incredible chance for the intrepid rider to challenge themselves and truly discover what a partnership between horse and man can achieve.
The programme starts with a test ride in a private game reserve in South Africa, travelling southwards past the Katse Dam, Thaba-Tseka and Sehlabatebe, once again in South Africa at Bushman’s Nek at the foot of the Drakensburg mountains. The horses will then be trucked 8hrs back to the start.
Transfers are from Johannesburg to the start and the finish to Durban from where a flight can return you to Johannesburg.
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Arrival at game reserve on the border between South Africa and Lesotho.
All riders will meet the horses and will have a quick 1hour ride to make sure that horses match and suit every rider’s requirements. Horses will be loaded and will be travelling to Maliba Lodge in the Tsehlanyane Nation Park Lesotho. It is 100km into Lesotho from the border post but with crossing through the border post it will take us 2,5-3 hours. We will be crossing at Fouriesburg Calendonspoort border post. Once at Maliba lodge everybody will be settling in and get ready for the mountains the following day.
We will be riding approximately 30km on this first day in Lesotho, crossing some mountains and descending to get to the top of Katse Dam. This day will be reasonably slow, very technical route following the mountain paths. We expect that it will take approximately 8 hours to get down via some of the first passes used by vehicles to travel to the Koa mine to get to Ha Lejone. We will overnight at Motebong Village Lodge. This is the old Engineers village that have good houses where we would each have our own room.
The first section takes as us over a long bridge crossing over a dam. From here we will be passing some villages and schools back to the main road where we will meet the backup vehicles to give horses grass and refuel ourselves. Here we will have great views of the trout farms in the Katse dam. This is a long day of riding on the more flat areas in Lesotho. Take into account that this is Mountain Kingdom so we won’t be on many flat areas at all. We will be riding 32km of dirt roads all around Katse Dam. This will allow us to travel faster and should provide for some long steady canters. We will cover approximately 50km of this beautiful area before arriving at Katse Lodge via the Dam wall. The Katse dam wall is an impressive 185m high. We will be staying over here at the lodge and each person will have their own room again.
Ride from Katse lodge to Thaba-Tseka Town. This is approximately 38km of riding.
We will be riding through very remote areas and also see farming activities as we go along. Motebong means farming on mountain area which is what we will see en route.
Lots of sheep farming in this area. We will also be crossing a beautiful black gorge. We might also see Vaal Rib buck. Last section is on dirt road into the town. Steep downhill to be expected and then passing Mohale oa Masite hotel in the town of Thaba-Tseka.
Ride to Mashai lodge, will be plus minus 25km of riding.
The highlight of the day is to cross the Senqu River which is the Orange River.
Beautiful views to be encountered.
Ride to the Matebeng Village alongside the Senqu River. Start seeing sandstone formations and scenic views. Sleep at Guesthouse at Matebeng village.
Ride across the Matebeng pass to get us to Sehtlabatebe Nature Reserve. We ride alongside some Bushmen paintings and remote villages. Some vultures also seen in this area.
Ride to Bushman’s Nek (South Africa)
Ride through Park down to Bushmen’s Nek. Border Post.
Stunning Escarpment views to be seen here.
Stay at Bushmen’s Nek Hotel. Down the Tomato Pass. Might see some game like Eland and Mountain Reedbuck.
Guests depart from Bushmans Nek Hotel after breakfast.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
There is large selection of Arab, Boerperd and X horses to choose from. All the horses are very responsive and come back to hand easily. The riding is across varied terrain, riders need to be prepared for riding at all paces depending on what the route presents. There will be steep rocky slopes and drop offs on the trail, as well as long stretches of trot and canter where the terrain opens up, riders may need to dismount and lead the horses at times. Long days with one day of up to 8 hours and one day of 50km mean riding fitness is essential.
Trail saddles and snaffle bits are the usual tack, all well maintained. A number of spare horses are brought. There are no saddle bags on the horses and it is advisable to bring some small ones to hold water bottles and lunch for the day as the vehicle can only get to the horses on some days for lunch.
This is a tough trail ride for experienced riders with a good sense of adventure and riding fit. Riders should be confident in all paces, be able to mount and dismount unaided and assist with grooming and tacking up. Riders should be prepared for anything; changes might be made to the itinerary, route, horses or accommodation as needed in high mountain climates and riders should go with an open mind. This ride goes into the highest of the Drakensberg peaks and across passes and at times there can be steep drop-offs along the trail so it is not suitable for anyone with a fear of heights.
The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in a selection of lodges, hotels, shared cottages and rondavels along the route. Most nights will be in double/twin rooms with private bathroom. Some accommodation may sleep up to 4 people in a room or have shared bathroom facilities. The first and last nights are spent at well appointed comfortable lodges in South Africa.
Breakfast will usually be self-catered. Other meals will be planned to fit in with the days route and facilities available at each accommodation. We can highly recommend the fresh trout at the Katse Dam hotels!
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
British nationals can obtain entry visas on arrival. Overstaying without proper authority is a serious matter. You may be held in detention. If you intend to visit South Africa before or after travelling to Lesotho your passport should have at least 2 additional blank pages when you present it at immigration to enter or leave South Africa.
Please contact the Lesotho Consulate or Embassy in your home country to check if you need a visa and how to apply. As a guide the High Commission in London lists countries here http://www.lesotholondon.org.uk/counsular-services
The High Commission in London is at 7 Chesham Place, Belgravia, London SW1X 8HN
Open Monday to Friday: 09h00 to 12h30 and 14h00 to 15h30 for VISA and passport enquiries and general applications.
Telephone: 0207 235 5686
Fax: 0207 235 5023
The Lesotho Embassy in the U.S.A. is at 2511 Massachusetts, N.W. Washington, DC. 20008
The Lesotho High Commission in Canada is at 130 Albert St, Ottawa, ON K1P 5G4, Canada
Phone: +1 613-234-0770
The Honorary Consult of Lesotho is Pontus Mattsson.
Address: Ankarvägen 6, 181 43 Lidingö, Sweden
Te: +46 8 765 32 35
Cell: +46 705 200 191
There’s no British diplomatic representation in Lesotho. If you’re in need of emergency consular assistance, you can contact the British High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa on +2712 421 7500.
Lesotho gets more than 300 days of sunshine a year, but it still has well-defined seasons. Summer is from November to January and is usually very hot. Autumn (February to April) is pleasantly warm and the best time for outdoor pursuits. Winter often brings snow to the mountains from May to July. In spring the trees burst into blossom as the temperature increases. Please note temperatures in the high mountains are often a lot colder than the Maseru climate chart below indicates.
In the high mountain passes the temperature is considerably colder than the Maseru lowlands and the weather can change quickly with the possibility of some snow even in spring and autumn.
Lesotho is severely afflicted by HIV/AIDS. According to 2009 estimates, the prevalence is about 23.6%, one of the highest in the world. In urban areas, about 50% of women under 40 have HIV. The UNDP stated that in 2006 life expectancy in Lesotho was estimated at 42 years for men and women.
The country regards HIV as one of its most important development issues, and the government is addressing the pandemic through its HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan. Coverage of some key HIV/AIDS interventions has improved, including prevention of mother to child transmission and antiretroviral therapy. The roll-out of antiretroviral therapy has made good progress, with 38,586 people receiving treatment by 2008.
Avoid contact with bodily fluids and keep any cuts or wounds properly clean and covered. Consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
In Lesotho the standard voltage is 220 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. In Lesotho the power sockets are of type M.
There may not be electricity available on some or all nights so bring spare batteries or charge packs. Mobile signal and WiFi is likely to be limited on the trail.
It is recommended to ride with a small saddlebag or backpack for your food, water and anything else you may need during the day. If riding with a backpackplease ensure that it sits firmly and won’t move around too much while you are riding. It is best to have a backpack with a good waist and chest strap to hold it steady.
Please bring a decent jacket that you can ride in. The temperature can drop dramatically once we are up in the mountains, so you will need plenty of layers.
A shade hat with strap.The sun is very intense at high altitude so gloves, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat with brim are essential.
Light-weight riding shoes with a grip suitable for walking in as well
Sunglasses on string, riding gloves and bandana.
* 2 pairs of cotton riding trousers.
* 2 long sleeved shirts.
* 1 jersey, fleece or multi- pocketed waistcoat.
* 1 light weight waterproof windbreaker jacket.
Shorts, T shirts, sarong, bathing costume and sandals.
Comfortable shoes for the evening
Sun block, lip salve, insect repellant
Torch (headlamp useful) and binoculars.
Sleeping bag (for 2 nights - can be borrowed)
Small towel and soap.
Snacks for during the day
Film and a camera on a strong shoulder strap, preferably in a waterproof pouch to be secured to your belt. Otherwise a strong zip lock plastic bag.
A powerbank or solar charger is useful for the last 3 days in Lesotho. There is mobile coverage with data in all overnight places and much of the ride, local SIMS are cheap to buy and readily available.
Gifts suitable for local children include pencils/crayons/colouring book/football and pump.
This is an 11 day/10 nights exploratory programme with 8 days riding.
2019: May TBC; 2-11 September
Single supplement is R400 per person per night payable on site and subject to availability.
Mountain biking, trekking, sailing, fishing, climbing/abseiling, skiing, water sports.
Mountain reedbuck, Vaal rhebok, eland, baboon, jackals, meerkat, mongooses and vultures on the high cliffs.
Lesotho has some of the most pristine cave dwellings and dinosaur remains in the world, including fossilised dinosaur footprints.