We started out through the back roads of Roma and very quickly found ourselves facing a new addition to this year’s route: a 150 metre cliff face up which we had to carry our bikes. This obliterated the shreds of my remaining strength and enthusiasm as we scrabbled, slipped and heaved our bikes upwards.
At last we were back on rolling farm roads, making our way towards the next big challenge of the day: Bushman’s Pass. This is a sweeping tar climb of 460 metres over 6.3 kilometres, with incredible views of the valley spread out below. Even through a haze of discomfort it was a privilege to be able to experience this climb on a bicycle.
A quick stop at the water point at the top of the pass and we were flying down the other side and onto some more farm roads with exquisite views of the Makhaleng River valley, complete with blossoming peach trees alongside the river. A stiff headwind kept us working hard through the few flat kilometres.
Too soon it was on to the next big challenge for the day: the Three Witches pass, which features 356 metres of climbing over 4 burning kilometres. There is something about the way in which this pass winds upwards that makes it feel like it will never end. Fortunately after a big effort it did, and we rolled down to the next water point to refuel.
Things got fun after this and we wound our way through kilometre after kilometre of magical, swooping Lesotho donkey trails, filled with rocky surprises and hidden dongas. Thanks to our enthusiasm for bombing these descents we were able to slowly reel in the group in front of us.
A last blistering effort up the Nkesi Pass and we were zooming gratefully towards the Ramabanta Trading Post for a much needed recovery nap.