As bikers, we all long for those endless twisties and breathtaking vistas that make this such a worthwhile activity. And if you want to experience both along one of the most awesome roads in Africa, then the Katse Dam ride in Lesotho is just for you.
Riding Katse is an experience you will remember for a long time. The views are amazing - and those corners! Over 100 of them in just under a 100 kilometers, creating the impression that you are leaning more than riding upright from the start of the pass. Enjoy the ride - don't rush it, and revel in the dance as your bike flicks from one corner to the next.
Recently however, there has been a resurgence in isolated cases of stone throwing by children along the road and much has been said about the dangers that this and other less 'playful' practices pose to motorcyclists. But, of the hundreds of people that you will come across on the sides of the roads, only a handful show any aggression to bikers and only one or two may actually do something downright dangerous like throw objects. You may experience mock 'charges' in many cases - and even the odd stone being thrown, but you need to put this into perspective when riding Katse. And perhaps, consider thee following.....
When riding Lesotho, remain courteous and friendly. Always ride slowly through the settlements that dot the road and take care to avoid the animals that roam freely along the tarmac. You really don't want to knock one of them down because these animals often represent the only wealth of these mountain communities, and their response could be considered disproportionate by your standards.
Avoid trying to intimidate the locals by riding at them or using strong language or rude hand signals because theirs is a very hard life and every boy and man carries his fighting sticks - and they are not afraid to use them.
Children will often run towards you with their hands cupped for sweets - or rubbing their fingers in the universal code for money. Don't respond with aggression but rather smile and wave at them as you pass. Remember that if you respond with aggression, it is the bikes that follow that catch the anger of the community and this is the basis of future aggression towards travelers.
Greet the older men with a respectful wave and they will look after the youngsters that tend to cause the problems.
Remain aware of what is happening around you - particularly in the settlements. Watch for people walking in the road and avoid panicking the livestock and community by revving or hooting unnecessarily.
If you are a lone rider or perhaps two or three bikes, you tend to pass through villages relatively unnoticed, but consider that in larger groups - particularly where the distance between bikes lags, those at the back of the pack are the most likely to attract the attention of mischievous children. Close the distances between bikes as you enter villages to ensure that everyone is riding together as this forms a more intimidating 'target', and those that might be inclined to take a chance will reconsider. And if you have ladies in the pack, have them ride close to the front as an added precaution.
It is usually the smaller children that throw stones and get up to other mischief, so don't be surprised when you see a four year old bend to pick up a stone with your name on it. Rural kids have been throwing stones since they were old enough to hold one, so they are usually extremely accurate. When you see this happening, look directly at them and point or even hoot because this often takes the fun out of their 'game'. And after all, that's what this is to them - a game!