Sometimes in life we make poor choice, sometimes we make these unwittingly. Leaving for a Lesotho skate trip on the eve of Easter Weekend was one of these. What is normally a 13 hour drive turned into a 24 hour slog to Ramabanta, our first skate destination within Lesotho. Within an hour of leaving Cape Town we were adrift in a sea of Taxis stuck in a major traffic jam with everyone and sundry heading home to their families in the Eastern Cape. It was wild…Stuck at a standstill with Taxis to the left and right of us one builds a strange camaraderie with the people in the cars next to you. They are going nowhere slowly, just like you. It’s comforting. Nick got out of the car and starting dancing in the road, we started having conversations with the cars next to us…people were getting pissed of their rocker in the back of the taxis…there was a certain lawlessness to the whole situation. On the whole it was a very worthwhile experience, despite the grueling drive.
After hours and hours of driving, once we passed the border, things felt different. It felt like time travel. We we’re heading back into a bygone era where donkeys and horses are still a legitimate form of transport. Lesotho feels like the wild west of Africa. There are cowboys on horseback roaming around everywhere; sheep and cattle roam the streets and are a real danger when skating. The country is not geared towards you, the tourist; it is refreshing. There are no tourist stalls or attraction sites; the experience is real and unfiltered. People go about their lives with a certain simplicity, they still live off and by the land. And they seem genuinely content. They are extremely friendly. It might be the naivety of a traveller, but the harshness, the crime, the antagonistic and apathetic nature one encounters in South Africa’s bigger cities was absent. Lesotho seems to affirm the philosophy that less is more.
When it comes to skating, what I had been told to expect was pretty much what we got. The hills are unfiltered gnarlyness. My main point of comparison was Reunion Island, where we had previously done a trip to, which had hundreds of super windy, technical runs stacked with hairpins. Lesotho was different. It was loaded with sweepers and super steep drops. There are plenty of corners, but most of them are just suggestions of corners. You can slide for them if you want to. But it isn’t necessary. And the inclination is not to slide. Because you want to skate the hill how it should be skated; how the hill dictates to be skated. And if rip and grip is possible, then rip and grip is generally what one tries to do. But due to the steepness, after a few corners of said ripping and gripping, you find yourself hauling ass down a mountain pass that you’ve only just become acquainted with…it’s intimidating.
Another thing that became abundantly clear to me is the high level of skating that is prevalent in our skating scene. We have riders that can push out the same intensity and quality of content as the top international riders. Watching Decio, Tim and Nick absolutely tear it down runs like Hacheche or Mafika Lisiu is more terrifying than actually skating. The speeds they reach make you intensely uneasy, but at the same time you are aware of their focus and skill set, so this dichotomy of fear and appreciation resides in you. The younger generation also charges. These groms and post-groms are talented and driven; they push each other. Watching Giloume, Khalil and Blue push their stand-up game is awesome. I’ve seen plenty of it on footage but watching in real-life is even more impressive.
But nevertheless, Lesotho is a harsh place. It is straining on the body and even the best of riders ate a healthy dose of shit; so much so that the tour was named the #vatincreasetour because everyone was paying more taxes than usual. After two days Blue had wrecked himself beyond skating again on the trip and multiple other riders, including myself, sported numerous deep roasties. Bust Lesotho wasn’t done with us. Due to exemplary hygiene standards in the kitchen at one of our stays, a bunch of us picked up a nasty stomach bug that had us squatting over the toilet more often than over our boards. The dorm room looked like a World War 1 infirmary; skaters lying everywhere, dead silent with blood seeping from their wounds only getting up to spew either from their arse or their mouths.
But in the end it was all these factors, the wildness of the country, the friendliness of the locals and the intensity of the hills that etched a permanent feeling of having experienced something memorable into the brain. We will be back for sure.
Article by Yoshi.