After yesterday’s run I slept like a baby, and waking up at 5:30 had far less of a sting to it. I finished my usual ritual of Futurelife as a light, high calorie breakfast and did my dynamic stretches. Yesterday I did some decent foam rolls and stretches so my legs were feeling pain free, although definitely quite tired. I got my pocket GPS and head out.
In clear view of the cabin was this absolutely fantastic waterfall. Massive, beautiful and all round epic. I decided that heading to the top of the waterfall would be a fantastic run. I started along the river, running through the thick grass and sticking to footpaths when I could find them. I’ve mentioned before that Lesotho is incredibly wet, and even more so along a river at just after 6:00am. I made my way onto a ridge to get some elevation and beelined in the direction of the waterfall.
Before long I crossed a local herdsmen. I greeted him, he greeted back with a smile (maybe a laugh?) and I carried on. Shortly after I heard shouting behind me. I stopped to find a robed man swinging a stick and what sounded like swearing at me in Sotho, although he could have been greeting angrily. An English-speaking friend of his then asked where I was going, and warned me of dogs that I should avoid. As it turns out, the dogs in Lesotho can be pretty vicious if you venture onto their territory, so staying away from them is the best course of action. You are, at the end of the day, a visitor to their land.
I headed through the clearing for the waterfall. I thought I found an easy enough route to reach the mountain top, but as I came closer I realised that something stood in my way – a very wide river. With the angles that I had I couldn’t see the thirty or so meter drop down to a twenty plus meter wide river. I decided to try and find a way across the river, so I head down the steep wall to the river floor and ran along the wet grass. I finally reached the turning point in the river, and it did not give me any gaps. As far as I could see the river was not crossable, so I head back towards the dog-hut I had been warned of.
A side note on dogs and other wildlife. I had concerns on how to handle wild dogs, also having heard of some horror stories of them attacking runners and hikers in the Drakensberg/Lesotho area. Ryno Griesel, an immensely experienced hiker and runner, told me that avoiding pepper spray/tazers/other dangerous tools is the way to go. Rather look out for the dog’s owners and let them know you’re friendly, or throw small rocks near the dogs to scare them off (this is how they are raised). This, and keeping a good distance from dogs, are the surest ways for safe mountain running. At the end of the day it is about realising that you are in their territory, just visiting, and should be respectful of that.
As I got within 50 meters or so of where I assumed the dogs were, I began to plan my route. Some locals from the other side of the river saw my confusion and guided me in the right direction. The direction, however, was along one of the steepest cliff faces I had come across. About a 45 to 60 degree angle leading to a 30 meter drop, safe to say I was very careful. I followed the course and found a footpath that led me to a bridge so I could cross.
As I crossed the bridge and started running up the other side, one of the local construction workers warned me of a “very big dog” and told me to “just go straight”. I was helped for a third time by the locals – these guys are genuinely awesome. I thanked him and prepared for some road running. I followed the road until a small outcrop, hit the peak and went down through the grasslands, crossing the road and ending at a waterfall. I decided to take in the scenery, my legs were starting to get quite tired due to all the kilometers I had put them through.
I then head around the waterfall, finding a footpath, and heading back to the bridge via the mountain top. When I thought I was approaching “big dog” territory I head down another steep decline, landing on the road. I followed the road all the way back to the cabin, admiring the beauty and pushing through all the uphills.
This was another fantastic run, significantly different from the previous day’s, and more difficult due to already worn legs, but the surroundings seem to make all the pain tolerable. Post run we started packing and heading back to Johannesburg. I will definitely be doing more runs Lesotho side.