Go Skate Lesotho
After over a year of resisting the call, I finally got my shit together and with 15 other skaters, took a skate trip to the Mountain Kingdom. Along with getting my first skateboard, and nailing my first switch heelside 180, the 5 days that I spent in Lesotho were among the greatest skating moments in my life. We're so unbelievably lucky to have a limitless collection of world-class roads just a few hours' travel away from our major cities that if you aren't spending all of your money to get there, you're blowing it. Here's why...
Written by: Brad Melin
Although Ricki Allardice tried non-stop to make me believe that Lesotho is downhill heaven, nothing he could say would have prepared me for the visual treat that every inch of the country offers. Driving up Mafika Lisiu for the first time pretty much silenced our car for 15 km and it was difficult to fully understand that we were going to skate the road that we were on from a peak that we could barely see in the distance.
Depending on the season, you'll either catch Lesotho dry and brown, snowy, or all-green-everything. But make no mistake, either way you cook it, you're going to be surrounded by majestic mountains from dawn 'til dusk. You're in a country with the world's highest low point and every second that you spend in Lesotho is time spent in the sky.
This one is as important as it is obvious, but nothing I say here will prepare you for the real thing. Since the country is all mountain, every road has some sort of gradient, many of which are rather steep, and almost all of which are immaculately paved. The only real thing damaging the road surface is snow (there aren't many cars driving on the remote mountain roads), and so what you're left with is perfectly-cambered, smooth roads that snake down steep mountainsides for SO MANY KILOMETERS! It'll change your perspective on downhill skateboarding, guaranteed.
In 4 days we skated no less than 10 different passes, all of which were completely different in terms of pavement conditions, corners, speed, animals to dodge, and ways to mob. There were terrifying runs where a moment's lapse in concentration might send you flying down a rocky mountain face. There were freeride runs where you could more or less safely push your limit. There were runs with hairpins that we all mobbed together, and there were runs that you could wake up early and skate all by yourself, because they ended right at our campsite (and because the locals are always happy to give you a lift up the hill). I've never been a happier skater.
It'll make you a better skater
Why? Well for one thing, speed. There's 30% less air when you're so high up, and so airbraking doens't have the same effect, so after the first day of manically sliding every few meters to try to maintain what feels like a safe cruising speed, you just give in and upgrade your comfort zone to a regular 60 km/h and above.
You'll be forced to learn control, because although it's beautiful, perfectly paved, and challenging, it's also remote. If you cut your leg open on a guard rail or break some ribs by hitting a horse, the closest hospital is half a days drive away. You don't want to ruin someone else's trip with your injuries.
You'll be free to get your skating dialled. Always wanted to nail those backside predrifts? Or maybe you've always wanted to try standups slides at 60 km/h, but your local run only lets you do this once before you have to trek up the hill again and try again. This is suddenly not a problem when the passes you're skating are 10km long. There are no regrets involved for not nailing a line through a dipping left because there are 30 more ahead of you to swoop.
Radness aside, skate trips cost money. Luckily the most expensive part of your trip (by far) will be getting into the country. A good supply of urethane is the second biggest expense. The Lesotho loti is pegged 1:1 to the rand, and accommodation, beer, and food are cheap as chips. Fuel isn't taxed in the Mountain Kingdom, so expect to pay ± 5 bucks less per litre of petrol.
Go skate Lesotho!
If this write up wasn't enough, watch this video and see exactly how much fun we had!