The Basotho People and the race over 40 years

For those international competitors who has never been to Lesotho, or raced in these mountains, be sure that you can expect very cold starting conditions in the morning and intense heat during the cause of a race day. Often you could experience a day on the route with intense downpours and river crossings that could get you soaking wet. In addition then imagine what the racing conditions are like when you attempt a mountain pass when the water rushes down while you try to get your bike up the slippery rocks. One of the fantastic phenomenons of this race is that there will not be a human being in site for as far as you can see and soon after you get stuck, a local will appear and be prepared to assist you. The Basotho people annually await the noise, dust and excitement which the Roof of Africa brings to their country.

There is a tradition that developed over the last 40 years where the people from this rain dependant agricultural country say that the Roof of Africa brings the rain to them.

Lesotho has a variable rainfall pattern, with a mean annual rainfall of between 700 mm and 800 mm in most parts of the lowlands. Most of it falls between October and April, but there is normally no month which has less than 12 mm.

In the highands the temperatures vary from a maximum of 28oC or more in summer to a minimum that drops to -5oC in winter.

The Kingdom of Lesotho is completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa. Its boundaries run with those of KwaZulu-Natal to the east, Eastern Cape to the south, and the Free State to the north and west. It lies between latitudes 28o and 31o South and longitudes 27o and 30o East.

Lesotho covers an area of approximately 30 300 square kilometres of which about one quarter in the west is lowland country, varying in height above sea level from 1 500 to 1 600 m, the remaining three quarters being highlands, rising to a height of 3 482 m above sea-level at Thabana- Ntlenyana in the Drakensberg Range, which forms the eastern boundary with KwaZulu-Natal.

The mountain ranges run from north to south and those in the central area, the Maluti, are spurs of the main Drakensberg, which they join in the north, forming a high plateau varying in height from 2 700 to 3 400 m. It is in this area where two of the largest rivers in Southern Africa, the Orange (Senqu) River and the Tugela River, as well as tributaries of the Caledon River, have their source. This phenomenon has caused Lesotho to be called the "sponge" of Southern Africa.

The emergence of Basotho as a nation occurred around 1818 when King Moshoeshoe (1786-1870) formed alliances with an amalgam of clans and chiefdoms of southern Sotho people who occupied the area. The approximately two-hundred year old nation has developed the modern Lesotho with its absolute breathtaking views and beautiful countryside.

Most of the Basotho men became migrant mine workers in South Africa over the last century, but due to the decline of the gold mining industry in South Africa, the income genetrated from the gold mines dropped from 33% of the Lesotho GDP to about 190 million US dollars in 1999. This has dwindled even further over the past ten years.

A major source of income to the country is tourism. The Roof of Africa aids in this cause by annually bringing competitors, crews and spectators to enjoy a few days in the Mountain Kingdom.

Two additional competitors from Europe that will compete this year are Johann Juliusson and his friend Ronny Fantini. They will be accompanied by their pilot friend Roald Nanni who flies for Air Atlanta.

Johann is a 38 year old Icelandic, who currently lives in France on the border between France, Luxembourg and Germany. Johan works in Luxembourg as Aircraft Mechanic for Air Atlanta who flies for Cargolux and few other airlines to Africa and other interesting places around the world. Ronny works for Cargolux and they have arranged that their bikes will be transported from Europe to Johannesburg before travelling down to Lesotho. It is great to see such a large contingency of Europeans competing in the 2008 Baboons Lesotho Sun Roof of Africa.

-credit: roa