This is one of the remotest rivers south of the Zambezi, and should be prepared for as for an expedition. Although the river is not particularly technically challenging, any walkout would take several days over some of the highest mountains of the region. The drive around is 450km over very high, mist prone passes, and requires a full day, unless you have someone to pick you up at the end.
- Ideal for: Kayak, croc
- Grade: 2 to 3
- Length: 180km
- Duration: 6 days
- Type: Remote mountain river
- Put-in: Marakabei bridge on A3 between Maseru and Thaba-Tseka
- Take-out: Bridge on A4 over the Quthing River
- Dam controlled: Mohale Dam
- Permits: None
The Mohale Dam is just 15km upstream of the put-in point. Paddlers must also be aware that the section can only be paddled after heavy rains, otherwise the dam won’t provide enough water.
The put-in is about 25km after the tarred road ends. Accommodation at the start is with the friendly people of Marakabei Lodge. The lodge has both dormitory style accommodation and chalets.
Even when the rest of the river is paddleable the first 10km will involve lots of bump and grind in the bony rapids, especially for crocs. The flat rocks adjacent to a pair of drops make an ideal first night campsite. From there it is into the first narrow gorge of about 800m. The two rapids are easily scouted from the cliff faces. Look out for a big hole.
The next couple of days will take you into a sheer-sided sandstone gorge 10 stories high in places. Time spent exploring the caves might also reward the sharp-sighted with ancient cave paintings. The gorge opens up every now and then, before closing in again. There is a rock fall, which blocks the whole river and necessitates a portage on the left hand side, at the second tight section of the gorge. Be very careful here when the water is up, it will create a horrendous rapid that should be avoided at all costs.
Remember that although the land seems remote, it remains under the control of local headmen. Villages and stone huts built without mortar nestle in the crags above the river. Treat the local people with respect, do not walk through their mealie fields, and leave their dagga plants alone. Much pleasure may be derived from long evening walks in the mountains around the river, so do not rush. Take particular note of the vegetation changes from the high wet alpine biosphere at the start to dry arid conditions at the confluence.
After the confluence with the Senqu the river flattens out dramatically although there is another gorge that is particularly beautiful when the evening sun reflect off the rock faces.
Paddle 100m up the Quthing River to take out at the bridge on the main tarred road in Southern Lesotho. Earlier take-outs, near the confluence, are also possible, but the roads are very bad.
This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
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