Down the Sani Pass

It is an early start for us today as we are headed to the Sani Pass which closes at 4pm at the latest (weather permitting). After a stunning day at Kiera lodge for Anthony’s birthday, we wake up to black skies and heavy rain so we are glad we are up and away early. Let’s hope they don’t close the pass because of the weather. We leave Gérard behind to snooze a little longer in the hope the skies will clear for him. This is our final goodbye, until we meet up again one day somewhere.

We cross into Lesotho in no time, the border procedure being simplified from their documented 4 step process to a quick single window visit, a stamp in the passport and a friendly goodbye. We decide to cross Lesotho in a day because of my altitude sickness problem – no time to linger and sightsee this time (lucky we visited Lesotho back in 1983). Anthony does all the driving while I concentrate on keeping my head and ears clear. The road is good and takes us through some stunning scenery and a number of extremely steep hills – 1:6!! Then suddenly we get to a long section of road built by the Chinese. We come across road construction equipment just left beside the road. We don’t know the details of the commercial agreements between the Chinese and the various African countries, but it seems such a shame and a waste that all the road constructions in Africa are performed by temporarily imported Chinese labour, not local. There could have been skills transfer in addition to simply a new road. The road is beautifully built, with wide breakdown/walking/standing/selling hard shoulder and deep storm water/sitting/walking channels. Like so often, roads are used like wide pavements with no concept of or consideration for passing vehicles… Terrifying at times…

Road traffic in Lesotho

Road traffic in Lesotho

Cold and wet in Lesotho today

Cold and wet in Lesotho today

Cold and wet in Lesotho today

Cold and wet in Lesotho today

Up through a number of passes, Mahlasela Pass at 3222 meters, Tlaeng Pass at 3225 metres, past Afriski, southern Africa’s highest ski resort, and we get to the Lesotho border and top of the Sani pass. This road is well known amongst hikers, motorcyclists and 4 wheel drivers as an interesting challenge, aka one of the most dangerous or insane roads! First a stop in the highest pub in Africa at 2874m to have a look at the road and valley below. This is where we saw a tv with the announcement Trump had won the US election.

After the horrendous news of Trump, it is heartwarming to see this sign at the Lesotho border:

Lesotho border sign

Lesotho border sign

The Sani Pass road is a gravel road that starts right on the South Africa side of the border and goes from 2876 metres to 1544 metres in just over 9 kms. It requires a 4×4, or motorcycle if you are brave enough, to navigate its rough surface and steep inclines especially at the top. For anyone interested in its precice location, look for a road between Mokhotlong in Lesotho and Underberg in KwaZulu-Natal. You need to look at the photos carefully to see the hairpin bends and I can assure you it is steeper than the photos show. We are grateful it is not raining or snowing!

A slight understatement for the Sani Pass

A slight understatement for the Sani Pass

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa

Blue arrow = crash barrier?

Blue arrow = crash barrier?

Sani Pass, South Africa

Sani Pass, South Africa


We make it safely to the bottom thanks to Anthony excellent steady driving before the heavens opened up again, the weather gods being on our side again.
Bottom of the Sani Pass, South Africa

Bottom of the Sani Pass, South Africa


A late lunch in a local pub before we make it to Anthony’s cousins and aunt for a few days, just north of Pietermaritzburg. A bit of family time next.

– Anne

13 comments on “Down the Sani Pass

  1. Ek verlang baie! The Drakensberg mountains are just so beautiful and bring back so many memories for me. I love the video on the Sani Pass. I only went to the border and never into Lesotho. Enjoy family time! xx

    Like

  2. Like your sense of humour : that roadsign at the top of the lethally steep gradient of one hairpin bend after a rocky another is, to put it mildly, a slight understatement. But that view! Simply fabulous. Hope Anthony was able to take his eye off the unbeaten track for a second to admire it.
    Enough adrenalin rushes for now. Here’s to a smooth flight back home. xx

    Like

    • We did stop a number of times so that Anthony could enjoy the view too and me too – I didn’t enjoy looking through the viewfinder and not seeing where we were going!! We were grateful for our timing as it had stopped raining. It was an amazing road and we are glad we did it before they tar it, which there has been talk of for some years now. Xx

      Like

  3. About 10 years ago we stayed with friends who had a log bungalow quite close rot the Sani Pass, and went up it in their 4×4, staying somewhere in Lesotho and going down by another road I think. Maps were hopeless and showed 2 or 3 lakes the dams for which had not been built at the time, so we got lost looking for the lodge, it got dark and as the various donkeys, sheep, even, I think, the odd camel had no tail lights , it was all very hazardous. I recall they were continually dozing the Pass road, adding to the fun.

    Like

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s