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…
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:
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!
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.
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.