Monday, October 23, 2017

Sani Pass - Lesotho

On October 14th, Scott managed to rent the only 4x4 vehicle that Avis has available in the Durban area and we headed out to drive up the Sani Pass. It's a notoriously difficult trek up the mountain, where famously cars with 4 wheel drive get tested to prove especially capable. The Sani pass is gravel/sand/rock road that connects Kwazulu Natal, South Africa to the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho. Lesotho is a small country located on top of the Drakensberg Mountains with the highest point of 3240m. The entire trip was breathtakingly beautiful views. There is a South African border post 8kms before the top, right before the most difficult part of the drive and a Lesotho Border post at the top. If you attempt to drive the Sani pass without a 4x4 you will get turned around at those border posts as its simply to dangerous. And towing a car off the pass would be very difficult.

Satellite view of the Sani Pass.

Us, two adventurers. 

Canadians in South Africa on route to Lesotho. Pretty awesome.

This area is called the Ampitheatre. The mountains circle this point.

This mountain range is nicknamed the 12 apostles.

We are pretty grateful that this rental car has gotten us so far.. little did we know how much crazier the trek was going to get. The zigzag behind us that's the pass up the mountain.

It was just a wee bit windy. 

People watching from the top as cars are slowly making their way up and down the pass.

Got our passports stamped and are now ready to cross into Lesotho, the mountain kingdom.

We decided to take the limited time available to us and drive further into Lesotho. 

Only about 15 kms away from the border we reached Lesotho's highest point Thabana Ntlenyana which is also the highest mountain in Southern Africa. 

A Basotho Shepard took a photo of us 4 explorers, he did not speak english but Scott managed to communicate with much gesturing. 

What really amazed me about the landscape was that at first glance it looked barren.. but the closer you look all of a sudden you see sheep, horses, cows, donkeys and their shepards everywhere, blending in perfectly with the landscape.  

The road we drove on seemed to be brand new. Apparently some sort of joint program between Lesotho and China. Lesotho has mining as one of it's primary industries so we assume that's why China helped with the roads.

We saw many people on horseback and some on donkeys. Donkeys were used a lot for transporting goods. The closer we got to a larger town the more cars we saw on the road, especially taxis. But it seems that for many of the Basotho men in the Lesotho Highlands horseback or on foot are the primary modes of transportation. 

Do you see the sheep? :)

Other than livestock we saw a lot of small farms that people seem to live of, with narrow fields plowed and ready for the Spring and Summer. 

We finished the evening at the Sani Mountain Lodge having a fantastic dinner buffet including one of the most delicious oxtail dishes ever. The room we were booked in for the night was lovely unfortunately it was freezing cold and the wood burning stove did not seem to be able to heat the room up enough, between that and the blowing wind none of us had much sleep. 

Sunday morning.

Good morning Sani Pass! This view does not get old. It's truly magnificent. 

Scott trying on a traditional Basotho hat. They are beautifully handwoven.

Yes. Africa's highest pub, it had to be documented. ;)

Julie made me this hat before I left Canada earlier this year. It has traveled a long way already. 

Alright Nissan xtrail.... time to show us what you got! 

The 12 apostles again. 

The drive up was hair-raising but the drive down took us by surprise. It was truly scary. Now you had the full view of the land infront of us and a much better understanding to how steep the climb is, how narrow the trail is and how intense the switchbacks. Scott maneuvered us down the pass without any trouble. 

The descend was scary and crazy beautiful.

Bluest sky ever?!?!
That zigszag on the mountain... that's the road.. if one can call it that. 

I just couldn't get enough of the landscape. What a strangely beautiful place. 

After safely making it down the pass we took a minor detour into the Midlands and stopped once more at Swissland Goat Cheese Farm. 

Feeding the female milking goats was a treat but not nearly as exciting as ... 

... feeding the baby goats!!!

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