21st of June 2018.
We left Durban at around 9am and headed out through the suburbs waving to all the African children who had massive smiles as we went.
We soon left the suburbs behind and moved into an area of thousands of acres of sugar cane with the odd sugar mill and town along the way. The country was very hilly and it wasn’t long before we could see the Drakensburg Mountains looming in the distance and as we got closer and closer they looked enormous. We had decided that in the mornings we would take a thermos of boiled water with us to have a coffee at mid morning without too much hassle so this was our first coffee stop.
We came to the tourist town of Underburg where there were a lot of accommodation choices and lovely cafes and restaurants. This is a base for a lot of people who want to discover the Sani Pass. We were soon on the Sani Pass road and started the climb but there we’re so many roadworks going on it was quite slow going. See this article about the Sani Pass.
Near the bottom of the climb we came up on the South African border post and had our first experience with using our Carnets to get the vehicles through the border. Carnets are like a passport for the vehicles.
It was getting on for late afternoon and there were quite a few 4WDs coming down from the pass emblazoned with “Sani Pass Expeditions” carrying tourists who had been up for the day.
I stopped and had a chat to one of the drivers and he said we should have no problems but to take the first switchback as wide as I possibly could to make sure I would get around. The road started to get steeper and steeper and eventually gets to a section of switchbacks and just before this section we stopped to take some photos at a great vantage point. It was also a good time to let our tyres on both the Landcruiser and the Kimberley down to 20psi and as I was doing this I heard a bit of a commotion up above me so I stopped to have a look. A four wheel drive was having difficulty getting around one of the switchbacks and what I could hear was his wheels spinning in the loose rock and stones. He had three attempts backing down after each failure but eventually getting through it. On reflection I would suggest that he hadn’t let his tyre pressures down before going up. At this stage I was wondering if indeed it was a wise move coming up the pass with the Kimberley Karavan on😳.
So anyway we got back in and as we were already in low 4 wheel drive I decided that it might be prudent to put the rear diff lock in. We came to the first switchback and sure enough it looked incredibly tight for me to get the Cruiser and Kimberley around so I went out as wide as I could without dropping off the side and plummeting thousands of metres😎(I didn’t tell Pauline this until later😜). At the last moment I swung the Landcruiser around and sure enough we didn’t make the turn. With very little room to manoeuvre I backed back jack knifing the Kimberley and then had another go. With rocks and stones flying everywhere we pulled through and my heart was pounding because as you can see in the photos there is no room for error! Veronica in her rented 4WD camper did a great job going through the pass.
The moment you reach the top of the Sani Pass you come into the Lesotho border post and again we had to check in with our carnets and passports, we even scored a free map of Lesotho!
Our accommodation for the night was very close to the border post with Veronica staying in a chalet at the Sani Mountain Lodge and Pauline and I setting the Karavan up behind a backpackers accommodation.
We had dinner together in the lodge pub which claims to be the highest pub in South Africa! I was able to have my first Lesotho beer and the girls had a bottle of Pinotage which is a wine varietal commonly available in South Africa.
Then it was a very cold walk back to our Karavan before turning in for the night and sleeping like angels because after all we were at such a high altitude as to be with the angels.
What adventures await us?😳