Tag Archive for Sani Pass

Get Lost in Lesotho – Maliba Road Trip

Get Lost in Lesotho..

‘We need to promote Lesotho as a whole – as its own destination.’ These were the words of my wife who is the marketing manager for Maliba Mountain Lodge, a 5 star lodge in the mountains of Lesotho. She was referring to the fact that Lesotho is one of the lesser known destinations on the tourism map – even for us South Africans. It is generally seen as a country which is hard to get to – as a place more suited to those looking for a hard core adventure with their rugged off road vehicles.

We therefore decided to set out on a road trip ourselves, to see the highlights of the country, and to determine the accessibility of this small, mountainous kingdom. To gain first-hand experience – as a group of young South Africans, with little time between work days for travelling– of the people and their cultures, the landscape and perhaps to learn a bit about the country and its history. At the same time, to film the entire adventure to try and capture some of the spirit and culture of the country and its people.

Our goal, as a group of five friends, was to travel over four days into the easily accessible parts of the country, without the need for serious back up and support. Read more

A Day trip up Sani Pass by Charles Bruce

I have decided to do a separate entry about this day because it was a completely different experience from our hike in the Drakensberg. We were picked up in the morning (which dawned bright and sunny but eventually became cold and rainy at the top of Sani Pass) by our guide Stuart and set out in a group of 7 people in a well-used Land Rover. The day before we had eavesdropped on the owner of Sani Lodge telling a caller that they could attempt to drive up the Pass in their rental car, but they may end up leaving pieces of their engine behind. There was a reason that the only vehicles that we saw on this road were Land Rovers and Land Cruisers and other such four-wheel drives. A few kilometers past Sani Lodge the road turned into a narrow, rutted, rocky dirt track. Some areas were washed out and as we ascended the pass, it turned into steep switchbacks. Some were so steep that we had to do three-point turns to turn the corner! Apparently in the winter this road becomes an even bigger challenge with black ice and with South African drivers that have made the trip up the Pass to see snow, but have no idea how to drive in it.

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Top 10 places to visit in Lesotho

Although a small country, Lesotho boasts an assortment of fantastic attractions that tourists can visit and discover the history and heritage of both the Basotho people and the Mountain Kingdom.

 

1. Sehlabathebe National Park

Rocks pools at Sehlabathebe National Park Lesotho

Rocks pools at Sehlabathebe National Park, Lesotho

The Sehlabathebe National Park in the south eastern region of Lesotho, although fairly inaccessible (a 4 wheel drive vehicle is required) is definitely well worth the effort. This was the first designated National park in Lesotho. This hidden gem is full of wonderful rock formations unique to this area, massive rock overhangs, small lakes, rock art, rock arches and a beautiful and unique ecosystem of plants, birds and animals.

The Prime Minister of Lesotho at the time, Chief Leabua Jonathan, loved trout fishing and, since the dams and rivers are a fisherman’s paradise, this may explain the park’s existence.

The Ts’ehlanyane National Park and Bokong Nature Reserves are both far more accessible and well worth a visit in their own right. Read more

Ice Climbing in Lesotho

While Ice Climbing may not be on everyone’s list of things to do during the winter months, the popularity of ice climbing as a sport is on the rise from both local and international climbers alike. Ice forms every year and is usually climbable from mid June till mid August.

With more peaks per square kilometre than any other country in Africa, Lesotho is sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Africa” as it is blessed with spectacular cliff faces, ridges and chimneys.

History

Ice climbing in the Drakensberg was first properly probed by British climber, Jeff Ingman while on a work contract in South Africa. Ingman and various partners made the first ascents of some of the major water-ice routes of the Giant’s Castle area. From that time until the late ‘90s only a handful of enthusiasts continued climbing these routes. Then towards the end of the millennium the shorter and more accessible routes of the Sani Pass area were climbed. This development coupled with the publishing of all the winter routes in an addendum to the Rock Climbs of the Drakensberg, sparked a big interest in the sport. Read more

Tarring of the Sani Pass

The long, snaking dirt pass between Himeville in KwaZulu-Natal and the eastern highlands of Lesotho – The Kingdom in the Sky - is typified by its tough ‘4×4-only‘ surface, ‘boot quaking’ turns and quite spectacular scenery, but has recently sparked controversy in a number of circles after the RSA government (under the auspices of the Department of Transport) and the Lesotho Government have joined together in the application to tar the entire length of the Sani Pass.

Kwazulu-Natal Sani Pass Map

Phase 1 of the project has been in progress for a number of years now, with resurfacing of the road between Himeville in KwaZulu-Natal and the South African border post at the foot of the pass. Read more

Mountain Biking in Lesotho

Among the different adventure sports enjoyed in Lesotho, mountain biking occupies an important place. Lesotho takes bikers amidst the highest and most beautiful mountain ranges in Southern Africa. It has therefore become one of the more popular activities among the young adventure loving tourists who visit the mountain kingdom on a regular basis.

Mountain biker riding on dirt road in Lesotho mountainsWhat makes Lesotho an excellent biking destination?

The terrain for starters is great, with wide valleys and mountain passes making for a varied and exciting riding.

Second, its network of bridle paths and tracks, usually only passable on horseback and 4×4, covers much of the countryside and provide bikers with predefined paths with which to navigate the countryside.

One of the most visited mountain biking trails of Lesotho begins from Underberg, a world heritage site located in Ukahlamba Drakensberg Park. The trail follows the Mkozama River and passes through the Sani Valley. While passing the Sani Pass, bikers can get a panoramic view of Hodgon’s Peak and the Giants Cup.

There are a number of popular MTB races held in or around Lesotho during the year. Here are just a few to wet your appetites. Read more

The History of Sani Pass

As most Lesotho adventure travelers are aware the Sani Pass is a must do on their travels around this little known country. Sani Pass is the only access from KwaZulu Natal to the Lesotho Highlands, the domain of the endangered Bearded Vulture, Basotho shepherds and their animals.

This steep zigzagging pass climbs the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m. It’s generally not a difficult drive in any modern 4×4 vehicle and is a wonderfully scenic drive, if the weather plays its part.

Approaching Sani Top

Approaching Sani Top (Photo by Jonathan of Sani Top Chalets)

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Massive Rock Fall Closes Sani Pass

As of 13th Feb 2011 the Sani Pass is closed due to a massive rock fall.

Estimates are a few days to a week , depending on the response of the authorities and the time it takes the necessary equipment to arrive on site. All that use the pass on a daily basis, tourists, traders and migrant labour are used to the odd closure, mostly due to snow in the winter that can last from 3 to 15 days.

Sani Pass Rock Slide 2011

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The Roof of Africa Circular Route

The “Roof of Africa” circular route should not be confused with the endurance race of the same name, as it refers to a complete circuit/loop encompassing the towns of Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka, Katse Dam, Pitseng, Butha-Buthe and Oxbow.

The roof of Africa circuit map

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The Sani Stagger Endurance Race

Drakensburg Rockjumper Sani StaggerThe Sani Stagger is known as ‘The Ultimate Endurance Race” and is an annual event run along the famous Sani Pass in the Southern Drakensberg.  A famous entry point into Lesotho from South Africa’s Ukhahlamba Drakensberg Park, the Sani Pass is also the location for the Sani Stagger endurance race. It comprises a tough 42km marathon and a more sedate 21km half marathon. Organised by the local Sani Athletic Club, under the rules of both Athletics South Africa and KwaZulu Natal Athletics, it has become a sought after and ‘must do’ race on any racers calendar.

The magnificent Sani Pass climbs through a narrow valley cut deep in the rock by the Mkhomozana River, steeply zigzagging its way up the face of the Drakensberg escarpment to an altitude of 2874m above sea level. The pass was originally developed as a bridal path in 1913, where it remains an important and historic trade route into the Eastern Highlands of Lesotho. The first vehicle negotiated the path in 1948, when it was no more than a boulder littered donkey track. It is now used for the most part by 4×4 vehicles and has become a highlight for tourists visiting the Southern Drakensberg. For runners it is one of Africa’s most unique athletic experiences. Read more

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