March 14, 2018
Lesotho to Underberg
Time: 10 hours includes lunch stop at Afriski resort
We were approaching the end of our road trip heading up to Sani Pass, 2800m above sea level tucked between Underberg, South Africa and Mokhotlong, Lesotho. For sure, there is an easy way out of Lesotho, but it’s not dangerous business if we don’t gamble our lives with the guide who ‘drove down the pass several times in his lifetime’.
Over the course of the trip, I intermittently asked him about his experience driving down Sani Pass,’how many times did you drive down Sani Pass’, ‘Are you excited?’, ‘Who did you go with?’, ‘When did you drive down the Pass?’ His answers were vague and general.
The pass was about 7 hours away from Maleala, so we were prepared for a long day. We drove into a beautiful flat panorama for a couple of hours while our guide slowed down every time he saw cops asking other vans to slow down?!?!? At some point, the cops were yelling at him for slowing down. He did it a couple of times, like it was the first time he drove down this particular highway. It set my cousin off and as a result produced this intense awkwardness in the car for a couple of hours you could totally cut with a knife.
We dozed on and off and once again I asked ‘Is this going to be your 3rd time driving down?’, he said ‘No, 2nd’. A few days ago, he said 3.
At 11:30am, we hit the most beautiful scenery in the Butha Buthe district. We followed the winding road up the Maluti mountain range until we arrived at Afriski Resort at 12:30pm a totally remote ski destination. Totally off season and lacking snow, the only guys we saw were the Mercedes G wagon test drivers we saw a few days ago at Golden Gate. We ate our lunch in haste because the guide wanted to make it to the border before it closed. Assuming it closed at 4pm, he wasn’t sure how long the drive to the border was (3-4 hours?) and when they shut.
The G wagon crew drove off and disappeared into the horizon. It began to drizzle, while the mist moved over the mountains. We set off towards Mokhotlong, the mountain views were beautiful from every angle the road snaked through as we followed the source of the Senqu River. Small communities dotted the landscape until we arrived at border control – it was 2:50pm.
After we stamped our passports, the guide rubbed his hands and mumbled under his breath – ‘let’s get this over with’, I left it open to interpretation but I thought to myself…’waaaa? I thought you drove down the pass a coupla times?’ so I casually commented ‘why the rush, I thought you were waiting for this moment’.
The view was spectacular! From afar, the shades of greenery evoked a feeling of safety. How bad could the roads be on this beautiful day? Only when we started the descent, we encountered loose rocks at every bend. When you looked down, the drops were insanely steep. The roads were super rough, twisting and turning over loose rocks that only an expert 4×4 driver could handle. The drive was gut wrenching and the second most distressful moment of my life. It required careful maneuvering skills on tight corners and when to brake. Our guide’s skills were totally dubious. Whenever we spoke to him, he steered to the edge, so we stopped talking for the love of life. He was tense. It was fairly smooth once we reached the middle of the Pass where we could stop for photos.
After we stamped our passports, we drove across the Drakensburg Mountains as the dirt roads were being paved. A while later, we hit the highway towards Underberg in total awe of its beauty.
We stayed the night at Cedar Garden, a B&B in a small village close by. I loved everything about the house, two years on and it still remains vivid in my memory.