My experiences of travelling in Southern Africa 1995/96


In no way is this information an accurate and up to date guide. Please buy a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide, for example, travel book for the countries you wish to visit.

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Sani Pass

The pass is the only road into the country of Lesotho (pronounced Lesootwo) from Kwazulu Natal. Durban is in the region of Kwazulu Natal and it is basically the Zulu tribe's area of South Africa. As it climbs higher the Sani Pass becomes a series of short steep straights joined by hair pin bends. Originally, to some extent still, it was used as a trading route. These days it is renowned for traffic in 'Dagaar' (pronounced dacharr), or Cannabis.

On the day I decided to travel up the pass, with a local tour company, Sani Tours (who give a special rate for backpackers) we were accompanied by a television crew who were filming for South African Television.

The Land Rover which took us up the pass

Sani Tours' office is just around the corner from Sani Lodge so it was ideal for me, very reasonable rates too. There was myself, a family of four and the three members of the television crew on this day's trip up the pass. About twenty minutes after we had started we came to the first 'landmark', Good Hope Stores. At the turn of this century these 'stores' were a major trading post for merchants travelling to and from Lesotho via Sani Pass.

Good Hope Stores

We stopped here long enough for the camera crew to take a few shots of us being talked to by our guide and of the buildings. Then the steep stuff started, the next two photos show a view back down the pass and the Land Rover stopped while the camera crew did some 'creative stuff'. The second one should give you an indication of the steepness and condition of the road on the top half of the pass, it did get worse than this!

The South African Border Post on Sani Pass is actually eight kilometeres from the border with Lesotho. If you are planning to go up the pass don't forget your passport!

Once at the top this was our immediate view

As we had just climbed a section of the Drakensburg Mountains it was noticably cooler now we were in Lesotho. As you can see from the above photo we were almost in the clouds! Once we had looked around 'Sani Top' (above) we headed a small distance into Lesotho itself to a large sheep shearing factory (barn) and the surrounding village.

The shearing factory

Tyical Lesothan village housing

A local woman manually makes flour for breadmaking

The road to Mokhotlong

Inqisitive local children

After we had looked around the sheep shearing barn, which absolutely stank, and the village, we went back to Sani Top. It is here you'll find Sani Top Hotel, with the highest bar in Africa, indeed Sani Pass is the highest pass in Africa. At the bar I sampled the local beer which isn't at all bad, this is the view from the main window in the bar:

After a good home cooked lunch and some more beer we made the journey back down to the border to re-enter South Africa. The border shuts at five o'clock each day and we only made it there with a couple of minutes to spare - let's just say descent to the border was a lot faster than the ascent!

The day after my fun up Sani Pass I spent doing meanial things like clothes washing etc, I travelled back to Durban the next day - looking forward to the cricket. The Test Match was rained out after two and half days - match drawn. I stayed in Durban for a couple more days then got a lift to Port Elizabeth with three people who were travelling on to Cape Town, where I would be in two weeks. Port Elizabeth was the location for England's fouth Test Match in the series of five. The match was to start on Boxing Day (26.12.95).

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Last Updated on 18 th April 1996 at 20:50:28

All images ©1995, 1996 Ian Simmins
© 1996 Ian Simmins