Archive for the ‘Lesotho’ Category

Darren sitting atop Sani Pass

Russell writes 1st June 2011: Pics by Darren

Standard dress for the mountain kingdom

What’s the national dress of Lesotho? A blanket. Why? Because it’s southern Africa’s ‘kingdom in the sky’ and most of it above 2000m. To say it’s a bit nippy doesn’t do it. Ok we did go at the beginning of winter, but it was ‘sleeping bag and 5 blankets’ cold and ‘battery power draining’ cold.

Thankfully the mountain pass into Lesotho only had a few patches of snow on the track, and overall, the Sani Pass route wasn’t as forbidding as I had envisaged.

But what a route into a country, we followed a jagged valley that narrowed and climbed sharply toward the top and terminated at the highest pub in Africa! We stood on the balcony enjoying a local brew and the view from Durban (at sea level) to the top of the pass at 2880m. However, that didn’t last for long thanks to the cutting wind chill and we set about finding our dorm and warming ourselves with a log fire and noodles.

Enjoying the road and the view

The dorms were the most we’d ever paid for accommodation, but probably worth it as it was -60C by 9pm. We checked before coming that the pub had Super Sports 3 for the Champions League final, but really, I don’t know why. It was a freezing cold room, with freezing cold beer watching Man U receive Spanish lessons. We’ve been too used to warm Africa to cope with this for too long, this was ‘frozen water in the toilet’ cold!

Heading up to another 3000m pass

Getting going in the morning took some time – we had the bikes hooked up to a Hilux for 10 minutes each while we turned the engine over. They liked the cold even less than we did. Sadly we didn’t have much time to explore this beautiful rugged land, but I really enjoyed the route from Sani Pass to the north through the mountains toward the South African border. We stopped frequently for photos along the track over the mountain passes and valleys in this extraordinarily photogenic landscape. According to the GPS altitude graph we’d been riding along a saw blade and we hadn’t dropped below 2500m for most of the day.

Life on top of Lesotho

Actually the GPS was quite handy, we could tell when we were at the highest pass (3276m) on our route and the highest we’d ever taken a motorcycle. For you in Hereford and Wales that’s around 5 times the height of Hay Bluff and for everyone else it’s two and a half times the height of Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK. And you guessed it, we were cold. But we soon forgot all about the cold just after Oxbow and a 2820m pass. Below the pass we climbed down the most amazing valley road and at such a rate we had to check with our GPS.

They love the camera and their blankets

We’d dropped to 1900m in only 10 minutes, that’s a fall of 1.5m per second. Dramatic, dangerous and very repeatable. Sadly though we had to push on as the sun was setting, we were shivering, and needed to find some noodles and a bed for the night.

Lesotho, a different country and different Africa, yet again we get to enjoy the variety of this amazing continent. For us most of Lesotho must remain unexplored, but for anyone in South Africa, Lesotho is a must. A crown of mountainous glory in southern Africa.

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