Lesotho is a beautiful place lined by the famous Drakenberg Mountains which can only be entered by precarious 4×4 vehicles daring enough to approach the dirt roads which are said to have remnants of vehicles that have attempted to drive through the one and only pass. Our concierge at the Hilton in Durban assured us it is worthwhile as there is a pub at the top of the pass in the Drakenberg Mountain chain and it is the highest elevated pub in Africa. We found this on the internet…
Sani Pass is located in the western end of KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa on the road between Underberg and Mokhotlong, Lesotho it is a route that connects Kwazulu-Natal and Lesotho. It is a notoriously dangerous road, which requires the use of a 4×4 vehicle. This pass lies between the border controls of both countries and is approximately 9km in length and requires above average driving experience. It has occasional remains of vehicles that did not succeed in navigating its steep gradients and poor traction surfaces, and has a catalogue of frightening stories of failed attempts at ascending the path over the Northern Lesotho mountains.
…not quite reassuring is it? We posted it online for kicks and giggles. Our parents did not find it very funny. I think my family knows my personality well enough to know that I was either completely kidding or there was nothing they could do to stop me – hospitalized or not, they seem to be assured that I will make it out of everything ok. Either that or they weren’t even listening.
Due to having already spent hours acquiring the Mercedes, we drove clear of the Sani Pass and looked at the Drankenberg mountains from the side view. Instead, we drove through the Golden Gate National Park towards the capital of Lesotho. The capital was just an hour or so from our destination, Bloemfontein, South Africa – where we would be taking a flight the next morning to Cape Town. When we made it to Maseru the sun was close to setting, we still had our Lesotho Visas to obtain and exhaustion was setting in. Google had suggested the Lesotho Sun Hotel & Casino by no other means than being the only thing on the map that it would navigate to in the entire country so after cruising around various corners of Maseru, finding nothing incredibly interesting other than a laughable Electricity Department that looked like a doghouse.
The Lesotho Sun was indeed the nicest hotel and according to those there it was a “five star hotel… for Lesotho.” The hotel was perched on the hilltop overlooking all of Maseru. As the sunset we all settled into our rooms. I walked onto the deck and noticed the fiery sky. JM and I chased the sunset with my camera, taking pictures along the way at every opportune chance. We chose the casino’s Asian restaurant to rid our appetite. The restaurant was par. Barely holding on to consciousness, I excused myself to the room and was out for the night. I woke early, watching the purple dusk overtake the mesas and plateaus that surround the city. The long stretch of only one road out of the country was calling our name to Bloemfontein. We would soon be off.
As we approached immigration to obtain our exit stamps we were stopped first by the ladies at immigration, telling us that we did not obtain a visa into the country. We all claimed that we knew that and we did not ever see a place to obtain such a stamp. There were no signs and an army officer took all four of our passports, checked them, and waived us on into the country. Disregarding our excuse, immigrations stamped our exit from Lesotho and told us to drive on through. When gate control checked our passports however, we had a problem. They kept our passports and asked us to pull over to the side. In a strong Southern Africa accent a man dressed in army garb came to our window, speaking quickly, “You have no entry stamp. What you have done is illegal…” We explained calmly, but with a slight deerintheheadlights look about us as we did not expect to have such trouble after being waived through before. We had to explain ourselves several times. He said again, “Lesotho is it’s own independent country. You have to get an entry stamp next time. I will let you go. But what you have done is illegal.” We began to offer the possibility of getting a stamp anyway, but he waived us on and we drove off without further suggestion. We had to get to the airport and we did not want to risk any further delay. Besides, we had another visit to make at the Thrifty Rental and who knows how long that might take.