22 DAYS OF THE EXCEPTIONAL ZULU KINGDOM – DAY 6
The tight zig-zagging curves of Sani Pass, one of the most magnificent mountain passes in South Africa, ascend through the sheer cliffs of the Drakensberg, linking KwaZulu Natal to the independent country of Lesotho.
The route is also known as the ‘roof of Africa’ and for good reason – the views from the peaks, some 3200 meters above sea level, are spectacular and usually reserved only for those willing to hike for a couple of days. A pub, renowned as the highest in the world, lies at the top of Sani – 2874 meters above sea level.
Sani Pass began as a rough mule trail along which donkeys traversed loaded with wool and mohair on the way down the pass, and blankets, clothing and maize meal on the return journey. The pass was opened to vehicle traffic by David Alexander, whose company Mokhotlong Mountain Transport was the first to operate on the pass in 1955.
The pass can be journeyed today in your own car, although a 4X4 vehicle is recommended as it is both steep and rough, but in the initial days many of the corners took at least three attempts. In winter one risks snow on the roads and often ice can be a problem. And passports are essential as one passes through an international border at around 1900 meters.
About 25 minutes’ from the Lesotho border, on the road to Mokhotlong, before the saddle, along a section that hooks left before dropping into a long valley, lies a section of snow (if it snows) – the paradox being that until one reaches this valley one cannot assess the feasibility of skiing, hence only the hardened enthusiast takes to the pass.
- Many companies offer 4×4 Tours from Underberg, all the way up to the “highest pub in Africa” for lunch and refreshment before descending once again.
- Mountain biking tours are offered from Underberg for cycling enthusiasts (bring your own bike!), including accommodation for trips longer than a day
- Operators offer many scenic tours throughout the area – into Lesotho – so bring your passport!
- Sani Pass day tours, Overnight Tours, Lesotho Tours and short horse trails are also available in the area
- Wildlife and fishing tours are also offered
- Ask your tour guide about the cultural experiences on offer
- In winter, skiing, snow-boarding and snow sleighing is available – weather permitting