Feb. 16, 2017—Because we love trip stats and breaking (our own) records, we’ve now been to Africa’s Southern-most point (Cape Agulhas, South Africa), Africa’s Highest Pub (2876 m/9436 ft, Sani Pass, Lesotho), Africa’s Highest motorable pass (3255 m/10,679 ft, Tlaeeng Pass, Lesotho) and Africa’s Highest Restaurant (3010 m/9875 ft, Afriski Ski Resort, Lesotho). And it all happened in two days.
Lesotho, pronounced li-soo-too, is an extremely beautiful, very small (30,000 sq km/11,583 sq mi) country surrounded by South Africa.
On Feb. 16, Dave and I entered Lesotho in order to ride over Sani Pass. We were lucky to find the pass in excellent condition. Coming from the South African side, which we did, the pass is dirt and has some hairy corners. At the top after the official border crossing, the pass descends into recently-paved arching corners. It’s easy to see why most vehicles come from the other side, motorcycles included. But we liked the ruts, dirt, mud and stream crossings of the more remote side.
Sani Pass, which starts at 5065 ft (1544 m) and climbs to 9436 ft (2876 m), can be a treacherous road in heavy rain or snow, (yes, it snows in Africa! Check out this ski resort called Afriski).
But on this day, we had lots of sun for great photos and recent rains had turned the views into a green paradise with waterfalls and wild baboons. We’d seen photos of the pass looking dry and brown, so this was awesome.
While riding up Sani, we passed two SUV’s a few times. When Dave and I pulled over for a snack the SUVs stopped and one of the women offered us her number. Rentia and her husband Stoffle lived in Bethlehem a few hundred kilometres away and said if we were in their area, to call and stay with them. We were all planning to check out Africa’s Highest Pub at the top of Sani Pass, so said we’d meet there and have a beer.
The pub was a contrast after riding through a sparsely populated village whose inhabitants were dressed traditionally in long, beige coloured robes, their faces barely visible under hoods.
But when entering the pub, you’re met with groups of boisterous tourists clinking glasses and checking Facebook at perhaps Africa’s highest free wifi location.
Rentia and Stoffle with their two friends were very generous offering to buy us a few rounds of beer but as we still had some riding to do, we kept the drinking to a bare minimum.
The weather had come in suddenly at the pass, completely obscuring any views in a dense fog. It started to rain considerably. We sat comfortably inside with our new friends waiting for the weather to clear.
A loud, fun group of five other riders out on a long-weekend trip from Durban invaded the bar. These guys were definitely in holiday mode, throwing insults at each other in good form. A couple of the guys had even removed their wedding bands. Uh oh! They invited Dave and I to join them on the rest of the ride about 40 km (25 mi) to a nearby village where they had rented a guest house for the night. We were just going to find a place to camp anyway so why not?
The weather had cleared somewhat. We said goodbye to Rentia and Stoffle and their friends promising to be in touch if we came through their city then took off as a motorcycle posse of seven to the village of Molumong, Lesotho for the night. Here we found the guest house and were impressed with its interior and setting.
The owner, Norma, welcomed us. She sent two teenagers out to find the seven of us beer and they arrived soon after with two cases.
It was definitely a guys’ weekend where the only ingredients were meat and beer. Needless to say we had a good braai (BBQ) that night.
In the morning the guys rode off earlier than Dave and I to Clarens, which was a town back in South Africa. They were fast riders more used to their country’s roads than Dave and I. We never did see the guys again but have some fun memories of staying in our first African village with them.
On Feb. 17, Dave and I had a memorable day riding through a handful of small villages on remote dirt roads on to Golden Gates. Had the weather been wet, these roads would have been epic in a bad way but again we were lucky with a dry, sunny day of incredible scenery, smiling locals and a classic taste of the true beauty of Lesotho.
Before reaching Clarens, there is a border crossing from Lesotho back into South Africa. We arrived just after it had closed. It was about 5:00 p.m. and we weren’t sure where we were going to camp. There were police officers manning the post and they said we could actually go thorough the border but needed to come back in the morning to get our entrance stamp. Clarens, where we had a place to stay, was too far to ride to and then return. We asked if we could camp there at the border. One officer went inside to ask his boss. I didn’t think they’d let us. Try asking at home if you could camp at the Canada/U.S. border.
But the officer returned and his intimidating expression turned into a smile.
“Sure, no problem,” he said, “Welcome to South Africa.”
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