Firstly, for me the the Sani Pass was the highlight of our recent roadtrip around SA. Sure game viewing in the Kruger & Kgalagadi were amazing experiences, but the magic and beauty of the Sani were something I had never experienced in quite the same way on a drive before. As such, I would wholeheartedly recommend you do it at least once before they have finally paved the entire thing.

By way of a disclaimer, this post was written in the context of traveling up the Sani under Level 4 Lockdown, and as such, when eventually the pandemic is over things may well change and some of what I’m writing will be irrelevant. 

(Click on the pictures to see them full size)

As I was planning our trip up the Sani I did a fair bit of research but couldn’t get a totally clear picture of what it would entail during Lockdown, which is partly why I’m writing this.

One thing no one told me was that if you are just wanting to drive up and down the Sani and aren’t planning on entering Lesotho (their border post is a couple of hundred metres beyond the summit) then you do not require passports, vehicle documents or a Covid test, but you still get the full Sani experience.

We had planned on entering Lesotho, and so we needed to have our passports stamped out at the SA border post (right at the bottom of the Sani). First however, we had to have the Covid test. I had been told this would cost R300 and would take 30 minutes. In fact it only took 10 minutes to get our results and we paid cash at the testing van. Testing only opens at around 08:30. Once we had our negative results we went to the SA border post and were then ready to set off up the pass.

Before I get on to that, allow me to share some local knowledge...

Originally I had planned to go up around lunchtime, drive in to Lesotho and come back down later that afternoon. Thankfully I got chatting with the owner of The Whistling Goat in Himeville, he was very helpful, and after listening to my plan for the Sani he advised me to rethink it, suggesting that rather we stay overnight at the bottom and go up in the morning giving ourselves plenty of time to get back down in daylight. This was sound advice.

On to the pass...

It is a stunning drive but a decent 4X4 is essential and traffic going up has right of way.

I drive a Suzuki Jimny (JB74) which handled the entire pass with aplomb.

The Sani starts off quite easily and can lull one in to a false sense of security. Towards the top the road will give one a wake up call.  Once over half way up the ice became more noticeable and about ¾ the way there was a stretch of thick ice that needed to be treated with respect (especially on the way back down).

We stopped many times on the way up to get out and take photos and simply to enjoy the stunning views and the peace & quiet (we were the only vehicle going up).

Our Jimny handled the Sani superbly, I never felt the need to drop the tire pressures from the manufacturer’s recommended 1.8bar, even towards the top where the track is at its roughest and loosest, the car just bounced over it with ease.

At the Lesotho border all they wanted was our passports, Covid test results and R45 for the car to enter the country. Knowing that we were returning the same day the officers didn’t require any of the car’s documents. The Lesotho border guards were polite, friendly and very helpful.

Once in Lesotho the road is amazing and it is a pleasure to drive! 

I would highly recommend driving to the town of Mokhotlong and back, the scenery is amazing (you’ll ascend to just over 3200 metres above sea level) and it’s worth taking it easy to soak up the local culture and bird life. We saw some amazing birds of prey including the threatened Bearded Vulture. Having driven to Mokhotlong we turned around and headed back to the Sani.

Once again we presented our passports at the Lesotho border post and slowly made our way down the Pass enjoying the spectacular views looking out over KZN. We also passed a Lesotho taxi driving down and his passengers had all got out and we walking!

Once back at the SA border post at the bottom of the Pass we presented our passports, but they weren’t interested in our Permanent Residence Permits or any other documentation.

So there it is, it’s a highly memorable and enjoyable drive that is pretty hassle free and so definitely worth the time and effort.

I can’t wait to drive it again!

Some more pics of our trip up the Sani...

The SA border post

Waiting for our Covid tests


It's worth taking time to stop and enjoy the views
 

The road is crazy towards the top!

It was so cold even the waterfalls had frozen!
 

A nice shot of how rough the road is with some ice over to the right

One slip and you could easily be in a lot of trouble

 Snow on the mountains at the top in Lesotho

The Lesotho border post

The top of the Sani at 2873m on the Lesotho side

The road on the Lesotho side is sweet

It had snowed a couple of weeks before we drove the Sani and there was still plenty around forcing the road down to one lane in places


 

 

 

 

 

 

The road in Lesotho eventually rises to 2 miles above sea level 

Heading back in to SA, I love this signpost

Yes, that's a Lesotho taxi bouncing down the Sani, apparently the Lesotho side are a bit more relaxed about what can and can't do the Sani. This taxi's poor customers were having to walk down.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Dino, so well presented, together with the photos, makes me want to leave tomorrow and go and do SP in my Jimny Gen 4

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