Wednesday, 8 January 2014

South Africa Drakensberg, Sani Pass and the Highest Pub in Africa

Driving up to the Sani Pass ©Solange Hando

The Drakensberg, or Dragon mountains, deserve their name, all jagged peaks and dramatic rocks silhouetted against a blue sky. The Zulus call them the Barrier of Spears and that suits them just as well.

It's a great place for serious hikers but for the less adventurous, the drive up to the Sani Pass is a scenic alternative if you don't mind mountain roads.

The Drakensberg, South Africa ©Solange Hando

The drive is gentle enough at first, past blossoming trees and golden protea splashing colour at the roadside.
There are places to stop and gaze at the view and a chance to spot baboons and antelopes roaming around.

A few kilometres below Sani, you enter a no man's land leading up to the kingdom of Lesotho just beyond the pass. That's when the fun begins and driving skills are put to the test.

Ice Corner below the Sani Pass ©Solange Hando

Soon, the road begins to climb, narrow and steep, twisting around vertiginous bends with names that say it all, 'ice corner, 'suicide corner', 'god help me corner' and as a last resort for some, 'whisky corner'.

The final bend often requires a three point turn then at last you are there, greeted by thin air, sweeping winds and views to die for.

The Highest Pub in Africa ©Solange Hando

But before you enjoy it all, you probably want to warm up in the Sani top chalet, the highest pub on the continent which serves delicious hot food and mulled wine.

There's plenty of jolly company inside and you could even spend the night in a rondavel, a traditional African hut. There's skiing in winter and rambling in summer.

Lesotho ©Solange Hando

But most visitors just walk across the border into Lesotho where people wrapped in blankets from head to toe share the bleak plateau with angora goats. You are likely to be invited into a hut for a sip of sorghum beer from a communal mug and a few souvenirs from woolly hats to African beads.

View from the Sani Pass ©Solange Hando

Back on the pass, lesser kestrels and bearded vultures hover in the thermals while wild orchids and carnations bloom in the hollows. You feel on top of the world as velvety slopes unfold at your feet, tinted with gold, purple and pink, and  the long winding road shows you the way home.


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