Catch Up Time Part I: Sani Pass

April 2, 2009

Some may have noticed that there have not been any recent updates on In To Africa. SA Teatime and RCubed have been making up for some of my slack, but there have been a lot of gaps left in my absence. Not that I want to make lame excuses, but you can basically look at my last post date, and realize I started teaching the “Science of the Small” nanoscience course at UKZN about two weeks after that post. It has been a challenge to keep ahead of the course–organizing lecture notes and a laboratory course for almost 30 third year students. I will post on another day about the students at UKZN (really, I will), but for now, I want to fill in at least one gap. Our trip to Sani Pass on the border of South Africa and Lesotho several weeks ago. Kristin gives her perspective here.

800px-locationlesothosvgSani Pass is the only road connecting KwaZulu-Natal with Lesotho. The other border crossings are on much less treacherous roads. The reason that there is only one “road” is that the Drakensburg mountains stand between KZN and Lesotho. For the not so adverterous, the sane way to enter Lesotho is into the capital city of Maseru on the border of SA through the province of the Free State…just cross a bridge at the border crossing and you are in Lesotho.

For those who like to live a little dangerously, Sani Pass is definitely the way to enter Lesotho. It is sort of like the X-games of border crossings–requiring a 4 x 4 vehicle and a lot of courage.

Rather than post fifty pictures, I have compiled a short slide show (Bandwidth challenged: Beware…13 MB file). I do realize that Lesotho is spelled wrong in the video, but fixing might add three months to getting this post done at my current pace.


  • The road goes from bad to worse to absurd in a 34 km stretch. These are given fancy names like grade 1, 2 and 3, respectively.
  • The peak at Sani Pass is over 9000′
  • We went on a stunningly beautiful day. I would be terrified to attempt that on a foggy, rainy, snowy, icy or just about any other condition day.
  • In the middle of the video, there is a rare picture of the border post. Actually, I was not supposed to take one, but a telephoto lens allows for a lot of interesting shots. If you want a better picture taken by someone more brazen and close, go to Google Earth.
  • The people of Lesotho living near Sani Pass are dreadfully poor. Much of their income is derived from tourists buying bread and beer in the traditional huts.
  • For a real beer, visit the highest pub in Africa, just be careful not to have too many Maluti’s or
  • The trip down could be your last.

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