So let’s go back to the beginning…. I bought my first motorbike in August 2006, a brand spanking new BMW F650GS.
I did not know much about bikes at the time, and for all intents and purposes, this was my dream bike. I used it for commuting. But sometime during 2007 I read this ride report (Angola, it’s not like they said). I was caught hook, line and sinker and decided there and then that I want to do more and more of this kind of stuff, meaning on/off road motorcycle touring, basically now branded as Adventure Touring / Riding.
I posted a pic or two on Facebook of my bike and then I got a message from a friend of mine who also just bought a bike with the exact same ideas in mind as me. Sephton got himself a Kawasaki KLR 650. We chatted a bit and neither of us had done any dirt riding let alone a long trip or any kind of touring, so we decided we will go big or go home, right out of the bat…….Sani Pass
Now for those that did not click on the link above, Sani Pass is a dirt road leading from Natal in South Africa up to Lesotho. It is a very steep road with lots of switchbacks and a big favorite for 4×4 enthusiasts and adventure bikers. This is what the pass looks like:
The (In)famous Sani Pass (pic taken from www. mountainpassessouthafrica.co.za)
I rode down from Pretoria to Harrismith to meet up with Sephton. I was incredibly excited, and also incredibly nervous! This was my first ride outside of Gauteng, and it was the first time I strapped a tent, sleeping bag and some luggage to the back of my boney! I was like a kid on Christmas morning and I could not stop smiling in my helmet!
Next morning we were packed and ready for an adventure! We took some back roads from Harrismith to Bergville, then some more plantation roads and back roads all the way to the small town of Himeville at the base of Sani Pass. The highlight of these roads were the Lotheni road, running from the town of Nottingham Road to Himeville. Still today this is one of my favorite roads to ride, I guess with it being my first real dirt road, on my first real trip made it very special and something that I will always hold dear to me.
The map of the roads we took from Harrismith to Himeville[map style=”width: auto; height:400px; margin:20px 0px 20px 0px; border: 1px solid black;” kml=”http://etiennexplore.com/wp-content/uploads/EtienneXplore_2007.kml” elevation=”no” download=”no”]
Arriving in Himeville, we filled up our bikes and our tummies, and headed off to the South African border post at the base of the pass. The Lesotho border post is at the top, so the pass itself sits in no-man’s land.
Border formalities is really a non event at Sani Pass, in and out in a jiffy!
And here is the height profile of Sani Pass (taken from: www.4x4community.co.za)
I must admit, the pass was in absolutely great condition when we did it. Sani’s condition is well known for changing all the time, so it is very hard to explain to someone if Sani is doable or easy or hard. It changes all the time. So it might be very easy one day (like it was for us) and then a month later it will be a proper challenge. So advice on Sani Pass is always a bit of a hit and miss…. We were lucky!
As I mentioned, we did not take many pictures, this was in the days long before cell phone cameras. We each had a tiny cheap-ass digital camera where a 2.0 megapixel photo was the bomb!!
Here I am slowly getting up the steep slopes of the Drakensberg
The trusty KLR made mincemeat of the road up the mountain
The views on this pass is just spectacular, the KLR is not bad either!
We made it safely to the top, and settled down for one of the best beers of my life. It was my first stamp in a passport, my first beer in another country, my first beer on a bike trip, a beer with one of my best friends and we were so chuffed with ourselves for making it up the mountain in one piece with no falls! It is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Highest pub in Africa
The view from the top of Sani Pass looking down towards Natal
One of the photos that I am the proudest of…. On top of the world, and happy happy happy!!!
The ride down was chilled and easy going, and we did the road all the way back to Harrismith arriving just after dark. We were tired, but so happy….
Looking back now, just over 8 years after I did this ride, I can mention a few things……
- My goodness, I packed a lot of crap on that bike, and did not even need a single thing in all that luggage, well so you learn.
- I was hooked on this type of riding, and this is the way I want to spend every holiday!
- I wanted (needed) to explore more of South Africa and Southern Africa
- Friends made through this type of biking are friends for life…..
Thanks for reading, please feel free to comment and share this post. It is the first of many!