Getting back in South Africa I had a long, but fast run to get down to the coast. After two long days on the back roads and I was in The Drakensburg mountains and found the answer to something I had been wondering about. When you look at Lesotho on a map you just can’t help but wonder why it still exists. South Africa hasn’t necessarily been the best of neighbors and this tiny enclave really looks like a tidbit that should have been eaten up long ago….
Now, try looking at a topographical map. Might as well ask why the Romans had a hard time with Masada.
Lesotho is surrounded on most sides not by mountains, but what appears to be one huge rampart that simply rises up from the plains.
There are a number of fairly standard ways over getting over/around this range and into Lesotho, but THE way to do it is via The Sani Pass. This short, near vertical pass is barred to all but 4X4s and bikes that the RSA border guards figure can make the steep, rocky accent. The road starts out bad, gets terrible, then quickly moves on to the ridiculous. Huge rocks, deep ruts, and a 30% average grade are just the start as the road narrows to tighten up the switchbacks and tempt you into putting a foot down to catch your breath. Of course, this is a trap. Even in first my bike was straining as I slowly rode upward; trying to get it started after a stop would have been near impossible at best and simply leave me with a completely burnt-out clutch at worst.
Once in Lesotho I didn’t stay long. It’s nice enough, but cold and the riding is treacherous without being overly satisfying.