Author Topic: annual pilgrimage up sani pass  (Read 2577 times)  Share 

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Offline ladaboy

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annual pilgrimage up sani pass
« on: December 02, 2019, 09:04:17 pm »
So ...
Our annual pilgrimage up Sani Pass was on the 30th November 2019.

Prep-work started out two days before our trip with a simple cam chain check and adjustment... yeah that turned out well... ended up replacing the cam chain, gears, shoes and tensioner... no time for an oops here. Replaced the alternator belt due to a small nick and fitted a old set of brake pads to see me through till I get time to change the front discs.

As with all exciting trips, we were amped and were up at 4:30 AM Saturday morning and packing the van. 5:00 AM we hit the road, filled in some petrol in our trusty jerry can and topped up some in the tank. Off we go. In hind sight, maybe we should have left a little bit later, as most the coffee stops on our way to Underberg were still closed, but on the other hand, we got to Underberg in time for the butcher. We stocked up for dinner supplies for the evening ( lamb chops, wors, and rump sosaties wrapped in bacon and marinated in a steak sauce).

The butcher comes very highly recommended by the Bushveld Mafia and am prepared to drive from Durban to Underberg for a dozen chops - they are that good ( flavour is the best the Mafia has ever tasted)

From the butcher, we stopped at the Lemon tree café for breakfast and coffee. The Lemon tree boast the best cappuccino in town for three years running - yip, they are good. After breakfast, it was off to the local SPAR to get some rabbit food aka salads. Supplies in hand, we head off through Himeville to our accommodation site, Sani Lodge Backpackers ( tree star rated) booking in time is only from 14:00 onwards but we like to be prepared and confirmed our bookings early. The staff at the backpackers are very friendly and seem to enjoy their work ( something not often seen in South Africa anymore) The booking confirmation soon turned into a short discussion about the receptionists revamped series 2 Landrover.

After a little bit of chit chat we made our way up to our destination.

The tarring process has begun in earnest and it's sad to say a travesty what is happening on one of South Africa's most iconic roads. The once reasonably well kept dirt road is now a strip of tarmac. The concreted walls where proteas use to reside, is now dull and industrial looking ( maybe things will look different in a few years once nature claws it's way back)

Bridges now cover all the stream crossings and gone are the days of stopping next to the small pools and jumping in to look foe precious stones or just to cool your feet. Access is limited and it will be interesting to see what the final product is going to look like.

The tar road now bypasses the old trading store ruins and I'm sure it won't be long before this piece of history is over grown and lost in time.
This is were we encountered the horrid little tar stones from the freshly laid tar. These buggers seem to have a tracking device built in to home into the gap between the front discs and backing plates, giving off the most awful grinding, you going to break something, noises. A quick reverse at the stop/go point sorted these buggers out. From there, the road is pretty good and I'm sure a normal car with a bit of clearance, like a Citi Golf or small bakkie will make it to the border post with ease despite warning signs for high clearance vehicles only.

South African border control is painless and the border police are jovial.
The first 50 metres past the border gate is relatively rough until you get to the first little stream crossing. From there it is like any urban road, pot holes and slow going. It gets worse as you go. This is definitely diff-lock and low range country. I tried a section of not too bad road with diff-lock off and can say without a doubt that diff-lock makes the ride 100% better and safer ( there is no prize for bashing up Sani without diff-lock)
One lesson I've learned on my van is to toggle diff-lock on and off around the hair pin bends. It corners easier and the CV joints don't cry. You need to toggle diff-lock back on as soon as you round the bend as the road gets worse just past the bend ( probably due to mall crawlers with traction control clawing for grip)

At the top you are greeted by the Lesotho border post and not so jovial border control police who stamp your passport and hand you a leaflet that needs to be filled in before you exit the country again.
Toll fees was R40,00 per small vehicle.

Off to the highest pub in Africa.
We made the mistake of getting there during what seemed to be the black Friday weekend of tourists, the place was packed like sardines.
We waited about 45min before we wrestled a table and ordered lunch (the Bushveld Mafia recommends the Basotho lamb stew)
We melted the lamb flavour from our pallets with a nice cup of tea.

Now to head back down.
After the re-stamping of the passports and handing in the filled out leaflet, it was seatbelts buckled and hold on.
The drive down Is as technical as the drive up and at times you think to yourself " did I drive up here??"
The same toggle of diff-lock works on the way down and after a bone shaking hour or so we're back at the South African border where proceedings are painless and quick.
Down the dirt road again towards those pesky tar stones.

Our accommodation at the backpackers consisted of an en suite rondavel with double bed and a single en suite rondavel for my dad, who joined us on our pilgrimage.
Sani Lodge backpackers offers accommodation from camping to dorm rooms, standard rooms with communal ablutions to en suite rondavels.
The communal kitchen is well fitted and the braai area is very much sufficient for large groups.

I tried out one of those disposable braais and I got to admit, they are like a Lada, read the manual carefully and after that fails, do it the Bushveld Mafia way and hack it until it works.
Funny story, two German tourist asked us if they could share the braai area and they offered us the use of their wood fire coals if we don't succeed with our efforts because they had tried one of these braais on a previous occasion and had failed.
Jokes on them when after we had braaied for three people, we donated our coals to get their braai up and going.

One of the good experiences of the backpackers is the international tourists you get to meet. It is always nice to spread the good word of Lada to the unbelievers.

After a good night sleep we where up with coffee in hand and packing for the slow trip home.

We had breakfast at the Pickle Pot café which has good coffee ( try their piclechinno - cappuccino with a marshmallow yummy) and good food.
You are closely watched by the most adorable great Danes while eating - in the hope that a rasher or two mysteriously falls off your plate.

After a quick decant from the jerry can we headed to Howick to Peel's honey farm. After a few jams and honeys, it was off to Peter's Gate where we acquired some herbal products and a live herb plant ( of the legal variety)

With the van smelling all nice inside, we decide on a light snack and coffee and headed  to Curry's Post via a dirt road from Lion's river station. We stopped at the Barn owl café, the coffee was good but the menu was mediocre.
We departed the Barn owl in the mist around 3PM and made our way slowly back to Durban.
It was shocking to see cars fly past us and some almost nudging our side mirror trying to pass on a solid white line in almost zero visibility.
We got home safe just before 5PM and all thanks to the you can never kill it Lada.



Offline Ari bezuidenhout

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Re: annual pilgrimage up sani pass
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2019, 08:54:21 am »
Nice write up....

And some good 4x4 tips in there as well.

My Lada runs on grace from God, and breaks due to my failings.

Offline SARemco

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Re: annual pilgrimage up sani pass
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2020, 10:53:31 am »
You lucky you close enough to make it a annual trip. we had a great experience in September.
when you recon the Fongkong gentleman will have completed the tar road project? i'm sure you noticed that they far away from completion from the SA border post...

Offline SARemco

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Re: annual pilgrimage up sani pass
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2020, 10:54:27 am »
and i see the locsa sticker is still at its place in the bar  ;D