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Day 9

Friday 12 August 2005

Lesotho Sun Hotel, Maseru - Sani Pass Hotel

Today was a real Adventure (with a capital A). Our task was to exit Lesotho and reach the South African border post by 16:00, covering a distance of only 314km. This distance would normally present no problems but the roads were steep, rough and rocky, so consistent high speeds were not possible, especially for the Weening family who are travelling in a long wheel-based Land Rover Defender 147.

A pseudo (and very slow) Special Stage was under way, with the finishing line being at the highest point of the event, the Kotisephola Pass, which is windy, cold and stands at 10,660ft. Throughout Lesotho, the views have been exceptional, but the view at the top of Kotisephola was truly breathtaking.

Now for the descent and the Lesotho border post, an anonymous-looking concrete shed with the most horrendous pothole to navigate at the actual border point. We called in at the Sani Top Chalet for a quick drink, which boasts the title of South Africa's highest pub. For some, however, time did not allow.

What followed was probably the most challenging road that many of us have experienced - ever. Tight, narrow downhill hairpins eventually turned into stony boulders. Walking pace was the most we could attain, although all 4x4 drivers handled it brilliantly. We were relieved to see the South African border appear. Most people managed to reach it just before the 16:00 closing time.

However, the Weenings and our sweep vehicle with Dr Greg and Jingers reached it slightly late due to the Defender having electrical problems, but the guards had been bribed with event t-shirts and were happy to let the latecomers through the gate, providing they padlocked it behind them. Therefore, Jingers and Greg officially closed the border that night!

Eventually we pulled into our overnight stop, the Sani Pass Hotel.