Dispatch No.8 – Lesotho's Sani Top

Posted by Kingsley Holgate on 5 June 2009

The expedition Landies pull up at Leqooa Primary School where the kids are playing soccer with a football made from bits of scrap plastic tied together.

It’s amazing isn’t it when you think that the 2010 Soccer World Cup is coming to Africa and these little guys don’t even have a soccer ball. So we change all that. Out come three brand new balls, soccer bibs for the kids and whistles. They all gather round to look at a poster clearly demonstrating how their own special Transfrontier Conservation Area of Sethlabathebe links to the others across Africa.

“Anyone for Gluhwein!” shouts Jonathan Aldous the colourful owner of the highest pub in Africa as twelve hours later with the berg wind howling from across the Maloti’s perched on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment at 2874 meters we huddle around the fire at Lesotho’s Sani Top.

I can’t believe it, they’ve peddled every inch of the way, up the 10 000 feet Matabeng Pass, camped for the night in the Senqu Valley, and then ridden the yoyo of Maluti Passes to meet us here at the highest pub in Africa.

“It was David Alexander,” says Jonathan , leaning on the pub and grinning from underneath his beanie, he was a man of adventure and vision and started the first motorized transport in old Landies up the Sani Pass and over the Black Mountain to Mokhotlong. Before then it had all been donkey transport.”

“What’s for grub?” we ask Jonathan as he races between pub and kitchen. The altitude and the wind has clearly made him a bit crazy. “Only two things on the menu, it’s called Take it or Leave it!”

We line up for great expedition grub, bowls of hot soup, freshly baked traditional Basotho bread, Hot ring-sting curry, and enough lasagna to carbo load Mike and his cycling team, who tomorrow morning will escort the Landies down to the bottom of one of the most historic mountain passes in Africa It’s a symbolic ride down and back up the pass. We’ll be meeting a media team. Sani Top is an important part of our expedition and the vision for the entire escarpment to become a Transfrontier Conservation Area.

In the pub are the friendly Lesotho border officials. “Welcome to the Mountain Kingdom,” says the chief, “Agh. This wind – it will probably snow, and you must learn some Southern Sotho: there’s no L’s in the language. To greet you say dumelang or to make it easy, hojoang. Have you tried our local Basotho whiskey?” he says. “It’s called Qhoma u Cheche – jump and reverse. Tomorrow he’ll see us off from the border gate and receive us when we come up again.

We’ll keep you posted.

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