Luckily, our guide and driver, Tsebo, was not a drinking man and didn't indulge at the SaniTop Pub because the ride back down Sani Pass was more hair-raising than going up. His complete attention and expertise were definitely required as he negotiated tight hairpin turns, steep gradients, boulders, rocks, rivers and washouts. He referred to the rough ride as an “African massage”.
As we slowly descended, we saw a lone young man toiling up the road with a heavy load of thatch roofing material on his back. The villagers who live on the barren, treeless top of the world in Lesotho, must descend and collect roofing materials.
As a side note, the Chinese are financing and building a new paved road up the Sani Pass. We saw and heard the work in progress. It will provide better access to Lesotho's raw minerals and a better route for trucks into KwaZulu Natal. Unfortunately, this seems to be at the expense of the environment. As rough as the current road is, it limits traffic flow through a World Heritage Site. Increased heavy vehicle traffic will obviously alter the natural habit and dynamics of the area.
Though the ride was rough and the afternoon was quickly waning, Tsebo still stopped at viewpoints for pictures and animal spottings. We saw a troop of baboons playing on a hillside, a grey rhebok and a duiker. The birdlife was splendid and we saw several new species. Raptors circled and scoured the ground for prey.
I didn't mention the wildflowers that were in bloom both en route and on the top in Lesotho. It's summer here, and the blooms were prolific including protea, the national flower.
We cleared back into South Africa. Lesotho Immigration had cleared us in and out when we arrived. Tired, dusty and sufficiently shaken (not stirred), we returned to the Sani Lodge for quick showers and then back to the Himeville Arms for a pub supper. Sani Pass was our topic of conversation throughout dinner. Thoughts of heading back to Durban and Brennan and Hannah leaving were put off as long as possible.
The morning dawned sunny again as we packed up and headed back to Durban via the ocean route. As you'll remember, the roads in South Africa are sometimes not the best. David concentrated on avoiding potholes, but one appeared out of nowhere and bam! Hannah was the first to recognize the sound of a flying hubcap. We stopped to check and sure enough, not only had we lost the hubcap, but we'd dented the rim as well and the bead of the tire was broken. We had a flat.
Brennan and David changed the tire while Hannah retrieved the errant hubcap and Marcie … supervised. We made it to the next little town where a local “tyre” dealer banged the rim back in place, reset the tire and inflated it good as new. R20 was charged for his labor (~$2). The guys changed the tire again and we were off.
We intersected with the coast road at Scottburgh, a little resort town about 60 km (36miles) south of Durban. The wind had whipped up and the rollers were enormous as we stopped to let Hannah and Brennan admire this beach and stick their toes into the Indian Ocean.
All too soon, we were back at Nine of Cups. The wind was howling and the kids were packing, excited about the next leg of their trip to Victoria Falls. We were already missing them. We're wondering where they'll meet us next.