Day 4 – Sani Pass to Bush Camp

A pleasant midday departure was planned, but confirmed when some of the carnet paperwork was not collected by the South African Police on the exit of South Africa last night – in their rush to close for the night.  So 1$ with others had to exit Lesotho, drive down the pass, hand over the sheets, then drive up again. It is a distance of about 7 km, but quite slow and time consuming, no doubt with extra stops for photos.

Lesotho border post

Long rolling hills with bitumen highways where pleasant driving, it’s high arid mountainous landscape. Our aim was to get to Thaba -Tseka and the highway would take us around a long route of over 300km. The alternative was a short cut of around 100km on dirt roads, which we took.

Small villages of round huts, straw roofs are everywhere, and similar huts spread across the landscape. Herders tending their stock, sometimes sheep, sometimes goats with a few cows. Donkey and bullock carts collecting timber for the upcoming winter. Men wearing long heavy robes to keep the chilly wind out, and menacing looking beanies that when removed would reveal young cheerful faces.

Corolla negotiating the holes


Windy roads, plenty of rocky sections and potholes, this is an unmaintained track.

At some point we came across more and more cars and people  and found ourselves in the middle of an election rally. There was the team wearing red, then there was a team wearing blue with a clock as a symbol – Lesotho version of ‘It’s Time’ I guess.  I think there may have been a yellow and a white team too. As we arrived the two teams were coming together, traffic was at a standstill and chanting people all around us. Loud music from a PA system on the back of a ute. It was a heady experience. We never felt unsafe, everyone was happy, great to see. The thing that interests me is that all these people seem to have pretty similar lives. Some are living in open farms, some are in villages. Some villages have schools with kids with uniforms. But I’m not sure how you could get four different political groupings our of what appears to be a mono culture.

Safely exiting the rally, we kept our progress and as the sun was setting we came across a river with wide floodplain and after due investigation, this was to be our campsite for the night next to the Dinaking river.

Tents appeared from the back of the cars, 10°C rated very light tropical sleeping bags were issued to those who had requested them. Even stretcher camp beds and self inflating mattresses had all be stacked away inside the cars. Combined with ours being a food carrying vehicle, you can see how is would become fully overloaded very quickly.

Keen photographer Nora, also the trip chronicler, and I set up our cameras to capture the night sky. She had taken an awesome shot of the milky way last night and I was keen to do the same. She has a mirrorless Sony with full frame sensor which takes a variety of lens and has all the features of my camera, I think. I was happy with the shots, but it did get cold.


Locals gathered. Locals came with a truck to collect sand for building from the river bed, tents got moved. More locals came and watched the tent city grow and more lights than they had ever seen turned on. Dinner appeared and was consumed and discussion after dinner turned to the need for a two hour sentry roster. I didn’t volunteer.

I was warm enough, but mislaid my nice possum fur beanie, so my head was a little cold at times. I had four thermal tops and one bottom and two liners inside my down sleeping bag that it is zero rated. The Malaysians on the other hand, were all completely unprepared and not acclimatised. Their light weight gear was no match for the 0°C overnight temps. It probably got colder than that as my drink bottle was frozen.


Day 3 – Durban to Sani Pass

Looking out over the Sani Pass down off the plateau of the Drakensburg Mountains and I feel very fortunate to be able to experience this. They do say that high altitude brings a certain euphoria, maybe it does, but so does the scenery.

From the bathroom window

Taking you back a day, we spent Easter Monday at a shopping centre in Durban, doing a bit more site seeing to the beach and packing up the cars.   None of this was very interesting to write about!

Our convoy eventually left our accommodation at Mandalay in the northern suburbs of Durban and we headed to a spot next to a big stadium, name to be inserted later, that hosted the World Cup several years ago. However the place we parked for a photo seemed to be against the rules and we needed permission to be there. Permission was eventually sought and granted and photos taken. All the run around kept us there for at least twice as long as if they’d just let us do our thing and be on our way.

Too much barbed wire


From our accommodation


We found our way onto a major motorway heading to Pretoria, the capital of South Africa up through ranges and steep climbs with plenty of traffic.

Traffic jam caused by some incident

I was comfortably squeezed into the back seat along with heaps of gear and noticed the temp gauge rising. After a stop at a big service station we turned off and found ourselves on lesser roads looking for a lunch stop. By accident, we turned off into what turned out to be a pretty little community of herders and subsistence farmers. Lunch of noodles was prepared but I was still full from yesterday’s lunch, so declined.

The old car
After having their photo taken with some of the group, this couple were checking it out on their phones.


More of a delay was the discovery of a significant problem with the car I was in – no doubt a head gasket has blown. After a refill of water and plenty of concerned looks, I was placed in the drivers seat and told to drive gently. This I did and although we couldn’t keep up with the convoy we didn’t do too bad. We had 1$ and mechanic Jackie following us in my old car so refilled the radiator a couple of times – hot cup of tea anyone?

Pressure was on to reach the South Africa border post before they closed at 6pm and we made it, just. Before then the tar road had petered out and we were on the rocky dirt track that went all the way up the side of the mountain, so I had fun driving that in low range. Engine seemed to stay cool enough with care, not revving too much, low pressure on the accelerator and changing down gears to reduce the fuel needed – fuel = heat and pressure which aggravated the problem. Slow progress at times.

The border control was very happy to stamp us our really fast with no formality, they wanted to go home. Better than 8 hours from Mongolia to Russia!

After entering no mans land between the two border crossings, Eddie drove again and we climbed through the Sani pass at night which was a wonderful experience. Seeing the lights of the cars leading us way up and up and up ahead of us, and watching the altimeter on my mapping app climb and climb through 1500m to 2000m then to 2872m at the Mountain Lodge. The entry to Lesotho stayed open for us and again it was a quick stamp and away we go.

The poor Malaysians I am travelling with are freezing in the cold mountain air, and I do admit that I felt the cold in my shorts too. 8°C when we arrived and dropped to a low of around 2°C. Camping is planned for tonight…. eeeek.

A chilly start was worthwhile to get the light on the plateau soon after sunrise.





Sani Pass



Sheep herder




Wamukelekile Durban South Africa

Stories of flights leaving at midnight, meeting Subra from Melbourne, a long 11 hour flight over the ocean, clocks back 6 hours, waiting for our transfer at Johannesburg for three hours after arriving at 5am, then waiting for three hours at Durban for more arrivals on later flights and travelling in convoy again to our accommodation compound. Meeting my fellow travelling companions, plenty of food, evening briefings and distribution of convoy T shirts, more food and eventually a long long sleep. Somehow that covers Day 1.

The team at Durban Airport

Only one odd thing has happened that can be attributed to the magic of Africa, was me losing my Australian SIM card at the Vodacom shop at the airport. I was taking exceptional care of it and it was going to be taped inside my passport, until in a complete mystery, it disappeared. Not fallen down cracks in the desk, or the cupboards on the floor, or on the roof, or in my clothing or pockets. Disappeared – swoosh, like magic. What else is Africa going to surprise me with?

In convoy again

Day 2 in Durban, Easter Sunday was today and less of a whirl of tiredness and excitement. We’re staying in a complex containing guest houses with good security fences and two diligent owners who used to be called Irish and can’t wait to they go back to retire shortly. Monkeys are likely to come through the gardens.

Durban is a city of 6 million, as big as Sydney and like Sydney, on the east coast. It’s green, undulating and at the same latitude as Perth, so the days are warm and dry. They say there is a drought. Looks very green. Water restrictions mean water is turned off by the city after 10:00pm. We’re drinking bottled water, same as the chalet owners.

Thomas runs a good trip – have I said that before?  🙂

Morning exercises and stretches are a nice ritual easily forgotten. Jacob used to enjoy heading out early in China to find these large group exercises too – there might be something in it; sharing a stretch in the morning.

Convoy hit the road, plenty of radio chatter to keep people in line, making the correct turns, slowly down when some are caught at traffic light, with 1$ taking up the tail end charlie job in EG4WD83, my old car.

The Shri Vishnu society in Chatsworth, Durban was the first stop. A Hindu society we were extremely welcomed, with the roads blocked off and a special parking area set aside for us. Albeit it was down a dirt track, but it did suit our vehicles!  1$ told me later they had delayed closing a special festival for our arrival.

Special car park

It was explained that Hindu is often critiqued for having multiple gods and the worship of idols. He said this was not true and they believed in one overall God but then just like any person or society, there are different parts of us that contribute to our whole. One for love, one for wealth, one for creativity etc, and these components all have names and yes, are embodied with a physical representation, which he described. All very interesting. For world travellers,  Christian Thomas, and Muslim 1$, this was quite an eye opening explanation. Once again, barriers get pulled down through listening and sharing stories. And at the end, I got a bindi on my forehead!

Hanuman – in monkey form – representing the obedient servant in us. The viewing platform was kept open for us. You climb to the top and pour water over it as a token of appreciation and a man gives a special chant to help you feel better and give you strength


My room buddy Subra lives in Melbourne but hails from Indian Tamil Hindu heritage. He was in his element and represented us well.

Subra on the left


Next was a short drive to a funny little memorial for Mahatma Ghandi who had visited the district. During Apartheid, the guy who spoke to us told us how his grandparents, and he remembers this, were moved out of their homes and placed with all other Indians into an undeveloped area, segregated. Given they had been brought to Durban on promise of a wonderful future, then treated like slaves, only to work to settle themselves into real contributors to the community, this segregation didn’t go down well. Come in Ghandi who preached his non violent approach to dissent. Not sure where it got them all, but now Chatsworth is full of shared housing plots, built up a bit all over the place as families grew and the houses needed to be expanded.

Yes, I have a Bindi on my forehead
Hamming it up for the visitors



Next we moved on the Hare Krishna temple. Krishna is the Hindu deity for love. Only one was dressed in the familiar orange garb we are used to. They were practicing a play about the transitions through life, set to the Led Zeppelin music of Stairway to Heaven. They all seemed to be having a good time.

Back into convoy we headed to old Durban. I was very pleased we didn’t stop to get out at the markets so these photos are all on the move. Something told me we would stand out in the crowd. Some might call it vibrant, I don’t. Amazing scenes.

Shanty beside the railway tracks
Barbed wire covers every fence, every where
These mini buses are everywhere. They stop anywhere for pick up and drop off. Not sure how people work out where they are going. They only leave when full. I don’t imagine I’ll try one out.

Cleaning a car, not stealing a hubcap.
Plenty of hope needed riding in the back of the truck. Many people do this. Many people wandering across roads and freeways. Many pedestrians are killed on the roads. I am not surprised!!!
Municipal offices and a memorial to the Boer War.
A nice flower/fruit. Name unknown

The beach side of Durban is apparently famous. It was certainly popular on Easter Sunday.

Nearly back at the compound we pulled into a fuel station. The attendants glum looks suddenly turned to smiles when nine 4WDs pulled in. Diesel is around A$1.23 a litre.

A BBQ is planned for tonight. No monkeys to show yet. One more day here then we head to the Sani pass on Tuesday.

The data file for today’s drive is downloadable at this link driving around Durban You should be able to open it in Google maps or Google earth. It might not be very interesting, but it’s there if you’d like to see it.

I hope you enjoy my stories and photos. I welcome comments, it helps justify the effort!


Later: The men from Saltran Logistics joined us for a chat. They’d cleared the vehicles so smoothly and professionally that Thomas invited them to join us for meal.

Adventure to South Africa

My friends at 4×4 World Explorer, who helped us travel through China and Mongolia, presented an offer I couldn’t refuse; so I didn’t.

The Beaume Trans Africa 5 two month expedition commences in Cape Town, but leader Thomas has landed the convoy vehicles in Durban to do a reconnaissance trip for future expeditions and explore new options.

Durban, the iconic Sani Pass, and the landlocked mountain kingdom of Lesotho before descending to Cape Town. I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with the famous EG4WD83 and the friends I made three years ago. Updates will come as best I can – we’ll be away from technology.