Things change dramatically at the 5.8 km point, where the next hairpin is reached. It turns through a full 180 degrees to the right and also has a very tight radius. This is one of the hairpins where trucks might use up the entire width to make their turns.
From the 7.2 km point to the summit is by far the most technical of the entire pass. It's packed with razor sharp bends - six of them which turn through angles greater than 100 degrees. It is also here that you will experience the steepest gradient on the pass of 1:5.
Take it easy and enjoy the magnificent mountain-scapes as you climb almost 400m in altitude over just 2.8 km. The summit point of 2820m ASL offers wonderful and vast views both to the west and east. Make sure you pull well off the road if you plan on taking photographs.
The next pass we reached was the Mahlasela Pass. This is in fact, the highest pass is Lesotho at 3279m ASL. It climbs 740m over 17.9 km and like all the passes on this tour, this one is also tarred and in beautiful condition. Strangely this pass is seldom mentioned by travellers and plays a little sister role to Mafika Lisiu Pass. This was another pass where 1st gear was needed in the final bends up towards the summit.
Our overnight stop at the end of day 2 was at the New Oxbow Lodge. The lodge is old and has changed hands several times but its location is very dramatic - wedged alongside a narrow poort with a small river tumbling down it. Oxbow Lodge came into being when two brothers and their friends were exploring the Lesotho Mountains. They were caught in a snowstorm, and pitched their tents in the Oxbow area. The name is derived from a river nearby that flows in an oxbow shape.
As these brothers and their friends were outdoor enthusiasts, they came back again to the same spot and started the Oxbow campsite. In 1971, two young men from the U.K. got involved and built A-frame structures. The ownership changed many times after that. The road to Oxbow was in a very bad condition, resembling more of a donkey trail. A four-wheel drive vehicle was a necessity, and it took a whole day to get from Butha-Buthe to Oxbow.
New owners took over the establishment in 1978. In September 1981, the lodge, then built with timber and thatch, was completely destroyed by run-away fires. The owners started to rebuild, transporting all of the building materials using two Nissan four-wheel-drive pick-ups. A new tarred road was built in 1991, making the trip from Butha-Buthe to Oxbow possible in just under an hour.
The management of the lodge were very accommodating and resolved any issues promptly. The dining room, which is in a rondavel was a bit small to accommodate our whole group, so some enjoyed the very tasty dinner in the pub. With well fed and weary guests it was off to bed for a good night's sleep in spotlessly clean rooms in preparation for the final day of the tour.
Just a note on the Oxbow Lodge. For those booked in to the rooms furthest away from the pub/kitchen, it takes around 12 minutes for the hot water to flow through the pipes to reach the last rooms. In mid-winter that time frame will be even longer. But when it gets there, it's piping hot!
[Next week more on this amazing tour]
Bedrogfontein-Zuurberg Tour (Chapter 3)
For the first time on any MPSA tour we introduced the concept of a lay day (or free day). The second day of the tour we let each driver decide what they wanted to do with their day, but the unanimous decision was that everyone wanted to go to the Addo National Park. The group remained in VHF radio contact which allowed us to call each other when a good sighting was made.
The weather was perfect as we all explored the main park in our own time at our own pace. Later when we compared notes over dinner, there was a long list of sightings which included, buffalo, red hartebeest, springbok, black backed jackal, lion, warthog, giraffe and of course elephant. The hide right next to the main entrance gates offered superb photo opportunities and most guests stayed in the park until late afternoon.
An interesting thing happened to one of our guests, Mike Waspe. He lost his wallet in an ablution facility at one of the view sites and only realised it some three hours later. On the way out the park, he stopped in at reception to report the loss. They had his wallet waiting for him with everything inside including R1800 cash. The ranger in charge of the view site had picked up the wallet and handed it in. This is such a wonderful good news story that it's worth making a special note of the honesty and work ethic at Addo - a wonderful national asset of South Africa. Bouw zo voort!
[Next week we will report back on the Bedrogfontein 4x4 Route - the highlight of the tour]
A chat covering the final day of our Lesotho-Sani Tour which includes some major passes, the Letseng diamond mine, a stop at the highest pub in Africa and a perfect descent of the Sani Pass. Click to listen.
Featured pass of the week:
On our way to Addo, we allowed sufficient time to film a few passes in the Kareedouw area in the Langkloof. We feature one of the four passes today via a double video set for you to enjoy and bookmark this one onto your bucket list. It's gravel, remote and quiet with sensational views.
* * * * * S U U R A N Y S B E R G P A S S * * * * *
New passes added this week:
Gouwsberg Pass - An easy tarred pass with great history on the R544 in Mpumalanga
Malherbeshoogte - A small and insignificant official pass on the R60 between Ashton and Robertson
Thought for the day: "Happy, happy Christmas that can win us back the delusions of our childhood days; recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth and transport the traveller back to his own fireside and quiet home" - Charles Dickens