From the Sani Pass we make our way to Mokhotlong,passing through traditional villages, Lesotho
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Swaziland Trip Journal from February 13 to 14, 2008

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Country: Swaziland
Duration: Feb. 13 to 14, 2008
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 190km on the motorcycles.
Accommodations: Camped (1) night for 100Lilangeni/night ($13.50CDN/night).  
Exchange Rate: 7.4 Lilangeni (E) = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs: Swaziland Visa = Free for Canadians, Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage.

Feb. 13, 2008.  We entered Swaziland from Mozambique at the Namaache/Lomahasha Border Post and then rode as far as the Hlane Royal National Park.  Motorcycles are allowed in this Wilderness National Park.  White Rhinos, Elephants, Hippos and Lions can be found in this park.  The government operated campsite, located inside the gated National Park, is definitely worth a stopover.  The facilities are excellent, large clean washrooms, restaurant, self-catering cooking and cleaning area all included in the price of camping (around $12.00CDN including Park Fee/night). Hippos were hanging out at the water whole bordering the campsite.  We made ourselves dinner and then Mike found enough wood to start a fire (our first one on this trip).  It felt almost like home.  Traveling in the off-season has its benefits as all the sites are empty.  Swaziland's main season is from June to December.  During the night Mike wakes me up to listen to the lions roar.  After that I was unable to sleep any further, as the sounds of the lions roaring seemed to get closer and closer.  I was trying to tell myself that lions normally respect the borders of the tent, but it did not really work.  Lions where reintroduced to the park and have successfully reproduced ever since.  It is one of the only parks in Swaziland where wild lions can be found.  I was glad when the sky became lighter and we could rise and shine.

Feb. 14, 2008. Swaziland is among the smallest countries in Southern Africa and therefore takes only a couple of hours to cross from top to bottom (190km).  Near the Lubombo Mountains, at the small town of Big Bend, large fields of sugar cane are planted along the Lusutfu River.  In the morning I had accidentally withdrawn 2000 Lilangeni ($270CDN) from the ATM machine instead of 2000 Rand.  The exchange rate is par.  The South African Rand can be used in Swaziland, Namibia and Lesotho at par.  Unfortunately the Swaziland Lilangeni can not be used in South Africa.  With way too much cash on hand we stopped at the grocery store, gas station and post office and were able to exchange all of the Lilangeni into Rand.  At the Swaziland/South Africa Border Post located at Lavumisa/Golela we fueled up and out of the blue Andre (German met in Mozambique) comes running up to us.  Timing is everything.  Both Andre and Doris were on a local bus and saw our motorcycles at the gas station.  Andre made the bus driver stop.  We quickly caught up on where they had been and where they were going as they had to proceed with the border formalities.  Maybe we would meet again somewhere in South Africa.  We took in a leisurely breakfast and then got in line to check out of Swaziland at the Border Post.  This is one of the busier border posts as large numbers of South Africans take this route from/to Mozambique.

Lesotho Trip Journal from February 21 to 22, 2008

Country: Lesotho
Duration: Feb. 21 to 22, 2008
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 220km on the motorcycles.
Accommodations: Camped (1) night for 100Rand/night ($13.50CDN/night). 
Exchange Rate: 7.4 Rand (R) = $1.00CDN used South African Rand
Border Formality Costs: Swaziland Visa = Free for Canadians, Motorcycle Customs = Not Applicable.

Feb. 21, 2008.  We entered Lesotho via the famous Sani Pass from South Africa.  The Sani Pass is the only access route to Lesotho from KwaZulu Natal.  The pass ascends 1300m over 20km.  Morgan and Kate had warned us about its current bad condition.  Morgan a good off-road rider had driven the pass two (2) weeks earlier in his 4x4 and told us that he was glad he was not on his KTM 990. It was the roughest he had seen the pass ever.  But Mark had convinced us that it was doable.  From the South African Border Post, at the bottom of Sani Pass to the Lesotho Border Post at the top is just over 6km.  Let me tell you that it was a mission to get the 1200 beemers up that mountain.  The recent rain had washed out some sections of the road and exposed large smooth river rocks.  Combined with the steep ascent, switchbacks and elevation the motorcycle had a tough time making it without stalling in first gear.  The clutch got a good workout, luckily we had replaced them in Germany.  Mark was on his KTM 990 and his brother-in-law on a KTM 950.  The KTM in Marks hands looks more like a 250cc motorcycle.  We believe he probably could single handedly pick-up the motorcycle and carry it through a water crossing.  Without his help we would not have made it up the pass.  The last 1km is very steep (30% gradients) and has lots of tight switchbacks.  Mark advises me that I can not stop until I am at the top or I will drop the motorcycle.  In first gear, riding the clutch, the loose gravel and rocks make the rear tire spin, resulting in the motorcycle almost stalling.  Only once did the motorcycle go sideways, but I used the dirtbike trick by stepping out with the leg and kept on the gas.  I stopped for nothing, teeth crunched, legs shaking I made it to the top of Sani Pass.  The rear shock had sprung an oil leak and was finally on its last leg.  The scenery is breath taking.  The highest Pub in Africa (2897m) is located at the top.  We first get our passports stamped to enter Lesotho and proceed to the Sani Top Chalets.  The Chalets were completely booked and therefore we set up camp in the yard.  Nothing wrong with that, as the lawn is perched dramatically at the top of the pass.  The balcony of the highest Pub in Africa has a full view of the Drakenberg Range and of the road as it carves its way to the top.  Camping is a 100Rand/night ($13.50CDN/night).  The South African Border Post closes at 4pm and Mark and his brother have to say Good-bye and return to their own country.  Thanks a million for spending the day with us and getting us to this beautiful spot.  The owner of the Lodge tells us that he can not remember the last time the road had been this bad.  If we had known before hand we probably would have not attempted it.  Before sun set we venture out to the edge of the steep walls of the mountain range to get some pictures of the pass and mountains.  Supper is a communal event for 75Rand/person ($10,00CDN/person).  The food is so excellent that after the main course, we are completely full and unable to eat the desert.  Camping at 2897m we figured it would be a cold night, but were pleasantly surprised otherwise.    

Feb. 22, 2008. In the morning we are greeted by clear blue sky.  A beautiful day lay ahead of us.  The gravel road continues on the high plateau.  The scenery windswept, no trees and villages consist of mud/straw huts.  The locals wear thick woolen blankets around their shoulders and rubber boots with woolly colorful socks pulled up to their knees.  Lesotho due to its remoteness still has large herds of wild horses grazing in the open plains of the high land.  The main transportation of the locals is bare-back on a horse. Culture and Heritage is still alive in this small country, a welcome surprise. The road climbs to 3255m and then descends into Mokhotlong.  We stop at a small store and buy some freshly baked bread. Sitting down on the outside of the store, the local lady from the pub beside invites us in and provides us with a table and chair free of charge.  Nutella, Peanut Butter and Jam on fresh bread, the perfect breakfast.  Tarmac starts after Mokhotlong and ascends and descends over several passes through Mapholaneng, Mothae to Joel's Drift.  Another great pass is the Moteng Pass just before Joel's Drift, where the road descends 700m in 7kms via switchbacks.  Temperatures increase as we reach the low land. We cross into South Africa by Butha-Buthe at the Caledonspoort Border Post.  Immigration formalities are speedy and we say good-bye to another beautiful country.  We did not explore the southern or western parts of Lesotho, but will leave it for another visit.

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