Today we drive the Sani pass, one of the challenges that I would not withhold Milady.
In the morning I eat my last slice of bread with Lara’s strawberry jam, extra nice because during the months the sugars fermented into alcohol …
It is a beautiful ride, the Sani pass …
The actual pass starts on the South African side of the border, so the whole ride is in no man’s land.
The border is a mere formality, we get a visa for 5 days and continue to drive after we had lunch at the “highest pub in Africa” with a beer and a burger.
In the afternoon we drive through Lesotho. On top of the pass, in Lesotho, the road is paved nicely, that drives just fine, of course,
although also here the slopes are challenging.
We find a nice playmate for Milady …
We decide at 3am to find a camping place, the Molumong Lodge. We want to camp, but when we have a look at the accommodation we can use shower and toilet, it starts to rain.
We decide to stay inside and sleep in a real bed.
Inside the fire is burning… The ladies cook our dinner and breakfast will also be provided by them.
Thanking them for the good care we leave behind the blankets Astrid and Jurjen left with us.
The next morning, it’s still raining, we look at the map and Garmin and choose the “shortest path” back to South Africa. This runs through Taung, Sehonghong, Sehlabathebe to the border crossing at Ramatseliso or Qacha’s Nek.
Outside the Molumong Lodge we are welcomed by Simon, he has a stringed instrument with which he gives a concert.
The instrument consists of a stick on which a horse hair is strained, he blows a piece of bone which serves as a type of flute.
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It is dry when we leave, giving courage (despite today’s date, Friday the 13th).
The climb to the main road is already a direct challenge, “low range” first gear and I must carefully climb the slope.
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After that, the road to Taung is pretty good to drive, despite last nights rain and slipperiness.
When we are in Taung we enquire how to get to the South African border. The man we ask confirms to take the road to Sehlabathebe and that the ride is fine (with that car of yours).
We have just hit the road (the path) when it starts to rain again, which makes the challenge a bit bigger, but the road seems to be better.
At one point the road bends on the route indicated on the Garmin, it seems that a new road is graded. We drive a few kilometers and realize that we continue riding off the indicated route. We ask an oncoming vehicle. He confirms that we took the wrong turn and have to turn back to the river.
Now the road gets really rough. We drive 100 meters from the turn off and realise the river crossing is too steep. When I inspect the situation I see a better track running through the river a little further, which we then seek to make the crossing.
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The road / path is meanwhile becoming rougher and at one point there is a boulder on the road and I have to use all the remaining width the left wheels on the valley side, quite exciting.
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Further on a car is waiting until we have passed, a Toyota HiAce with a bakkie with windows, completely full of 10 people. We share one of our water bottles, we have no more…
As we get higher rivers get rougher and narrower, yet still exciting to make such a crossing, you can not quite judge what is hiding under the swirling water …
Despite the rain, we are progressing steadily, not rapidly, about 10 km / h average I guess, but we are progressing well towards Sehlabathebe.
Friday the 13th and Milady Landy
Unfortunately, however disaster strikes, it is Friday the 13th of January after all. We just got the last high pass and start the descent to Sehlabathebe. We just decide that we go to the nearby lodge to spend the night in luxury, meanwhile it rains continuously.
It appears that Milady does not agree with this latter decision, bin a downward hairpin, the valley right to the left, the wipers stop, the engine starts to jerk and … smoke under the dashboard.
I turn off the power quickly, after all the smoke indicates a short circuit somewhere in the wiring. We are still in a very bad spot on the path, just past the hairpin, in the middle of the path, passing is not possible. I conclude, therefore to drive the car to the next turn braking with the (dead) engine and the foot and hand brake. I see a relatively flat piece of ground in the next bend where I can park the car to repair the damage. It is now four o’clock in the afternoon and still raining, I put on my raincoat and step out of the car, in the middle of the river that runs under our car, my watertight shoes turn out to be not quite tight.
The first molten threads I find are under the dashboard indeed, going to the key / steering lock switch, I could not immediately figure out where they are going in the tangle of wires leading to the interior of the dash panel and the engine compartment. I also inspect the wiring in the engine compartment and note that a wire is melted, I can replace it relatively easily.
I take some parts of the dash panel and partly disassemble the panels at the bottom so I can untangle the wires. That is quite difficult and I have to intensively consult the wiring diagram of the car handbook on the laptop, but after an hour or so, it is now six o’clock, I removed the melted wires and arranged two new wires. So it should work again …
I turn the ignition switch, and sure enough, the engine starts again, YES!
Unfortunately, the wipers don’t work, so things got to be opened again. I see nothing wrong with the wiring of the wipers, so I need to fix in a different way. I start the engine again, because we can continue without wipers the mountain while it is still light …
Unfortunately, no sign of life at the start, what would that be? I take things apart again, but can not detect what is wrong or otherwise damaged, which is already difficult, I can only look between the wires using Sonja’s iPhone flashlight. (Our torches are in the tent on the roof …)
At seven o’clock it’s really dark and I still have not discovered the error, we must therefore spend the night in the car. After we eat a packet of biscuits for dinner we make a place to sleep. That’s not easy with all the stuff in the car …
Sonja eventually falls asleep into her chair and I make a nest on the back of my seat and the passenger seat behind. To keep us warm, we use towels, shawls and vests, also we both have a dry pair of socks.
That night we did not sleep much, it’s raining continuously and the stream under the car continues to flow, it’s cold although we can to keep that out reasonably well under our “blankets”. We both get some hours of sleep, but at 4 am the first light outside the car begins to shine, we stretch and decide that it is morning.
I obviously have been thinking over night about what might be wrong and I all kinds of scenarios have passed. Sonja’s question “will you succeed and when we can get out of here?” I can partially answer “yes, it will work,” about how long it will last, I can’t tell.
It turns out that the key switch loses power when switching, so he switching circuit (the white wires for the experts) are not energized. So I connect the brown supply wire with the white wires and pull a wire that I can activate from the auxiliary power point on the dashboard.
The power supply must now be connected with the main switch, the steering lock with the key-operated switch and start can be done by connecting the new wire with the auxiliary power point.
At a quarter past six, we can ride again! We still have a whole day and miraculously, the sun has come through too, that looks better than yesterday.
The road to Sehlabathebe is like before, rough and here and there a river crossing, but the air is cleared and Milady rides again, we’re almost euphoric …
The village appears to be no more than some houses together, no other amenities, no gas station – oh yes, we have limited fuel us, the ever rising road requires a lot of power and thus fuel – and no coffee shop for breakfast … Lesotho is very poor and clearly offers fewer amenities than neighboring South Africa. Incidentally, this is also apparent by the people, we meet many obese people in SA and virtually anyone is slim here …
We take a bowl of muesli with yogurt from our fridge for breakfast and drive to the border, from Sehlabathebe the road is actually pretty good, little corrugation and basically no stones. Along the way there are beautiful views on South Africa to the south and Lesotho on the north side, a nice ride.
At the border of Ramatseliso we ask the officers what the road beyond the border is like and they assure us that once we had a challenging piece to the gate, the road is paved. We do not make pictures but these Google Earth images speak for themselves.
In South Africa, the road really gets well and we can make some kilometers the rest of the day.