Closest Town: Himeville
Grading: Intermediate to difficult | Duration: 6-8 hours
Location (Area/Province): KZN - Natal and Midlands
Configuration: 72 to 80km return route
Start Point: Sani Lodge
Access: Public access, but you are crossing an international border between South Africa and Lesotho, so passports are an absolute necessity
Beware of: Vehicles and weather changes
Facilities: Sani Lodge offers camping, dorms, doubles/twins, heated en suite thatch rondavels, a self-catering cottage, and group facilities.
Cell Reception: Intermittent
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This is a great area for mountain-biking, offering exquisite scenery and challenging rides, either up the Sani Pass into Lesotho or along surrounding district roads. But, go out on your ride carrying warm clothing, since the weather can change from sunny to freezing in minutes around here. This is the course for the Sani Pass MTB Classic.
On your bike
Get on your bike for some challenging cranks, either up Sani Pass into Lesotho or along the many surrounding district roads. Sani Lodge offers safe parking, and this is where the hard work starts as you ascend 16km to the first border post.
There is the occasional respite at least, but beware the final (and exceptionally steep!) 8km section up to the Lesotho border. The last 2km are the steepest of the entire ride, but at least the distant view of the pub atop the mountain pass may just help to keep you going. This is also where you will find most of the riders, all parking off with an ice cold beer.If conquering Sani Pass is not quite enough punishment for you, then there’s a twisty 10 km ride on the plateau. The air is thin, but further on there is another 5 km pass, taking you up the Black Mountain Pass. This ascent is not nearly as steep as Sani itself, but at this height there is just not enough air. Expect your heart rate to skyrocket. It takes an average rider about 5 hours to get up and less than an hour to come back down. To get an idea of the challenge you face, the change in altitude is 1,674 m above sea level at the start with the highest point in the Black Mountains at more than 3,200 m above sea level.
IMPORTANT: You will cross the international border between South Africa and Lesotho, so passports are a must; check visa requirements at www.foreign.gov.ls/consular/default.php
Off the bike
A myriad activities are available at or through Sani Lodge. These include hiking, guided walks to San rock art sites, 4×4 tours up into Lesotho and horse-riding by arrangement. For some down time, there’s aroma-therapy massage, a tea garden and craft shop and a children’s playground.
Route information: Simone and Russell Suchet, Sani Lodge Backpackers
Address: PO Box l485, Underberg, 3257, KZN
Telephone: (033) 702 0330 or 083 566 1997
Fax: 086 514 7915
GPS: S29 39 46 E29 27 24