RR Sport to Africa’s highest pub
Sam Philip heads to Lesotho in a Range Rover Sport for a pint. Because... well, why not?
Posted: 03 Jan 2014
Utter emptiness aside, as no-man's lands go, this one hardly feels the most foreboding. In fact, on a sunny late-spring morning, the bottom of the Sani Pass is surely as idyllic a spot as exists on the planet. The grassy uplands of the Drakensberg Mountains, green and glossy as velvet, fringe the horizon. Birds sing, gentle streams of meltwater trickle across the road as near-vertical basalt peaks loom a mile above. A vervet monkey scurries up a purple jacaranda tree. It's like Jurassic Park without the ravenous raptors or Dickie Attenborough.
I crane my neck upwards. The top of the escarpment, some 3,000 metres above sea level, marks the end of no-man's land: the frontier of the kingdom of Lesotho. That's where we're aiming. Why? Because of history, that's why. The Sani Pass, one of Africa's most notorious mountain roads, was employed for hundreds of years as a bridle path along which mules and horses would ferry goods between what we now call South Africa and southern Lesotho. It remained impassable to vehicles until 1948, when a budding entrepreneur called David Alexander conquered the Sani in his troupe of imported 4x4s, among the very first cars built by little-known British upstart Land Rover. In seven years, Alexander and his Series Is tamed the Sani, turning this muddy donkey track into a muddy car track. Land Rover made the Sani, and the Sani made Land Rover.