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Sani: all good things come to pass

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By Bryan Baxter

Maseru, Lesotho - Every adventure has a “Jonah”. A “Jonah” is someone who goes on a trip and has a measure of misfortune in some shape or form.

Would I be the Jonah on this trip?

The mission was to tick Sani Pass off our bucket list. We would meet at the Himeville Arms hotel, ride up the pass, savour the local brew and return for an evening of rugby and supper. I would travel up from Amanzimtoti with my dad (Alan), buddy (Wayne) and girlfriend (Dom).

The Joburg crew were missioning down on their bikes… my uncle Greg on a Honda 700 Transalp, his son Doug on Yamaha 1200 Super Tenere and their friend Gerald on a Suzuki DR Big 750.

We left on time but were a little apprehensive as rain was predicted for most of the weekend. We went up via Pietermaritzburg with no misadventures and arrived spot on time in Himeville.

So far so good. No sign of Jonah.

We checked in and prepared for the Sani ascent. The Joburg boys, on the other hand, were not faring as well. They had encountered heavy rain and mist the previous night and had to divert to Howick after Gerald ran out of petrol. As a consequence, they were running a little late. Maybe they had their own “Jonah” in the team?

Once the Vaalies arrived and dried their undies, we set out. The weather had cleared a little and we managed to get to the South African border post without any rain.

We set off on the mission… Dom was riding pillion with me, dad and Wayne in the back-up Ford with some lunch and beers. The big bikes led the way and we encountered lots of mud early on. We stopped regularly to wait for the bakkie and to take in the view.

The big bikes started taking their toll and the lads were battling a bit. The Ford just kept coming, slow and sure.

The mist started settling in and the track became steeper and rockier. Near the top, the bakkie overtook us. Low-range gears rule. We had to stop to help the Yammy and the Transalp get over some rocks. Their weight was really proving a challenge on the last stretch. My Honda loved the pass and soaked up each rock and turn.

We were nearly at the top with a few cutbacks left when the Transalp came to a halt. After some coaxing, encouragement and cries of “Man up!” we got it to the top. By then, the weather had closed in and it was time for some local beer inside the cosy pub.

The “highest pub in Africa” had more foreigners than Africans but they were all friendly and the local beer cold and tasty. “Jonah”, in the meantime, had properly made his appearance, as Gerald’s Suzi shed some parts.

Going down was an easy, slow descent in the mist, in first gear using decompression to slow down.

The Himeville Arms was excellent, with much fun had by all, and I enjoyed this inscription on the pub wall: “He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much, who has gained the respect of intelligent people and the love of little children, who has filled his niche well and accomplished his task and who has left the world better than he found it.”

We felt better after doing Sani Pass. - Saturday Star

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