Up to the Roof of Africa

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If you are interested in myths, fairy tales and ancient stories, the Mountains of Dragons – the Drakensberg as the first European settlers called the mountain range in the north of South Africa –  might be a place for you. One explanation for this descriptive name is that the tops of the mountains have an appearance that look like the pointy back of a dragon. And to this day, people tell myths of dragons roaming the mountains.

The Drakensberge

The Drakensberge – as the eastern part of the Great Escarpment is called – are up to 3482 meters high, and therefore the highest mountains in southern Africa. This part of the mountain range lies in South Africa and Lesotho (but there they are called Maloti), and to me they have been one of the most fascinating areas to visit in South Africa. Next tot he beautiful, green grasslands and rough stone formations, there are also numerous caves in the region. Many of them can be reached hiking through the lower parts of the mountain range. In this area, you can also find the worlds largest concentration of ancient rock paintings made by the San, who inhabit the region since thousands of years.

The Sani Pass

If you want to visit the highest part of the Drakensberg, your journey will take you to Lesotho. Depending from where you start your trip, there are different ways to travel into Lesotho. One of the most spectacular is the road up to the Sani Pass. The gravel road up to the pass is very steep and rough so driving up there is a challenge even for experienced drivers. Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed on the road for this reason – and still the road is closed often due to weather conditions, which make it too dangerous to access Lesotho this way. Luckily there are plenty of tour operators that offer to drive you up all the way to Lesotho! We chose to go with the people from the Hostel “Sani Lodge Backpackers” – a place run by locals with and for the community. The people know the region and the people and have so many interesting stories to tell – I would always do the tour with them again. As the Sani Pass has always been an important connection for Lesotho and South Africa, road improvements are going on to make the trip easier. This is not just an attempt to make the lives of tourists easier, in Lesotho you can find some of the finest wool, and the Sani Pass is one of the mayor trading routes which the merchants use for getting the wool out of the country.

Even though the road is only about 9 km long, it takes more than an hour to get up the pass. The road starts at 544 and climbs up to 2876m – as you can imagine, overcoming a 1332m height difference in 9km is a challenge for most! But you get rewarded by fantastic views along the way.

Lesotho

If you made it to the top, you first have to pass the boarder post before you can enter the country of Lesotho. Lesotho roughly translates to “the land of the people who speak Sesotho”. As soon as you crossed the boarder you feel like stepping into a new world. You can tell from the landscape, the rough rocks, the vast grasslands and tiny villages, that life up there is tough. Lesotho is one of only three independent countries worldwide that is completely sourrounded by the territories of another state (the others can be found in Italy). It has a population of about two million people.  t is one of only three independent states completely surrounded by the territory of another country, and the only one outside of the Italian peninsula. Lesotho is just over 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) in size and has a population of around 2 million, who economically depend mostly on agriculture, livestock, manufacturing and mining. Although Lesotho is one of the Low Human Development countries and ranks 160 of 187 on the Human Development Index. Nevertheless, the people are very hospitable, and like to share insights on their culture and daily lives. If you get the chance, visit this otherworldly place and its beautiful people.

Tip: If you want to take a break and crave a beer during your visit in Lesotho, you should consider visiting the highest pup in Africa – they even serve beer from Lesotho, which is hard to find anywhere else!

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