Snow hum­bles SA driv­ers

Tourism op­er­a­tors warn visi­tors from sunny climes against push­ing their luck in Le­sotho

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - CLAUDI MAILOVICH

AN aban­doned wreck pushed to the side of moun­tain pass cov­ered in ice and a big 4x4 bakkie that spun with­out warn­ing last week had many driv­ers wor­ried how they would get down the Moteng Pass in Le­sotho.

Jo­hann du Toit, owner of African Ex­pe­di­tions, sent Me­dia24 photos of con­di­tions on the pass to warn peo­ple not to un­der­rate jour­neys into the moun­tain king­dom dur­ing win­ter.

“Peo­ple asked us to get their car down,” Du Toit said. African Ex­pe­di­tions guides 4x4 ex­pe­di­tions.

Snow has been cov­er­ing the high peaks and the moun­tain pass over the Maluti moun­tains and wind chill fac­tors quickly saw slush turn­ing into ice, on which only snow tyres with me­tal studs can main­tain grip.

“In good weather that pass per­fect — it is a tar road — but if the weather changes, you take your life in your own hands,” Du Toit said.

He said South Africans are typ­i­cally not pre­pared enough for a change in weather when they sail up Le­sotho’s moun­tain passes. Then they are of­ten ar­ro­gant on the road and refuse to heed his warn­ings, he added.

Du Toit and Michael Haupt­fleisch, co-owner of the Fouries­burg Coun­try Inn, 10 km from the bor­der, want to see only 4x4 ve­hi­cles al­lowed into Le­sotho dur­ing win­ter.

The driv­ers must, how­ever, know how to drive on slip­pery ice, oth­er­wise they will spin out of con­trol, at the mercy of grav­ity.

Man­cafalo Mot­soe­neng, man­ager of public re­la­tions at the Le­sotho Tourism De­vel­op­ment Co-op­er­a­tion, said all mo­tors are welcome in Le­sotho, but tourists must do their home­work and not drive on im­pulse, es­pe­cially not in win­ter in the moun­tains. THE best ad­vice for mo­torists to drive in snow is — don’t. Driv­ing TO snow is al­ways a fun road trip, es­pe­cially if the chil­dren have never seen the white stuff be­fore. But heed the ad­vice of those who work in icy con­di­tions and stay well away un­til the snow starts to melt.

Euro­peans learn to re­spect ice by fall­ing down very hard just try­ing to walk on pave­ments. On road they fit win­ter tyres and even in­vest in all wheel drive ve­hi­cles like Subarus and Audi quat­tros just to main­tain trac­tion on iced roads. Even then, a slight in­cline can see heavy 4x4 cars slide side­ways into a ditch while mov­ing for­wards.

SA are mas­ters up sand dunes and when it comes to crawl­ing over axle bending rocks. But few of us even know where to buy a snow chain, never mind how to fit one. This means we get trapped for days when a snow bliz­zard blows.

That is why it is best not to take the chil­dren to go see the snow un­til the sun starts to melt it. Bet­ter slush than sorry. • al­wyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

CHAIN­ING SUNNY DRIV­ERS

PHOTO: AFRICAN EX­PE­DI­TIONS

Un­named tourists were caught un­pre­pared for the sud­den changes in weather that is nor­mal in Le­sotho’s moun­tains, prompt­ing lo­cal tourist op­er­a­tors to warn South Africans against driv­ing there in win­ter, when roads can quickly turn deadly.

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