Sani no longer cuts it

Wheels read­ers ex­plore On­geluk­snek with two Isuzus

The Witness - Wheels - - EXPLORE -

NEWS­FLASH for 4x4 driv­ers plan­ning a week­end away in scenic Le­sotho — you can drive up Sani Pass in any sedan with de­cent road clear­ance, and don’t need a 4x4 un­less it re­cently rained heav­ily.

Chi­nese con­trac­tors have now tarred the Le­sotho side of Sani and South African con­trac­tors are main­tain­ing the fa­mous hair­pins on the South African side.

While a well-main­tained Sani is good for Un­der­berg’s econ­omy, it only presents a chal­lenge to 4x4 driv­ers af­ter a se­ri­ous snow or rain storm, turn­ing the so-called “Mother of All Passes” into the Mother Of All Yawns for peo­ple who know what the diff lock does.

Those who like to en­gage low gear on a scenic pass will fine joy on On­geluk­snek, which still does what Sani Pass did — offering un­par­al­leled views, a chal­leng­ing drive and a rare stamp in your pass­port to prove how in­trepid you are. Wheels did the pass in two Isuzu dou­ble cabs, last week­end, pow­ered by the new 2,5- and 3-litre en­gines. Pass­ing over the cor­ru­ga­tions of the scenic road through Swart­berg, Toy­ota driv­ers com­mented again about the Isuzu’s leg­endary ride qual­ity. “In my Toy­ota, I would have been bounc­ing off the roof by now,” said 4x4-fixer Gary Pea­cock .

Road builder Vu­mile Mb­dola, was most im­pressed by the 3,0 DTeq’ 8,7 l/100km, de­spite a heavy right foot. And 4x4-vet­eran Ron­nie Drew loved the low crawl speed of the 2,5 Isuzu up the 1:3 gra­di­ents. You will need the low gear both up and down, for the pass is very slip­pery af­ter even a light spat.

Once on top, there is no cosy pup wait­ing and if that’s what you’re af­ter, pack the sedan and head to Sani. Campers can pack their tents and fol­low Wheels.

PHO­TOS: AL­WYN VILJOEN

The 6,7 kilo­me­tres of On­geluk­snek pass near Matatiele of­fer 4x4 and camp­ing en­thu­si­asts what Sani pass used to, with un­par­al­leled views, a chal­leng­ing drive and a rare stamp in your pass­port to prove how in­trepid you are.

A misty rain­bow greets the campers af­ter a cold night on a vast plateau, kept as neat as any bowl­ing green by sheep.

Peak hour on On­geluk­snek: cat­tle driven by herd boys in their all-weather gear — a blan­ket, bal­a­clava and gum­boots.

When wet, this sec­tion gets very tricky, but trav­ellers who are lucky enough to get a clear day will see for­ever.

Chi­nese con­trac­tors dig cul­verts along the new tar road on the Le­sotho side of Sani Pass. This new road is very good for Un­der­berg’s econ­omy, but bor­ing for 4x4 own­ers.

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