Sani Pass and the Adventure that wasn't to be! (Dec 4th - 5th)
After drying off in Elliot we headed north 443km to the bottom of the Sani Pass.Again as we approached the area it was raining, after filling up at Underburg we followed the GPS directions to a backpackers at the bottom of the pass, it was a bit of an adventure as it took us on a big loop on dirt roads, it could have been a 10km drive on tarmac!It was some of the worst mud we'd come across so far and Kal certainly got a good mud bath!We went on the Lonely Planets recommendation to Mkomazana, it was supposed to be quite big and have lots of camps - I think our lonely planet is a bit outdated, we knocked on the door of the farm house to find out they had no camping and only expensive cottages for rent - time to turn back 5km of dirt road to Sani Lodge Backpackers, this place was smaller but we were pleasantly surprised!We both got double rooms and settled into a great nights sleep!
The next morning the sun was out - hurray!!We set off just after 9, I'd gotten myself a Sani Pass birds and flowers brochure and was looking forward to the ride up - it would be Kal's first real 4x4 test all loaded up…….
After about 30mins driving we came to a sort of unofficial viewing point, it was the first time you could see the pass well as it made it's way up what I thought apprehensively was a very steep hill side (in my words cliff face).It was a great opportunity to stretch the legs and get some photo's taken.As we pilled back into the car to get going I heard a horrible clanking noise….was Kal okay??We got out and Paul drove back and forward a bit to see if we could work out where it was coming from - the back left corner but what was it.We were on the verge of driving off, writing it off to a loose something (probably not the best approach) when Paul noticed something, "This could be very bad, very bad" I heard him say……We'd broken a shock absorber, Dave managed to remove it which would stop the clanking and as we started to ponder what to do next another vehicle showed up.The local guy on the tour confirmed we should be okay to drive on, on the coils springs if we took it easy, we'd have to go all the way back to Underburg to try to get a new one - he wasn't sure they'd have any but it was our best bet.
After a very slow decent - there were some pretty rough spots at times we made it back to Underburg. Our best bet looked like Supa Quick Autocentre so we pulled in.It was a rather old guy we talked too, he looked up his manual to find out which shocks would fit and then painfully looked up his PC to see if they had any in stock - none!As we left Dave went back to get their number incase we weren't successfully anywhere else and needed them to order in some.As he did so a younger guy came out and enquired about our issue - "No Problem" was the response, he disappeared for a minute and came back with some white shocks they he reckoned would do the trick - heh!!We decided to get both back shocks replaced so up Kal went onto the highlift, it would take about 45mins and was going to cost us a lot less then I at least had been imagining!Relieved we toddled over to a café across the street where the boys enjoyed large chocolate milkshakes and Kaz and I enjoyed a yummy haloumi salad!
All this hadn't taken much time at all, it was still before 2pm, we had time to give the Sani Pass another go!!Off we went, this was the third time Paul had driven the dirt track so the first 15km or so whizzed by as he sped along!Clouds were beginning to move in but the views were still amazing and before too long we were at the border post!!We were the only ones there so pulled up and headed over to passport control, they took little time with Paul and mine, checking their computers before stamping us out but there was a problem with Dave and Kaz - they'd gotten new passports while they were in Cape Town which didn't have their entry visa's on them, the border guys wanted to see there old passports, without them they were told they'd have to go to Pretoria to get it all sorted out!!We searched the car a couple of times before coming to the conclusion that they definitely were not in there and must be in storage in Cape Town.
After much talking it was obvious they weren't going to budge and we had no mobile reception up here at 1996m so at 3.45, 15 minutes before the border closed Paul and I got stamped back in and down the pass we went again a bit deflated!!That was the end of our Sani Pass adventure for this trip - we'll be back one day!!
Further down the pass Dave managed to get a hold of the Australian Consulate in Pretoria, they thought that the border should have let them through, they had their old passport numbers and flight tickets/boarding passes that proved they entered through Cape Town airport, they offered to send a fax to the border but it was closed by this stage and this wasn't guaranteed to work.The solution was to drive to Pietermaritzburg and make a visit to South African Home Affairs and hope that things there could be sorted out!
So we finished the day with the drive to Pietermaritzburg and found ourselves a hotel in the centre of town with secure parking and settled in for the night!What a day, could our luck of the past few days get any worse, as I was soon to find out for me at least it definitely could!