To get to the top of uKhahlamba (the barrier of spears), you have to brave a 27km arduous bumpy ride uphill on a meandering narrow earth road using a 4X4. The spectacular scenery, wildlife and fresh air make the ride a bit bearable.
There is a pleasant surprise waiting for a visitor who braves the ride to the top. A pub! And what better way to celebrate the achievement than with a mug of beer?
Sani Top Chalet is said to be the highest pub in Africa, standing at 2,874 metres on the Drankensburg. Sani Top Chalet pub was first opened in 1964. The pub serves an array of drinks – gin and tonic, wine, beer and the famous Gluwhein – which is made from the pub's homemade recipe.
It is a few kilometres past Sani Pass – South Africa’s border point with Lesotho. The place is always windy and chilly and the area's inhabitants, the Lesotho (also known as the people of the blankets), are always clad in big warm blankets.
“Mmemabuang,” is Sotho for hello which you will hear often.
From the outside, the pub looks like a small shopping centre in a rural Kenyan town. The pub’s name is written in big black capital letters on the wall facing the road – nothing very fancy. The pub is housed on a stone block building with green iron roofing sheets.
When I arrived, I found a flock of sheep grazing and some visitors busy taking photos of the sheep.
If you have one too many to drink, there is accommodation for revellers who want to spend the night - something that is highly recommended because the ride back down is not easy.
Near the door of the pub is a neat welcome sign and some snow skiing gear. During the winter, snow falls on the mountain and you can enjoy mountain skiing.
The pub has a spacious sitting space where you can have your food and drinks. There is even a fireplace if you get cold. Outside there is also lots of sitting space where you can enjoy drinks as you look at the scenery.
At Sani Top Chalet pub, drinks are affordable ranging from about R10 – R20 (KSh 80 – KSh 160). Food goes from about R25 – R45 (KSh 200 – KSh 360).
The pub does not have any theme nights or days however, guests often throw their own parties at the top. “We have had a group dressed up in traditional Zulu and Boer war outfits as well as a few strippers,” says Rowena, the Manager. In a week, Sani Top gets roughly about 500 visitors from all over the world. Many of them stick their currencies (notes and coins) on the wall of the pub to mark their visit. I spot an autographed 100,000 Zimbabwean dollar and a KSh 50 note proudly hanging on the wall.
Open all week. Location: Lesotho, Sani Pass border point. Requirement: Passport that will be stamped at the border by the Lesotho immigration officers.