As we rolled out of Nairobi, on a crisp and clear Kenyan morning, even the diesel fumes and bleating taxi horns on the Uhuru Highway seemed to be full of good cheer. There were none of those usual feelings of trepidation and nerves that I was used to on the first morning of a ‘big trip.’ For years I had been travelling under my own steam - frequently alone and almost always by public transport. Now I had been lured back to the Dark Continent on a road-trip of a very different sort: in a huge, wallowing yellow truck that was known in villages and backpacker lodges all over East Africa as ‘The Whale.’
Somewhere beyond our comforting little circle of firelight the lions were hunting. In the hour before sunset we had seen the East Side Pride rise lethargically to their feet and wander off to begin their bloody nightshift. By first light the springboks would be pronking playfully again, kicking up their legs in apparent joy at having survived the night, but while we nursed our drinks and warmed our hands, terror and death ruled out on the dark savannah.
On safari, the lion might be king of the jungle, but the leopard is the hardest of Africa's big five to spot. Deep down, I feared I'd only ever get to see the African animals so vividly captured in my childhood picture books as a blur in the distance; a glimpse of a giraffe through the tree tops, or the bulk of an elephant's outline disappearing through the brush. There was little chance of seeing a Leopard.
David Whitley makes his way from South Africa to Lesotho along one of the world’s great roads.
“Welcome to Haemorrhoid Hill,” says Elias as he prepares to shake and shudder us up yet another stretch of brutally dispersed rubble. “If you didn’t have them before, you will have afterwards.” Elias is driving us up the Sani Pass, one of the world’s highest, toughest and most spectacular roads. In just over 22km from the Sani Pass Hotel to Sani Top, the road ascends 1,307m. Almost 1,000m of this climb is in the last 8km stretch, a wild no-man’s land between the border posts of South Africa and Lesotho.