Mafika Lisiu Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3.090m (10,137ft) above the sea level, located in northern Lesotho. It’s one of the highest roads of the country, affording excellent viewing of the unique alpine flora. The zone is prone to heavy mist and can be dangerous in low visibility conditions.
The road to the summit is asphalted. It was built in 1990’s and crosses the Maloti Range. There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy. A quick glance at the map at its sheer drops and serpentine twists and turns, confirms that this is no hype. The pass is located between Pitseng and Lejone and leads to the Ketsa Dam.
This road tests the skill, and courage, of any driver. It’s definitely not for anyone suffering from vertigo or a fear of landslides. Only the suicidal, the insane, or the paid-to-do-this should ever drive down. The road includes steep climbs and descents, hairpin bends and waterfalls. Unless you’re adventurous and have a strongly developed sense of humour, some of the road signs along this pass aren’t likely to thrill you either. Signs warn of Sharp descent, Snow/ice and Falling rocks. Take notice. They’re not kidding. Signs will also warn you of Steep curves for 5km – after you’ve already been twisting helter skelter for kilometre upon kilometre. Just as you go into a Sharp descent another sign will helpfully tell you that Brake failure has killed. Here where there’s not a repair shop or AA check centre in sight. Bit late for that warning, then.
It’s incredibly disorienting to look over the edge, or even just to see the valleys a couple thousand feet below you. It’s a mind numbing vertical drop of hundreds of meters so you might want to give it a miss on a windy day. From Pitseng the road climbs in less than 30 kilometres to a breathtaking 3090 metres at the top of the pass. Every bend will have you wanting to stop the car to take in the view, to immortalise it in photographs. If you don’t have a head for heights, though, you may prefer to close your eyes and grit your teeth.
This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. The road is in dreadful condition and requires strong nerves to negotiate it. It’s certainly breathtaking and it has a fearsome reputation. It still remains an adrenaline-pumping journey and is definitely not for the faint of lungs, heart, or legs. The flora, bird life and photographic beauty of the area will astound, as will the winter snow, which has no equal in Southern Africa.
Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. At the top of the pass is the Bokong Nature Reserve, the highest nature reserve in Africa accessible by car. The slopes are steep and when it rains, rocks and stones get dislodged onto the road, carving craters in the edge of the tar as they land.