Just 5km north of Underberg is its charming neighbour, Himeville. Since the two villages are situated so close together, their histories have always been inextricably linked. In fact, when Himeville was chosen as the centre of the magistracy in 1902, relations between the two centres were strained to the point of an unpleasant rivalry.
This was exacerbated in 1917 when a railway was built, only to stop at Underberg, thereby sealing that village’s success. Then Kenneth Lund donated oak trees to the villagers that were planted in an avenue linking the towns - and with this simple gift the tension was defused and relations prospered.
Himeville serves both the local and the tourist trade, offering all basic amenities as well as places to eat, stay and organise activities. Sani Pass is the major drawcard for tourists, and it is one of the great South African drives that should not be missed. That said, inclement weather has scuppered many an ascent, as the view disappears into the mist on overcast days.
Other attractions accessible from Himeville are Loteni Nature Reserve, Cobham Mountain Reserve, Vergelegen Nature Reserve and Himeville Nature Reserve.
These all offer mountain splendour, fishing and a varying abundance of wildlife. Cobham includes an area of small tarns, called the lake district, which is particularly beautiful.
Another town that is worth popping into is Bulwer, on the way to Pietermaritzburg. There are a few pubs that offer sustenance, but what many people come here for is the chance to paraglide from the mountain overlooking the town.
Look out for
Sani Pass is the only road linking the Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho with KwaZulu-Natal, and it is a firm favourite with South African 4x4 drivers. In fact, law requires all vehicles ascending the pass to be 4x4-enabled, for safety reasons. The drive is not for the faint-hearted, but offers incredible views, good birdwatching and the chance to have lunch at the highest pub in Africa at Sani Top Chalet. Quad bikes are available for hire, and tour operators can be booked for a guided trip up the pass in their vehicles. Some foolhardy souls mountain bike or even run up the pass.
The little Himeville Museum is worth popping into for insights into settler life, and to see displays on the San people and their rock art.
The Swamp Nature Reserve, on the road to Pevensey, is home to the wattled crane. No birder should pass by without at least trying to see if they can be spotted.
At 3 482m, Thaba Ntlenyana is the highest mountain in Africa south of Mount Kilimanjaro. In good weather the summit is a fairly easy hike away from Sani Top. It can also be reached by mountain bike.
Khatse Dam in Lesotho is a fairly relaxed drive from Sani Top. This massive dam was built to supply South Africa with water and electricity. It is an awesome spectacle and feat of engineering. It is recommended that one spends the night before returning to Himeville.
Paraglide from the mountain overlooking the tiny village of Bulwer. While in town, stop to have a look at the quaint Yellowwood Church. Alternatively, go for a stroll in the Marutswa Forest and keep your eyes peeled for the endangered Cape parrot.