Quad Biking

Trip Start Sep 21, 2009
Trip End Apr 28, 2010

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Flag of Swaziland  ,
Thursday, October 1, 2009

Today was the quad biking through Swaziland. There was 3 of us, 2 German girls (whose name I have forgotten) and myself. We got pick up at 8 by Richard, a British guy from Leeds, who has been living in Swaziland since 1994 and owns the Quad biking company.

We got to his 4x4 which believe me would not pass its MOT in the UK, it is probably the worst car I ever got into :-) but it did not matter it was only for a couple of miles. We pick up Zen our tour guide for the day on the way. Zen was a very cool guy who was basically a black version of my friend from Limoges Brad - Very bizarre!

We got to Richard's house to get the quads and then off we went. Going around Swaziland into the most remote of places was absolutely amazing. Kids were running towards us to greet us and everyone was waving at us as we rode passed. People are so respectful and polite it is scary but such a nice feeling. We stopped a couple of times and Zen was talking to people as if he’d known them since he was a kid but in fact had just met them then!!! We had our first stop at some people’s farm for a cold drink where we spoke with a local lady - Her English was very so we were able to have a nice conversation – she was very interested in us actually. As we left 2 youngsters arrived with their Ipods – unexpected!!

We hit the road again and encountered a lot more people still waving at us. We had a break next to a little river and 3 kids came down all the way to from their home to sit close to us near our bike. All our gear was still on the bike but no danger of them stealing anything from us :-).

We went to another family’s house for lunch, we just had sandwiches that Zen had in his backpack. It was just surreal to be sat there in the middle of Swaziland with a local family who has no electricity when all of a sudden one of the guys’ mobile rings! This is the paradox in Africa, on the one hand you have a lot of poverty and deprived areas but on the other, they do have access to modernity that we have in Europe. The problem here is that, in Europe, we went through a progressive change in terms of technology whereas here there has been almost no transition period as we know it. It’s like 1940s Europe with today technology.

As we left their house, it started raining and then before we knew it, it was pouring down; which made it quite fun on the bikes. 3 of us were desperate to go a bit faster but one of the girls was just too scared so we had to wait for her all the time :-). We also got stopped by a lady who was on HIV tablets - she told Zen they were really hurting her stomach as she had no food to mix them with so she was asking Zen for a bit of money. We only found out afterwards what she wanted otherwise we would have all chipped in. We found very very little begging in Swaziland and that in fact make you more likely to give. I gave a coin to a little boy who was on the side of the round waving at us, just being polite and not asking for anything.

The day ended with a local meal at Richard’s house which was really nice. It was a really good  day; we experienced a few different types of weather from sun to lightning; which is quite impressive in the mountains. The landscapes in Swaziland are amazing and the people even better – It really felt like we were these kids’ entertainment for the day on their way back from school.

In Swaziland, school is not free and some families struggle to pay the school fee (1,000 rand a year - 100) for their kids so what some families end up doing is alternate and send a kid for one year and another one the next. Zen was telling me that it is badly perceived for a kid not to go to school so sometime the community gathers funds to help parents pay for their kids’ fees.

I spent the evening at the Lodge having a couple of beers. I had a good chat with a Dutch guy, who was a sales manager for a company whose head office is in Ireland. He was here with his wife to visit his daughter (who was a right moody cow by the way) who works at the Lodge. Then I spent the rest of the evening with John, 2 Irish girls, who raised up 17,000 to build a school in the area, James, a british guy who is to help building the school and Lili, a girl from Bristol who is teaching here.

We had a really good night, I played a couple of tunes on the guitar and they sang along which was cool. We ended up getting quite stoned on the local weed which is really strong actually. I had not been stoned like that for a long time, expect maybe that evening with Lee and Bex! So we obviously had the giggles and paranoia was kicking in - we were taking the piss out of John who can be a bit intense at times!
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Where I stayed
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