Swaziland - Part one.

Trip Start Dec 27, 2008
Trip End Jun 27, 2009

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Flag of Swaziland  ,
Saturday, February 14, 2009

I'll start at the border, as you do. Entry to Swaziland for us was speedy and hassle free, contrary to how we had heard it would be. The sun was beaming down on us like crazy so I was dreading queueing for any length of time. Looking over the border I saw few goats peering over back at me, that was about it. The control itself was totally disinterested in marketing the country as a tourist spot, almost as if it would prefer you turn back. However, after a very short queue, the passport had another stamp and we were on our way.

Driving through Swaziland is a great activity in itself. The scenery is stunning, mixing colonial heritage and cultural tradition. It remains one of the world's few remaining absolute monarchies, King Mswati III is currently on the throne, we haven't seen him yet but may have seen one of his twelve wives.

We are based in Manzini at the Lidwala Lodge set in the eWulzini Valley which we have great views of from our tent, this is also where all the past kings are buried (once they've died, that is). Much of Swaziland is only accessible in a car, so on the first day we blagged our way into the nearby 5* Royal Swazi Hotel, not that it's hard to do. Here we sat by the pool and sunbathed, enjoying the fact that we hadn't paid a cent for anything. So as not to spend a complete day in absolute luxury we did walk along the local craft market which essentially is a row of shacks filled with beaded jewellry and carved wood. There was no pressure to buy anything, very relaxed, I like that. On the way to and from the craft market we took a Khombi taxi. The use of these is not recommended in SA but is safe enough in Swazi. Khombis are the locals mode of transport, so there are no frills, and a no frills fare too. It cost us R4 each to be packed like sardines into a minibus with enough legroom for a four year old. Once you've sat down (sometimes before) they speed off playing Swazi music at full volume, it's a great experience.

Swaziland is one of Africa's richer countries, all Swazi people have a right to land. Yet tourists do create a problem, whereby some Swazis would rather beg than farm land or run a business from it. I guess despite it being its own country, it cannot escape the problems of its larger neighbour. Despite this, we feel much safer here than we do in SA, on the whole.

On the second day we hired a car and drove to the Matanga Nature Reserve which is home to the Swazi Cultural Village. Here we learned about traditional Swazi life and were shown Swazi  dance (including one young kid, no older than 6, who stole the show). Rising high above the village is Execution Rock where murderers and thieves were told to jump to their certain death. Swazi culture is very similar to Zulu, seemingly sexist to our western eyes; a Swazi man can have numerous wives but a woman accused of adultery is sent to Execution Rock (not anymore).  On the way out we stopped at a very picturesque waterfall.

In the afternoon we went to Miliwane Game Reserve which was a little dissapointing, only because we had already been to Imfolozi - Miliwane cannot match its wildlife or scenery. However, for R20, who's complaining?
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