Swaziland - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 10

Mbabane

Saturday 22nd March

We awoke this morning after a good long sleep. Neither of us is wearing any watches so we are always completely out of touch with what time it is and we assumed that we had overslept and may even be too late for breakfast, which closes at nine o’clock. I opened up the laptop to find out what the time was and to our amazement, it’s only six thirty. Already, however, the day has started and things are humming. We are now so conditioned for an early start that our internal body clocks have awoken us already. Breakfast is included where we are staying and we both just finished a lovely English style breakfast. The service and friendliness here is unsurpassed and we are revelling in the style of our surroundings. As I type, I’m sitting in a reclining chair down by the pool and staring out down into the Ezulwini Valley. A very nice man just asked me if he could make me more comfortable with a cushion. Well, what’s a man to do?

Ordinarily, I would be writing my daily journal in the evening before we go to sleep to recap on the day’s events. The past few days, however, have been so full and so long that I’ve only had a chance to reflect on the main events of the day and thus have overlooked some of the broader aspects of our experiences so far. The setting is peaceful enough here that I can now sit comfortably and catch up a bit.

There is no question about it, travelling is a chore and it definitely drains the energy from you. We are clearly not going to be able to sustain a constant pace of a new place to sleep every night. We are getting much better at managing our backpacks and contents but the continual unpacking and re-packing does get arduous over time. What we are thinking of doing is to concentrate a little more on enjoying a given area for a few days before moving on to the next. This may mean economizing on the total number of places that we go to but it will mean being able to enjoy those places that we do see that much more.

We are finding that our progress through South Africa is a little slower than anticipated. We did not expect or anticipate, for example, to be spending a couple of days here in Swaziland. After having spoke with various people that we have met along the way, we think that we will spend four complete weeks in South Africa as opposed to the two to three that we had originally contemplated. This is not a problem for us. One of the beauties of the type of travel that we are doing is the freedom and flexibility of not having a set plan or fixed itinerary. We are completely free to go when and where we please. We also have the added bonus of being able to push back our return date by as much as a month without financial penalty. At this point, it is looking very likely that we will be taking advantage of this.

The four main game areas that we definitely want to see whilst in Africa are the Kruger National Park (which we just completed), Etosha National Park (Namibia), The Okavango Delta (Botswana) and the Serengeti & Ngorongoro Crater (Tanzania). We will probably concentrate on maximizing our enjoyment of those areas and plan our travels around them accordingly. There are, of course, a whole host of non-game related things that we also want to see and these include Sodwana Bay for its diving opportunities, the Garden Route and Wine country, Victoria Falls, Zanzibar and, of course, there is still Egypt (Pyramids, Cairo, Aswan & Luxor) and Jordan (Petra & Wadi Rum) yet to come.

Our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook has done well for us but has not been infallible. We had a bit of a discussion yesterday with the front desk about the cost of the rooms. Initially, they were quoting us 660 Rand (about $82) per night whilst the guidebook insisted that they had rooms for as little as 300 Rand per night. Thanks again to Sandy’s brilliant negotiation tactics, we were ultimately given a really nice room with a quiet air-conditioner (the unit in the room they showed us to begin with was thunderously loud) for just 400 Rand ($50) per night. This brings up another point in that we are ‘supposed’ to be backpacking and staying in cheap hostel accommodation. At $50 per night, this is a very expensive place to stay based on our intended budget. However, it is also our plan to splurge every now and again and we did save a lot of cash by driving ourselves around the Kruger National Park as opposed to paying for a seat in one of the game trucks each day. After all is said and done, we are probably on target for our budget so far. It’s still hard to believe that we’ve only been away for just ten days so far.

So far, I’m pretty pleased with our choice of what to bring with us. There have been some pretty unexpected successes with many of our pieces of equipment and clothing. My Safari hat, for example, may look ridiculous to some but it has done a wonderful job in keeping the sun off my head and shoulders. I really do feel much more cool and comfortable under the wide rim with trailing canvas cloth draping down to my shoulder blades. My all purpose zip off trousers and travel shirt have also been a monumental success. I’ve worn them practically every day so far. Wearing a T-shirt underneath keep the shirt clean and all the zips and pockets everywhere have been absolutely invaluable. The money belt that I wear around my waist and under my belt gives me a comforting sense of security and the one under my shirt and around my neck is very useful for keeping my cash out of reach of any potential thief.

Sandy’s compression bags have been very good and we have made good use of the various plug adapters for our laptop and battery re-chargers. Even the headlamps and flashlight have all come in very useful so far.

Thus far, we’ve used just a few things from our medical kits. Probably the most used things that we’ve brought with us have been the combination padlocks that we use to lock the zippers of our backpacks together with. Even the pull-out wire cord combination lock has been put to good use attaching the backpacks to immovable objects in our rooms.

Probably the most successful items so far have been the new Nikon D100 digital camera & lens and the laptop. The quality of the pictures that this camera takes is just stunning and we are finding it very difficult to select photos for deletion. Thus far, we’ve taken something like 3000-3500 photos altogether. Of those, 1467 have survived the editing floor and remain with us. At about 3.5Gig of photos, we are almost ready to burn our first DVD full to send home as a backup. We are in now the habit of taking several shots of a given item and from several different angles and then selecting just the best two or three to keep and deleting the rest. We are also getting more and more familiar with the functions and capabilities of the camera itself and our ability to compose and judge a given shot is still improving. The only downside is that it has so far been requiring between half an hour to an hour every evening just to go through and sort out all the 200-400 photos that we’ve taken during the day. It has to be said, however, that we will probably not sustain that level of photo taking unless inside the game parks like Kruger – I hope!

When we crossed the border into Swaziland yesterday, we immediately stopped at the filling station right there and filled up with Petrol. Whilst the herd of attendants was washing my windows, one of them started to talk to me. Once he learned I was from England, he asked me why Colin Powel was such a bad man and why he wanted to wage war against Iraq and kill so many innocent civilians. I have to admit that I got a little bit nervous right at that moment. Through that conversation, I learned that the invasion into Iraq had begun. In an attempt to diffuse what potentially could have become an awkward situation, I told the young man that a lot of people were against the war (which is true) and that not everybody agrees with what their government is doing (also true). He seemed happy at this and we went on our way. In some ways, the fact that the war with Iraq has started can be seen as a good thing for our particular situation as we must still spend the last week or so of this four-month leg of our trip in Jordan. Hopefully, by the time we reach that far, the pot will have already boiled and have cooled again.

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