Swaziland - Round The World Tour 2003 Day 9

Mbabane

Friday 21st March

Today was our last day in the Kruger National Park but again was not without incident. We saw the White Rhino again – twice. As the Southern exit gate steadily got closer at our snails pace of 40Km/h (a fairly high speed since we had chosen to travel on the asphalted route out of the park), I kept thinking to myself that this was it and we would not see anything new. But each time I thought this to myself, something new came into view. First it was a beautiful pair of Tawny Eagles perched atop a dead tree limb; then it was a trio of White Rhino (that really got our blood pumping); then it was a tree full of Monkeys; and finally, we saw a family of Wart Hog. We enjoyed our stay at Kruger immensely and it’s difficult to think of what might be to come that could possibly top the experience.

After passing through the exit gates of Kruger, we headed south in the direction of Swaziland. Since it is on our way (in the way might be a better description) to our next destination of Sodwana Bay, in the Kwazulu-Natal province of South Africa, it seemed like a good idea to stop for a day or two to see what this small country that is encircled completed by South Africa, has to offer. I’m particularly keen on spotting (or ‘capturing’ as we call it) the Black Rhino in one of the game reserves there.

The border crossing between South Africa and Swaziland was an experience and a half. We had to ‘check in’ first with the South Africa immigration control and then a few yards later with the Swaziland equivalent. Standing in the queues and mingling with the locals in the bustling, yet very small immigration offices, I very much got the feeling that we were now entering the ‘real’ Africa. We filled in the forms and handed over our 5 rand coin fee for taking our car across the border and were on our way. As it turned out, the whole process was not very complicated and we were through to the other side with little hassle. Some border crossings in Africa can be really tiresome and tedious by all accounts so I was very pleased with today’s crossing.

Driving through the valleys and mountains of Swaziland was also a new experience as we saw plenty of people (and farm animals) walking along the sides of the roads. Many of them (mostly women) were carrying various things on their heads and some even with babies strapped to their backs also. As we passed more and more people with things on their heads, it struck me that this was a very efficient means of locomotion. The load that they are carrying is very close to their centre of balance and there is also the added advantage of keeping the sun off your head. Keeping out of the sun seems to be a preoccupation with most people here. People seem to always be standing in the shade somewhere (under a tree or whatever) and a lot of people can be seen holding umbrellas over their heads as makeshift parasols.

We reached our destination of Mbabane (the capital city of Swaziland) after about two hours of driving. The city is very small and we had an interesting time finding a place to park the car. The place was absolutely humming with activity with people cramming the streets and pavements, walking in all directions. It has a very warmly feel about it and we felt very safe walking around – a pleasant and unexpected surprise. Although Swaziland is a relatively poor country, most people we saw were clean and well dressed. There is a lot of affluence around and the country seems to be quite commercialised yet there is still a very ‘African’ feel to the place. Children walk up and down the street and roads in their school uniforms and everyone we have spoken with have seemed friendly and welcoming.

After lunch at the local KFC (is there no end to where these fast food franchises will find a foothold!?) and a few minutes at an internet café, we phoned around for some places to stay and visited a few of them. Ultimately, we decided to splurge on a three star hotel with a nice restaurant. After all, it ‘is’ my birthday today J. We have a fantastic view out over the Ezulwini valley and we have enjoyed a lovely evening at the restaurant. We are now tucked in bed and will sleep well tonight.

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