Published: July 17th 2006July 10th 2006
Our happy hosts and cold beer!
From Swazi BP it was a short mini bus trip to the Matsapha market turn off, followed by a 1 or 2 km walk to the House on Fire tourist centre where we scored a lift in the back of a pick up with an expat who was going where we were going, Sondzela BP. It was almost too easy. Set within the grounds of the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, Sondzela was spectacular and beautiful. There were no staff around to greet us however so we found a spot to pitch our tent whilst the curious but very shy warthogs grazed around us and the resident ostrich drank from the swimming pool. We had a day and a half to explore and waisted no time looking for a staff member to point us in the right direction of a good hike. We found the campsite and info centre for the sanctuary and came across another nominee for the award for responsible tourism. They were encouraging people to find and bathe in the hot springs located within the sanctuary but at the same time warning people as to the presence of crocodiles in the springs! We set out hoping to see some giraffe
One of the awesome paintings at the House On Fire exhibition.
and buffalo but instead saw lots more warthogs, antelope, wildebeast, hippos and ostrich. We walked for a few hours and although the hiking wasn't amazing we were constantly reminded of home. It was like walking along a fire trail amongst dense bush that was littered with Eucalypt trees. We expected to see a koala at every turn. One of the things that Sondzela sold itself on was their cheap and delicious home cooked meals. The next morning we signed up on the dinner list, yet there was still no staff to tell us when, where or what, although we knew from the previous night that there was infact cooking staff and that dinner would be served by the bonfire when the big drums sounded. We were beginning to wonder if anyone actually knew we were there. We walked the few km back to the House on Fire centre for some coffees and an awesome art exhibition that had premiered the night before. It was an open air exhibition but unfortunately for the promoters the day we visited there were howling gale force winds and we spent more time picking the art up off the ground and replacing it than what
House on Fire masterpiece
we did actually looking at it. A further walk took us back to Matsapha markets where we stocked up on fruit and supplies. In my quest to drink local beer from every country we visit, we found a shebeen (small, illegal drinking house - usually someones home) and after several attempts at asking for beer made in Swazi accepted a bottle of Black Label and the standard paint tin full of goats milk beer to share around. We sat with two lovely local ladies; the proprietor, who thought it was absolutely hysterical that she had two whities in her house drinking beer, and her pidgeon english speaking friend and translator who told us that they only ever saw whities going past on the highway or at the markets and that never once had they seen any venture into their little village let alone stop in for a beer. They told us they were honored and wanted to cook dinner for us as well, but after politely declining and taking our leave we felt that the honour was all ours. Besides, we had Sondzela dinner to look forward to. One more stop via the Boabab Batik and Curio store where we
One of the amzingly colourful and intricate batiks
found some awesome and surprisingly cheap jewellery for Dani and got a cool behind the scenes tour of the batik workshop from a friendly and obviously very bored sales lady. Batiks are artworks made using wax, dye, hair dryers and sunlight to produce amazingly colourful and creative pictures on cloth. There are about 8 or 9 stages to the process and take a few days depending on the intricacy of the design and whether the sun is shining or not. Once back at Sondzela it wasn't long before the big drums sounded and dinner was served. When we made our way to the front of the line the big ol' mama serving lady simply said "tickets!" We asked her what she meant by tickets and her reply was "no tickets, no dinner, next!" as she banged her big serving spoon down on the table to emphasise the point. Even though we'd put our name down we had to go back inside and buy dinner tickets, but ofcourse there was no one there to buy them from. When I went back and explained this to Big Mama she said "No staff, no ticket. No ticket, no dinner. Next!" and again, bang
with the spoon. As we were watching all the other apparent ticket holders devour delicious smelling impala stew with freshly baked bread I was thinking to myself "if any of you smug looking bastards gets up for seconds before I get firsts, there'll be trouble!" Trying to convince Big Mama to let us eat dinner before we bought our tickets took all of our combined litigation skills, but we pulled it off and to Big Mamas credit not only was the Impala stew fan-bloody-tastic, the effort we went through to get it added to our enjoyment. Ofcourse later when it was money time there were staff all over the place who were happy to take our Emalangeni! We then spent a few post dinner hours brushing up on our Portuguese in preparation for our following days journey into Mozambique. In the middle of the night I woke up startled convinced that there was someone walking around our tent. I couldn't shake the feeling and ofcourse couldn't get back to sleep and made myself muster up enough courage to stick my head out and investigate. I dont know who got the bigger fright. Me or the resident ostrich that was eating
Traditional Swazi Hut
This is ofcouse on show for the whitie
grass at 3am outside the fly of our tent. When we left the next morning the ostrich and I myself eyed each other up and down pretending that neither of us had really been scared, but there was no way I was giving Big Mama the same treatment as people would have no doubt been buying tickets for Deano stew the next time the big drum sounded. We had some fun in Swazi but when we left we couldn't help feeling as if we'd missed something. Possibly our recent adventures in S.A. and especially Lesotho were a bit much to live up to. Never mind Swazi, there's alwys next time.