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Published: January 10th 2010
I left Mlilwane Nature Reserve today. Since I had a flight to catch back in Johannesburg we left early, my guide promising me breakfast at our next stop. I stood outside reception while the others dealt with the business end of things and watched nyala and ostriches walk freely about the area. We drove through the nature reserve, not really seeing any more wildlife but just enjoying the rural views before getting back to the city. As we left the reserve we passed many small villages and I would have loved to stop for a time. We drove through the green hills and I again had the odd impression of seeing Northumberland with a few African style villages dropped in amongst the rocky slopes.
We stopped at a glass factory. Again the whole thing has been designed purely for tourists to visit and donate their money to, I can't imagine the local people have much interest in fancy glass knick-knacks. I actually enjoyed the visit though as we were allowed to walk up and view the factory floor from above. It was fascinating to watch the glass being heated and shaped and I was amazed at the way the workers twisted
and pulled the glowing glass. I also enjoyed standing in the dry heat as my flu bug seems to be making me feel permenantly cold now. We pottered around the shop for a while and then went to the cafe upstairs for breakfast.
I tried to get some Swazi coins by asking for some change in the cafe but I didn't get many. The problem is the Swazi Lilangeni has the same value as the South African Rand and since the rand is also accepted as legal tender I haven't needed to change my money. A Lilangeni, the plural of which is Emalangeni, is worth 100 cents. My guide realised what I was doing and, obviously wanting to be rid of her Emalangeni coins, offered to trade them with me, so in the end I got a full set as a souvenir.
We passed through the border checks easily. While waiting in the queue on the Swaziland side of the border I was surprised to see a box of free condoms sitting on the window sill! Swaziland is critically affected by HIV and Aids. However the country only acknowledged that it suffered from an AIDS crisis in 2004 despite the
fact it has the highest HIV infection rate in the world and also the lowest life expectancy at 32 years. So I suppose condoms at immigration isn't such a terrible idea, although it might have helped had the box actually had something in it.
We got across the border and slowly the hills and greenery petered out and was replaced by the more familiar South African landscape. We stopped in the same town we had on the outward trip so I could visit a chemist and get soem medicine. I was glad of having an Afrikaan translator on hand but was still bemused when they tried to sell me three packets of different pills and a bottle of dark brown liquid, telling me it is the cure for colds. A cure for colds? Really? I pointed out I could easily have liquids confiscated at the airport and didn't want to have glass bottles in my rucksack and opted for the more familiar MedLems. The rest of the drive was uneventful and I'm sure I must have dozed off as we soon seemed to be arriving at the airport in Johannesburg.
I hefted my bags onto a trolley, said my goodbyes,
and walked into the airport. I checked in and wandered about looking for somewhere to eat, finally ending up in a tiny cafe eating a buffalo cheese sandwich while Spanish music blared out - bizarre. I then had to find another cafe in order to get a cup of tea. Eventually I just slumped on the floor near my gate and waited for my flight to be called.
The flight was reasonable... right up until the end. As we began our descent into Cape Town my ears started to hurt, more and more until I felt like my eardrums were going to burst, although I can't remember ever being aware of my eardrums before. No-one else seemed to be affected and the people sitting next to me seemed completely oblivious to the fact that at one point I was bent double, my hands clapped over my ears, moaning to myself. I tried to distract myself by taking photos as we flew over Cape Town while my ears hurt and sounds faded to a muffled murmur. I panicked for a minute as my hearing seemed to disappear altogether and then the muffled sounds returned. I was very relieved to finally land
and make my way outside. I tried to clear my ears but though everytime I yawned I felt ripping noises in my head I still couldn't hear much. I managed to collect my luggage and get out into the airport before actually needing my ears again. I had to ask where the taxi rank was and then had to ask three times more as the man's words seemed to be coming from behind a large door and I couldn't make out what he said. I'm sure he just thought I was incredibly stupid. I got a taxi right to my hostel. My taxi driver didn't seem to notice I was practically deaf and asked me about my trip to Africa and what I think of the country and how I feel about all the stories about how South Africa is dangerous. I answered as best I could and was a little bemused when he drove me up to my hostel on Long Street and then walked in with me until I was cleared by security downstairs and safely put into the lift to my hostel. Why tell me South Africa is not as bad as everyone says and then refuse to let me cross the street with my bags alone?!
I checked in and stumbled to my room and collapsed. The hostel seems great. I have a nice room, private bathroom, kitchen just opposite and internet access in reception. I was supposed to have a day trip tomorrow but it has been postponed to the following day so I shall see how I feel come the morning and decide what to do then.
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