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Published: November 2nd 2015
The place we were staying at in Swaziland was a pine plantation owned by Lindsey's cousin Heather and her husband Sakari. Heather and Sakari had kindly let us use the place but unfortunately they could not be there.
Having arrived in the dark and discovered that our accommodation had no electricity we had the interesting tasks of trying to find light and make a meal, not to mention more mundane things like finding the bedroom and bathroom. Heather had foreseen that electricity might be a problem as their power is generated through a micro-hydro-electric power plant which crucially depends on the water level of the farm's dam. As the wet season rains had not arrived on time, by the end of September, the dam was very low. She had prepared by leaving out candles in wine bottles. We just had to locate matches which took some time.
Once we had light, dinner was quite easy as there was a gas hob and we'd picked up some supplies which could be cooked on the hob. We had a romantic dinner by candle-light on the terrace. Then, with little to do and the difficulty of navigating a strange place by candle-light
we decided to go to bed.
When we got up the sun was streaming through the top windows and we could see much of what we had only dimly made out the previous evening. The living room was a giant oval with 3 comfortable sofas and a dining table. Above this was a book-lined corridor leading to the bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. The kitchen was huge and well equipped and we found everything we needed to make breakfast.
We awoke in time to meet the housekeeper, Ivy, as she came in to work. We made her a cup of coffee and sat chatting with her on the terrace. Ivy is a tiny woman who lives about an hour's walk from the plantation. She is the second wife of her husband and is raising five children, several of whom are studying at boarding school in Manzini. Her English is good but her first language is siSwati. Ivy gave us a potted history of the farm; telling us that before Heather and Sakari moved there the hillside was completely barren but now they have planted a valley full of trees, given jobs to 30 locals and built an amazing farm
house. She then took us on a tour of the house and farm, showing us amongst other things the sauna, the latest seedlings which had just been planted, the vegetable garden, the dam and the place where Heather and Sakari had first pitched their tent before everything was built. Ivy's delight in the farm was both evident and infectious.
During our time on the farm we had the opportunity to watch some of the activities which were going on which gave a fascinating insight into the business of a plantation. We also took some lovely walks, accompanied by Heather's dogs Spring and Summer, through the woods, discovering huge insects as we went. One of the absolute highlights was that we got to take a sauna a couple of times, enjoying the steam and then plunging into the cold pool outside.
We had been surprised at just how remote the farm was so we decided to change our plans to see Swaziland. We had been planning to go from the farm each day to a different area of the country. As Swaziland is about the size of Wales everything should be reachable in a day. However this was not
going to be possible - it took an hour and a half to get from the farm to the nearest built-up area and an hour and a half back. Even borrowing a four-wheel drive bakkie from the farm, we were unlikely to be able to do the return trip in less than two hours. We were still keen to explore the country and to see as much as possible so we devised a new plan... we would stay on the farm for our whole trip except for two days. To see the country we would wake early one day, fit in as much activity as possible and then stay over somewhere, wake the next day, again fill the day with as many things as we could, and then drive back. We would also use the day we left Swaziland to see some more of the country before dashing back to South Africa in the dark. This plan gave us three full days of sight-seeing whilst only having to leave the farm twice and drive back once. It also meant we had two days to relax on the farm or get to know the local area.
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