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Published: December 18th 2007
Hippo Hippo Hooray!
Out of the 47 countries in the world which I have visited, the tiny Kingdom of Swaziland has to rate in my top 5. It is a fascinating mix of relatively wealthy whites and a few middle class blacks, and many fairly poor blacks and feels very friendly and relaxed. It is green and very beautiful and has influences from South Africa in its lifestyle and supermarket culture. It feels quite wealthy after countries such as Malawi. Unfortunately up to 40% of its population is reported to be HIV positive but in spite of this horrendous statistic and a very low average life expectancy, most Swazilanders seems cheerful, optimistic and friendly.
Tom and I stayed at a great backpacker hostel called Legends which was very friendly and welcoming. We hired bicycles and cycled a fair old distance to the Mlilwane Nature Park where we did a bicycle safari which was absolutely amazing. Of course when we went for the lunchtime beer at the parks restaurant there were three Aussies downing the amber fluid so we did the reunion thing too.
As the pics show we saw hippos and many other wonderful creatures whilst cycling around on our safari. It
Kevin the Intrepid Explorer begins his bicycle safari
was a magical day.
Swaziland has a king, King Msawti lll, who is deeply revered and many Swazilanders sport his image on their sarongs, shirts or headwear. If you look at the pics you may see yours truly doing the same. King Mswati has around 200 wives which means in a small population of one million he is probably related to everyone.
We went into the capital of Mbabane where I was stopped by the diligent police from taking photographs of buildings in the CBD. Presumably I might be a terrorist or bank robber without access to Google Earth. I also took part in cooking my own lunch and generally had a great time. We also visited the city of Manzini where we attempted to phone Australia from a local call centre only to find that there is no landline connection from Manzini so we had to rent the mobile phone of one of the staff to make a call home.
Swaziland with its mix of African culture and European culture was a good place for me to adjust to the impending culture shock of South Africa. I will remember Swaziland with great affection.
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