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Published: November 9th 2015
Sadly, our time in Swaziland had to come to an end. We didn't want to leave this amazing country and we didn't really want to return to Johannesburg after our experiences there. We were determined to see more of the country before we left so we plotted a route that went straight to the Ngwenya border post but turned off just before arriving. The road would then take us up through the mountains, via the Maguga Dam, to Pigg's Peak and hopefully the Phophonye Waterfalls, if we had time.
First we needed to stop at Swazi Candles, a craft centre which was on our route to the farm but we'd not had time to stop before. The candle shop had some beautiful hand-made candles... Some shaped like animals, some shaped like pine-cones or mealies and others in brightly coloured traditional Swazi patterns. They had even developed innovative candle-like products which combined LEDs and was to make beautifully bright, enduring displays. Surrounding the candle shop were other craft shops with a wide range of lovely Swazi products. There was also a café where we stopped so we could write some postcards over a coffee. I couldn't resist trying the carrot cake
which turned out to be the best I have ever tasted. We had to move on before we would have liked to.
From Swazi Candles we went up the country's main road and turned off just before Mbabane to attempt to drive down the Pine Valley Road. Apparently this is a scenic route which passes Sibebe Rock, a giant granite dome. We got stuck in a diversion and after going in circles a couple of times we gave up. We then got lost in the middle of Mbabane and did the same detour we did when arrived in Swaziland.
Just before we reached Ngwenya we turned off the road into a little village where we had seen a post office sign-posted. This turned our to be a little hut wit lockers at the back and a post box in front. The locals looked us with an expression of puzzlement when we stopped - I don't think they get many visitors. A couple of miles later we turned off to go up into the mountains. As we climbed the mountain road we passed dozens of stalls all selling local crafts. Business could not be good as the road was
not very busy.
After about 40km of winding ascending road we dropped down into a steep valley and suddenly the Maguga Dam was in front of us. The dam holds back an immense reservoir. At least it does when Swaziland has had rain. The water level was extremely low, revealing the skeletons of trees sticking out above the surface. The view across where the reservoir should have been was breath-taking. We drove across the dam and parked up. Here we were immediately accosted by children begging. One of them, a girl of around seven, was holding a can of alcopop. They wanted money but the currency we had in abundance was ripening bananas. We gave them half of the bunch Ivy's parents had given us and their father, who was trying to fix his car, thanked us. We walked along the dam to take some photos. About a minute later one of the children shouted out, alerting us to the fact our car was rolling backwards, towards the road with oncoming traffic and a very expensive piece of critical national infrastructure, protected only by a flimsy barrier. I ran back but the man fixing his car got to the
car before me and stopped it rolling. Extremely grateful we handed the rest of the bananas to him to thank him for his good deed.
Beyond the Maguga Dam the road continues, rising through the incredible scenery of the Hhohho mountainous region. After a while, pine plantations started to appear and some of these were huge. Just before Pigg's Peak we came to the turn off for Phophonyane Falls. This took us down a little forest track. We went down for about 3km but saw no sign we were getting closer. No distance had been given to us. As we were short of time we turned around, saving it for next time. We then discovered that Pigg's peak was a little town, really not worth the trek to get to. We didn't even stop. The Pigg's Peak craft centre which was even further was expensive and also not really not worth the effort. Whilst at the craft centre we discovered that the border crossing we had been planning to use was down a track which required a four-wheel drive. This meant we had to back-track all the way to Ngwenya. By this time we were both very tired and
the drive seemed long.
We got to the border and completed the formalities efficiently - this time both sides were completely professional and it took just a couple of minutes. We drove back into South Africa and started our long drive back to Johannesburg as the sun went down. It was a real test of endurance but we got back safely, late in the evening.
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