A Little Swazi Hidden Gem... the Rock Lodge

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Africa » Swaziland
February 1st 2011
Published: February 2nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

A week of Swazi goodbyes

I never like to be the last one at the party. Thankfully new people keep on arriving to this random little country, but sadly people leave as well.

So Gemma was the first to go. Gemma is a lovely English girl who has been in Swaz for a year. She fell “in like” with a marine biologist from New Zealand who studies whale sharks in Tofu, Mozambique. For her going away I ordered curry from my Indian neighbour and had a last hooray at her place on a random Thursday night. She was giving things away so Alexandra took lovely bowl; I scavenged curtains, a night stand, Tupperware, a pot, greys anatomy season 4, and a British period piece called Downton Abbey. Michelle took a huge plant and whole bunch of other crap. Seriously, we are like vultures when someone is moving.

Andrea, my other Canadian Crossroads International (CCI) counterpart finished her internship before Christmas, did a 33 day overland trip of Southern Africa, and has been chilling out in Swaziland for the last couple of weeks. For her last real weekend, Aussie Michelle and I shoved Andrea in the back seat of the Polo and ripped it to Maputo, Mozambique for a night.

One night in Maputo

Less than 3 hours away, Maputo is a breath of fresh air. It is a quick escape from Swaziland with the promise of great shopping, great nightlife, and great prawns.

Back when I hiked to the potholes in Malalotja I met a guy named Joe who works at the British High Commission in Maputo. I told him how much we had to pay to stay at a hostel there (Almost $30 a night for a 4 bed dorm). He said that was ridiculous and I could stay with him next time.

I said “Joe, you probably throw that offer out there all the time, but I am one of the people who will actually take you up on it.” A text early in the week got a quick reply that yes; he would host three ladies for the evening. We all brought sleeping bags assuming we would have to crash on the floor.

Um, when we go there Joe said to leave the bedding in the trunk. The guy lives in a freaking palace of happiness! Michelle and I took the massive room with private en-suite…. with our own remote controlled air conditioning! Andrea got her own room. The house was huge, the kitchen was enormous, and he had a big glorious television with digital cable. We thought we were in a Mozambican Disneyland or something.

We went to a café for a quick lunch and then the three of us went to the Saturday market so Andrea could do some power shopping. I bargained hard and bought two amazing paintings. We then tried to do the lonely planet walking tour through the down town. We looked like total tourists and stuck out as the ONLY WHITE PEOPLE around. Suddenly an SUV with two white South African men roll up and ask us what the hell we are doing.

They thought we were in danger and needed a ride somewhere. Apparently we shouldn’t be walking around in that area. Two minutes later, a pimped out SUV with local Mozambicans roll up and asked us the same thing. Too funny. We made our way to the train station which is famous for having been designed either by Gustave Eiffel– famous for that little tower in Paris – or one of his associates (the literature on it is conflicting). Not many trains coming in, but it was lovely.

We met Joe and some of his friends at a sports bar for some football (soccer). One of the guys was involved with defence with the American government – very intense. While everyone was juggling between the Arsenal and Man U games I was busy trash-talking that team Canada beat Team USA at the Olympics last year in Ice Hockey. His lame retort was that the States has more hockey teams than Canada. (Ya… teams filled with Canadian Players!!!)

We made our way to the famous fish market for dinner. It is all a bit manic but Joe is a regular so knew where to go.
Behind where they sell fish are random little shacks that are “restaurants” that will cook up your food for you. We went to his favourite place and then went through the market where we picked up fresh squid, boatloads of prawns, and something which translated to thief fish. (all the while, avoiding the buckets of clams which were spitting all over us)
As we chilled on a picnic table, Michelle downed
African Park JobAfrican Park JobAfrican Park Job

shocked my car could make it up on the curb - outside Joe's fancy-pants house
a few beers to compensate for the lack of vegetarian food. When the meal came it was amazing! Fresh glorious seafood. Joe, Andrea and I hammered through what 4-5 people probably could have shared. It was amazing.

Later that night Joe took us to a place with live jazz music. No cover charge for the ladies so we bought Joe a drink before he ushered us off to the train station for some dancing. Apparently on the weekends it often turns into a bar. Again – so cool. Everyone who was there was uber stylish, and there were really attractive people. That probably sounds weird – but after going to party at trashy tinkers in Swaziland, this was like being at a club in London. Everyone looked so fab. The DJ was good and then some guys started drumming to the music.

Michelle was quite tipsy when we got home and had me laughing my ass off. There was a full-length mirror in the room that had traumatized both of us. I think it was the first time I have seen myself naked since I have been here (my swazi apartment has a mirror that shows me part of my face- that’s it). For both Michelle and I – 2011 Operation Lose Fat needs to move a little faster. Apparently our attempt of going for a run on Monday night followed by curry wasn’t shedding immediate pounds. My fave quote of the night was “I’ve tried really hard this week Sharman, I really have. And I feel fatter than ever. No More curry Sharman. No more!”

The next day when we were coming back to Swaziland I got my first speeding ticket on the way to Manzini. The cop didn't even ask to see my license, I just had to pay the 10 dollar fine for going 71 in a 60 zone and I was on my way. So annoying. i was quite proud of my no-ticket record.

Wednesday was Australia Day which I did my best to avoid all bad things (except popcorn) and only eat veggies. Also made it to spin class twice this week; thankfully the South African house music is exciting enough to get me through the 90 minute workout.

Then Friday was Andrea’s last real night, but I’m not too sad – I know I will see her back in Canada.

The Rock Lodge

So, I am surprised to find that there are hidden gems all over Swaziland. Keira is an Irish volunteer who planned a night away for her going away party and introduced many of us to a place called The Rock Lodge.

I met Marina, Sierd and Dwayne (Canada boy back from being stuck in the Seychelles) and we drove off in the direction of dirt roads to the Ngwenpesi valley and to the rock lodge. The rock lodge is a community project that is in the middle of no-where – you park at a homestead and walk 25 minutes down to the coolest structure. Someone helped to build a structure into a clump of enormous rocks, overlooking a beautiful valley. When we arrived there was a crew there coming up for their second trip - apparently bringing the cooler full of beer and wine was not so fun.

There is enough bunks for 16 people, the toilet and show are built outside, and there is no electricity. In the scortching hot heat it was nice to chill on one of the levels in the shade, but if it was raining or cold it might be a little too rustic to enjoy yourself.

We were one of the first 15 people to arrive and decided to hike down to the river to cool off from the intense heat. Whoever said it would be 20 minutes is clearly on Swazi Time – an hour later we finally found ourselves chilling along a mini rock pool in the water, watching the boys body ride through the rapids.

When we got back from the steep climb back up there were loads more people – 28 in total. We all climbed up the top rock and watched the sunset. As I was going down to where the ‘kitchen’ was I could hear someone saying there was a mouse getting in the food. Um.. so not a mouse. I walked in to see a giant freaking rat scurrying away. Apparently Sierd had walked up to one going to town on a piece of cheese. His response – that is so cliché.
Thankfully people from the community come with lanterns and help build a fire for an enormous bbq later in the evening. The next three hours involved helping American Nick cook and turn massive amounts of meat for a braai (bbq) of epic proportions.

That night I got to snuggle with Marina in a tent that her 2 meter tall (6’6”) boyfriend bought for the two of them. Um… he should have bought a Dutch tent because the thing just fit the two of us – there is no way he is fitting in there. Sierd had set it up on rather steep section and I spent the whole night sliding into Marina because my air mattress and sleeping bag were too slippery. I had a horrible sleep but woke to sunshine and everyone happily making breakfast.

I assisted Sierd and Dwayne make the cheesiest scrambled eggs possible with the use of a hot plate. We chilled out in the sunshine and were entertained when a local from the village came in his traditional clothing to chat to us – all very random. All-in-all, a great experience in Swaziland.

Life at FLAS

In health news – I have recovered from whatever bug (parasite I nick-named Fred) I picked up in Mozam at New Years. Thankfully I work next to a clinic that is stocked with antibiotics. Our hilarious pharmacist from Zimbabwe wanted to give me either a one-time 5 pill dose of one thing, or I could take 2 per day for a week but it would make my mouth taste like metal. No thanks. I saw Ciproflaxin and grabbed for that – taking the twice a day for three day treatment they prescribe at the travellers health clinic at home seemed a whole lot more reliable to me – she just thought I was crazy.

I also got blood work taken last week. When I left Canadia I was asymptomatic for my Graves disease, but my hair has been falling out so bad (one of the symptoms) so I thought it was time to get my thyroid levels checked. I was terrified (hello… I am in HIV central), but our lab tech took great care of me and was faster than any nurse I have had in Canada. One of the docs at FLAS said I would have been really easy for her because I am white and she could see the veins – most random advantage to being white I have heard of yet. It would take a couple of hours in Canada for results, but it has been over a week now and still no results. Our lab tech thinks that the lab in Mbabane may have lost them... welcome to Swaziland.


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