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Published: September 27th 2011
My flight from Congo arrived in Joburg at 3pm, and my connecting flight would have been at lunch hour the next day. So instead of staying 22 hours in Joburg, I decided to take 24 more hours for a little more of discovery. This week-end, it would be Swaziland!
Rented a car in JNB and drove the few hours east to the border of South Africa and Swaziland. I stopped first for some shopping (aka bringing some wine back home to Thailand) and other necessities. Sunset is already at 6pm, so it was dark pretty early, not much sightseeing for me. And by 7pm, I was in deep...I mean deep fog on the way to Mbabane. Well...I stuck myself behind a car who seems to know his way, and follow that car at short distance to the border.
So what about Swaziland? Well, it's all about the people, the people of Swaziland, I have to admit, are by far some of the nicest people I have ever met.
Few facts, the country is not really big, it is stucked in between South Africa and Mozambique. It is one of the last three kingdoms in Africa, the other two
being Lesotho and Morocco. The country is the size of Wales or New Jersey. I'm quoting wikipedia here.
Sadly, it is also one of the poorer country around, and worst, they have the highest infection rate of HIV in the world. We are speaking 26% of all adults, and as wikipedia quotes, 50% of young adults in their 20's!
The two main cities are still pretty small and are called Mbabane and Manzini. My plan was to stay in the Ezulwini Valley. Not a huge choice of accomodation, not a huge amount of tourists either. It seems most people stop here on their way from Mozambique to South Africa...or to add one more country to their little country count...ok, I have to admit, it's country 104 for me!
I wanted to stay in a backpacker lodge. In the region it's often a good mix between a basic room, and meeting nice people on the go too. My booking was with Lidwala....but once I arrived, they had sold my "safari tent" and had only dorms left...I'm getting too old for those. So I moved few miles away to Legends backpackers for two nights. The place was pretty empty,
and I had a clean room for myself.
I first encounter the friendly Swazis people while crossing the border. An easy affair, even with a rental car. I just needed to pay a "road tax" of 50 rands for the pleasure of using the kingdom roads. Well, country is so poor that it's ok with me.
My first morning I play golf at the championship 18 holes Swazi golf course. Pretty nice little place in the Ezulwini Valley. Took me a while as I got stuck behind a huge group of local Taiwaneses. Swaziland is another of those little countries which still only recognized Taiwan as the "only" chinese government. This comes with a huge amount of financial help for the country. Seems this year I'm touring those countries as I was in Belize this summer with the same situation.
The country has two 18 holes and 4 more 9 holes. Later on that Saturday I stopped by the 9 holes of Mbabane. A way more low-key affair. Sadly they had a competition going on, but one more place where I have to admit...Swaziland may not look like much, but the people are the jewel here...so friendly!
I spent my afternoon getting lost on roads between Mbabane, the Ezulwini Valley and Manzini. Poor the country is, but it still feel very safe. So I was happy to go around and just opened my eyes. I don't have many pictures, as I'm not a big fan of simply getting my camera out in these kind of settings with hundred of people around.
I was looking for some kind of architectural landmarks around, but I couldn't really find any of it. By 6pm it was already dark. Found a nice place for dinner and some South African wine before getting to bed early...next morning was an early call wake-up!
My plane was just after noon, and I had no intention to miss it. Two weeks away from Mari, Leslie and Tiffany is a lot for me...even if that was work, I still prefer to be home.
So 400km to JNB, I decided to leave my place at 5am. Reached the border at 5.45am...just to find out that the border would only open at 7am...I was stuck in Swaziland! Got through it...and on time at the airport. I just had one more scary little time prior
to that. I know that petrol stations rarely take credit card in South Africa (at least foreign ones)...and I didn't count properly what I had left in my wallet while filling the tank.
I had to stop in the middle of nowhere 40km ahead of the airport. And guess what, I ended short of few rands...damn! Took the guy from the petrol station in my car to help me to find a cash machine...in an area that I don't know, in Joburg...surrounded by townships. Euh, I still believe I should not have been there, but not much of a choice. I felt "kind of ok" as the guy in the car with me was from the place...but still, I do not like to turn myself into an easy target few minutes before taking a plane...
I have to admit, I loved going around Swaziland and felt very safe everywhere...I'm still not that comfortable getting lost around Johannesburg...
Next entry, will come in October. No link to Africa this time.
I'm home, happy to be with my little family!
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