Swaziland is a sovereign nation within SA. It's a monarchy (dictatorship) with a massively impoverished populace. On top of that, it has the highest HIV infection rate in the world - 25% of the population has HIV!!! The life expectancy is 50.
We totally winged the trip, which made things more interesting, but not so relaxing for everyone. Crossing the border was the first amusing hurdle. Previous border crossing experiences go something like this:
1) pull up to border
2) show documents, voice intentions
Going between Swaziland and South Africa goes more or less like this:
1) pull up to border - receive a piece of paper on which is written the number in your party
2) get directed to "park under that big tree and proceed into the office"
3) park under the tree and proceed into the office where you hand in your paper, and have your passports examined. More paper is received.
4) return to car and proceed to the next checkpoint, whereupon the second piece of paper is examined and you're directed 'park near that building'.
5) park near the building and proceed into immigration to Swaziland and stand in line to have passports examined and stamped again.
6) return to car, wave paperwork and have officious looking 14 year old lift the gate to allow you into the next country.
It's best to not be in a rush to move between countries.
Once across the border it was obvious we were in a much poorer country. More so than in SA, people walked everywhere. Not only that, but many people we passed were carrying hoes, or working fields with hoes. The industrial revolution hasn't yet reached the rural Swazi. We drove through rural areas where tiny houses perched in the hills amongst grey boulders. Goats and cows ranged freely, defying the decrepit fences demarcating boundaries of some sort. Kids ran along the roads, spying the rental cars from a mile away, running and shouting at us for 'sweeties!'. We passed intersections, which seemed to be informal mini-bus stops, with people and garbage milling around in the middle of nowhere. At one of these, while slowly going through an intersection, we spotted a man wearing a cheetah skin, carrying and spear and a shield... It was hard to tell if he was selling stuff, waiting for the bus to get to a tribal war or going to costume party. Either way it seemed totally legit to be riding the bus with a spear.
We eventually made our way to Milwane Royal Game Reserve, where we spent the night. Following dirt tracks down and around and through and all over the place we found our way to the hostel within the game reserve.
Nothing much interesting happened at Milwane, except for a nice walk, some good food cooked over an open fire and cheap beer ($1!). So we carried on the next day to our next, unknown destination.
Leaving late morning made it necessary to find somewhere to eat. With two three year olds, and our boys we opted to stop at the first place we could find. Which turned out to be a German restaurant. This was very strange. It was like being in a Luxurious Denny's in an African country. Except instead of 'Eggs Over My Hammy' we ordered Schnitzel and were served, and hovered over, by two or three Swazi's (it was so dark in there you could hardly tell where they were all standing (being a man of African descent in a dark room makes you virtually invisible).
We carried on on the good quality, and abandoned, Swazi highways to the Ngwenya Glass Factory. A worthwhile stop if you ever happen to find yourself in Swaziland. It's a glass factory that uses recycled glass and re-purposes it into beautiful, artistic glassware. Ask us about our lamp and shot glasses.
Anyway, blah blah blah. We ended up at Phophoyane Ecoresort that night, much to the anxiety of Ann-Marie and Bevil ("it's so expensive!"). But was a nice stop with great views, a nice trail and a neat natural pool which we could swim in.
Here are some pics.
Convincing the kids that, yes, we can go for a walk in the forest without fear of being consumed by wildlife, took some work. After Kruger they didn't like leaving the safety of the truck
Bontebok ram. Handsome fellow.
Rolling Swazi hills.
Drive by photog
A pretty standard rural landscape
I'm not sure who these folks were, but they seemed to be on their way to some event.
All coniferous forests are tree farms. These are extensive!
Can't remember the name of these spiders, but they were everywhere. Hiking along trails required a large stick to wave in front of your face to move the webs.
Thorns, canines or venom, everything seems to have some sort of defense.