Tuesday, February 10, 2015


So after our time in Kruger we were keen to get out and explore a little on our own. Having Kevin and Jen to show us all their favorite spots was great, but we wanted to see things through our touristy lens, and wallow around a little. Swaziland seemed like a good place to start. We rented a couple of cars, and with Bevil and Alex and their kids, went road-tripping.

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
3) proceed

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

 Town meeting.

 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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


A relatively quiet Christmas was spent in Malelane, with more swimming, more family visiting and a hotter-than-hell Christmas dinner - 40+ degrees!! It was the first mass family meet up with the Granville's and was great to meet everyone and get a chance to do some visiting. Even though I had to sit next to the priest.

The other introduction I had at Christmas was to 'The Granville Smooch'. I often find it gratuitous to hug every time I see someone I know. The Granvilles however, take it to another level. EVERYTIME you catch up with one of them you get a kiss. Not just the euro-style-peck-on-the-cheek, but a full puckered mouth to mouth smooch. I was a little taken aback at first, but soon got the hang of it and was kissing everyone, all the time.

On the 27th we fled to Kruger Park. Kevin came through again with a four day booking at a bush camp. It wasn't so much a camp, as a very comfortable cabin with electricity and hot water, situated on the Crocodile river. It was amazing to be immersed inside 20,000 square km's of wilderness.

We had elephant, crocodile, hippo right outside the fence, plus hyena calling at night and incredibly noisy cicada's and tree frogs calling all night. During the day we would drive the roads spotting wildlife and were lucky enough to see EVERYTHING. Lots of close views of rhino, blue wildebeest, warthog, elephant, hyena, impala, kudu, klipspringer, waterbuck, steenbok, duiker, nyala, hippo, crocodile, baboon, vervet monkey, cape buffalo, leopard, zebra, giraffe and leopard tortoise. The kids managed to see cheetah and wild dog too! Not to mention the birds, they were outta control! diversity is incredible, and I just focused on trying to id the most impressive and unusual species... Then there's insects, trees and shrubs... It's so overwhelming!

Anyway, I'll stop there and just add some photos.


 Kudu ram

Juvenile Vervet monkey. This 2lb monkey sent Nick screaming and hysterical when it got a little playful with him.

Spot the Klipspringer


"Now son, y'all gotta pick the lice off like this"


Cape Buffalo, one of the Dragga Boys.

Bats in the ceiling. We had Peter's epauletted (this guy) and Mauritian tomb bats at Biyamiti

European roller

Hamerkop and Blacksmith Lapwing

Saddle-billed Storks. Beauties! Male on the right (dark eye and little yellow wattle)

 Another Dragga boy

Helmeted Guineafowl. They're beautifully graphic with their black and white plumage.

Lazy cat

 puss puss puss!

Vultures! Vultures are very cool. These are White-backed Vultures. They look like hunch-backed, cloaked monks.

The fart heard round the world. This Zebra let out a 5 second fart, which sent us into hysterics. Yes, the only zebra picture I'm posting is of the one which farted. I'm so immature.

A spunky Swazi elephant

 Getting spunkier. Don't worry, the fence is electrified... or at least is says it is.

 White Rhino at Hlane

I love these pictures of Nick! Rhino skull

 Hippo skull. Look at those tusks!

Next stop Swaziland!

Monday, January 26, 2015


Kevin cleverly rented a 13 seater van, and heroically drove everyone the six hours to the Noel family farm in Ofcalaco. Ofcalaco isn't really a town, it's more of a curve in the road where there's a farm supply store and... nothing else really. However, it's the home to some REALLY awesome people! The Noel's are Jen Conway's first cousins, and have lived here for two or three generations, farming and raising cattle. They're first class characters and some of the most hospitable, hilarious and fun loving people I've ever met. We stayed with Bun and Pat, and were toured around the farm via running shoe by their son Jared.

Blyde River Canyon, third largest in the world.

Bun and Pat's (no idea why he's called Bun.)

Chongololo, Preying mantis and Scorpion. All found in the house... The days before we got there they also chased out a black mamba and Mozambican spitting cobra. Fun stuff!

The only limiting factor for how much mango one can eat, is the motivation of the mango cutter.

On the way to 'The Shack', and it's awesome swimming hole! These guys got to ride in the back of the 'bakkie' all the way there. They were stoked!

A lot of engineering went in to building this pool!

Yeehaw! This pool was SO NICE AND COOL! We spent a few hours here enjoying the shade of the forest, and the fresh clean water. It was an oasis.

Tobin, getting ready to launch

Woop woop!

They boys spent a lotta time jumping off this rock!

Jen, who was it that lived here?

Nick, about to be consumed by a houseplant.

More pics of the back of the bakkie

Tea time. This is an African staple. Bun serving. Just prior to this Bun was checking up on a bull he was nursing back to health. As part of his diagnosis he used a rectal thermometer (on the bull... I should clarify), which he pulled out, and nonchalantly twirled and then swiped with his fingers... I'm not sure he washed his hands between then and this picture, but we all seemed to survive.

This was such a hoot. Jill, a second cousin, had a birthday, and as part of her tradition the farm families all get together for a 5k fun run called 'The Chunder Run' the day after the birthday. There were about 30 or 40 folks all out either running or riding bikes, or driving the support trucks full of beer. The plan was to run, then have three stops along the way to 'rehydrate'. Here Jen is greeting her cousin 'Dog' (Bun's brother), another great character. So the story goes: his real name is Chris, but his wife got a dog which she wanted to name 'Chris', and from thenceforth, the human Chris was known as 'Dog'.

past the litchi's, over the snakes...

along the property line (here's Tobin and David - they all made it!)

running out of gas now, 'oh my hat' it's time for a beer!

Bevil supporting

phew, nothing like a frothy drink on a hot day.

The Kopjie (mountain or hill) we ran around earlier in the day. I almost died of dehydration, sunstroke and malaise all at once. The day before we almost stepped on a puff adder on a trail to the left of this hill. That, combined with the scorpion and two other venemous snakes had us feeling jumpy!

Nick and mom

Hard not to have fun on this run.


Post run at the dam. What would Bun say?

Several beers in we put our trust in Bun to find his way home through the litchi orchard. We made it.