Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
Trip End Nov 09, 2009

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Traditional Swaziland Bee Hive

Flag of Swaziland  ,
Thursday, September 17, 2009

September 17 and 27 days into our journey, exactly one-third of the way.

Searchin'. Searchin’.  Ever since our departure from the restcamp in Kruger at 8 AM, we’ve been searchin’ for the ever illusive lions.  We know that from our prior experience that the lions like to either hide in the long grasses or under a shady tree.  The only way to spot them is to look for a movement of their head if in the grasses or to check under the trees.  But our guide is going almost 60 kph (37 mph) and it is impossible to find lions this way.  Later, we find out that the guide had heard that there were lions spotted on the road ahead but we are too late to find them.  We arrive at the park gate at 10 AM and the game drive leaves us without seeing any lions and with a headache from straining to find them at such a speed.

Heading southward out of Kruger National Park leads to a totally different landscape, one very lush and green, filled with endless fields alternating between bananas and sugar cane

We stop to get gas and learn that there are only 2 prices for gas in South Africa; one for the coast and one for the interior.  The government sets the price on the first Tuesday of the month for the next month.  Everyone must charge the set price respectively.  The price includes a road tax (like a user tax) and a collection towards third party insurance.  This month the price of gas for the interior is 8.16 Rand per liter (about $1.15 Can).  The cost on the coast is a little less, 7.61 Rand (about $1.07 Can.).

We arrive at the border of the Kingdom of Swaziland at 11:20 AM and are cleared within minutes.  Our guide is pleased as apparently it can take several hours to process visitors.  The 365 sq. km. (142 sq. mi.) Kingdom is surrounded on three sides by South Africa and on the fourth by Mozambique.  It is ruled by an absolute monarch, at present King Mswati III.  In another month, several thousands of females will dance in front of him and he will pick one to be his next wife.  He presently has 17 wives and this occasion goes on every year of his reign.  We’re not sure if we see an upside in any of this custom.  On the other hand, Swaziland is the only place that hands out free condoms when you enter and leave their border.  Our guide calls them "Swazi candy".  Oh well, we say roll 'em (on) if you got em’.

From the border, we climb to a higher elevation and the terrain is gently rolling.  The crops we see are mainly bananas and oranges.

Initially from the border, Swaziland appears to be a poorer country as evidenced by the type of housing and the number of people gathering water with jugs.  The standard of housing and living seems to improve considerably as we near the capital, Mbabane.

Swaziland was the first in southern Africa to have a casino and this attracted many South Africans to visit.  It is still a casino mecca today and it is hosting one of the biggest poker tournaments in Africa.

Just before we arrive at our destination we stop at the Ngwenya Glass factory.  It was started initially as a Swedish aid project in 1979, but stalled, and a South African family rejuvenated it in 1987.  Today it has become a gold mine for the locals.  The glass is all made and blown on-site, mainly using recycled glass.  The designs and colors are superb.  A rhino wine bottle stopper is going to find its way back to Canada as a result.

Our destination is the Milwane Game Reserve, the oldest game reserve in Swaziland.  We see from the entrance sign it was started in 1961 and begin to worry about what the condition of our accommodation may be like, given the rustic conditions we had in Kruger National Park.  We are staying in a traditional beehive hut and soon discover that it is quite a delight.  A very small 76 cm. (30 in.) entrance leads into a large room with a 3.5 m. (12-foot) high ceiling.  There are two single beds and a full en-suite.  The roof is framed by curving small hardwood branches and finished with a mat of intertwined straw.  Quite comfortable inside, it is like our own honeycomb.

It has been a humid drive and we go to the lake viewing area and have a few beers (Ohlssons and Hansa) and some wine.  After dinner, we enjoy a dance and singing presentation put on by the waiters and servers.  The presentation highlights four key areas for Swazilanders – the king, the Queen mother, the flag, and the warrior (representing protection of the country).  Quite entertaining.

The presentation ends at 9 PM and our eyes are heavy from the day’s drive and activities.  Honey, come home, and so it’s off to our bee hive we go.  And just like a honeycomb, all is safe, warm and comfortable.
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