Woken by knock on the door by Mike (the Yank) at 7.30am who had booked Royal Durban Golf Club for 9.00am. As Peter only had walking boots and sandals had to make quick detour to shopping centre. Got to shop at 8.30, not open until 9. Persuaded girl to open up and bought the first pair the girl showed me. 999 Rand but no time to quibble. Dashed back to car and made tee time - just. Nice set of Calloway hire clubs. Beautiful course where they have played the SA Open a couple of times. Cost about 400 rand each including club hire and balls. First time I have shouted 'four' to monkeys on fairways but they seemed to know what I was talking about. Joined by a couple of local chaps who were students with the Natal Sharks rugby team. Glad I am too old to play rubgy. Match finished all square on the eighteenth. Honours even. Quick pint took longer than expected as bar works on voucher system only
. Had to buy tickets first then exchange for beer then sell back tickets. Pro in shop asked me where I was from. Ireland I said. Where abouts? Northern Ireland. Where exactly? Whitehead I said. Oh, I'm from Glengormly he said. Drove back to hostel . Nicola meanwhile had got taxi to shopping mall and had replenished her wardrobe. Sue from Hippo Hide Hostel organised a taxi to take about eight of us to North Beach to watch the World Kite Surfing Championships. Very exiting, amazing tricks. Found beer tent and we all started drinking. Progressed on to Jo Kools for more beer and games of pool. Left about seven with a married couple from England who are both doctors (Spencer and Amy)and Mike (the Yank). Checked them into Hippo Hide and then went to Bangkok Wok for dinner. Very nice. Car picked up by Avis during the afternoon.
Day 30 - Wednesday 24 September
Baz Bus picked up at 7.30am to Bib's Backpackers in St Lucia (the only town within a National Park in SA). Arrive at 1.00pm. Checked into niceish cottage en suite. Free tour of area by owner. Plenty of game crocs and hippos. Tried to book Croc and Hippo boat tour but fully booked so booked for tomorrow. Lunch at St Pizza which was nice but slightly pricey
. The whole town is a resort for white South Africans which is a shame. Walked through small forest to where we spotted fishermen earlier. Saw plenty of wildlife close up on short walk. Chatted to men fishing in close prox to crocs. This area apparently worst record for human croc deaths in world. 14 in past five years. Worse than Florida. Beside where they were fishing stands a plaque to a young good looking twenty one year old girl killed by a croc last year alongside a sign warning 'Danger Crocodiles'. Back to Bibs for a few then owner (Shaun) took 8 of us for an impromptu Hippo Hunt. The Hippos often walk down High Street during the night. Unfortunately not tonight but saw plenty of monkeys, antelope cameleons etc. Booked ourselves onto 'Afrikar'Tour the next morning.
Day 31 - Thursday 25 September
Up for 'Afrikar'Tour leaving at 9am. Vehicles designed by two pissed off engineers who decided to leave their jobs and go 'off road'. Cars two wheel rear drive with combi engines designed to go just about everywhere. Headed off for about two and a half hours through river and forests to a remote and beautiful beach where an Italian ship 'The Jolly Rubino' ran aground just below the lighthouse
. Typically Italian. Back to St Lucia via different route. By now Nicola well and truly pissed off being rattled about through potholes and covered in mud and a thick coating of dust. A couple of neat bank climbs down and out of the river bed before back to Bibs. Quick shower then down for the Croc and Hippo boat trip leaving at 4pm. Met up with cuople of English people (George and Kate) who had met a couple of times on the Baz Bus (which we now know stands for Basil who owns the company. Basil, if you are reading this get bigger buses with a/c.) Good boat trip with plenty of crocs and hippos. Very good lady skipper. Two hours probably slightly too long. Cold by the time we got back. Went for dinner at Quarterdeck Restaurant which was nice despite the poorly organised service and rude ownerman.
Day 32 - Friday 26 September
Had lie in until 9.30 then up for home made bacon butties in micro wave (a la Tiny). Packed up again and nipped into town for P to get hair cut. Back for Baz Bus at 1. Driver, Sam, warned us of 3 English guys that he had dropped off for lunch who were drunk when they got on in St Lucia and had been abusive. Load mouth Cockney guy eventually quietened down. Crossed border into Swaziland amid dramtic Thunder and Lightning
. Got to Sondzela Backpackers between Manzini and the capital Mhabane at about 7.30pm. Just in time for dinner around campfire with other new arrivals. Worst seat with smoke blowing into eyes and pods falling off overhaed trees onto our warthog and maize dinner. Funny how you feel like the new kid in town on the first night but are already a local by day two. Chatting to Sharon (another Yank) who we have been on the Baz Bus with a few times since CT. Sharon had a nasty accident about a week ago involving mossy rocks and lions which left her needing stitches and bandages. (Only 70 rand for doctor's bill). We took a picture of her for any future insurance claims and will forward. (Hope you are healing well Sharon). Arranged to meet the ultra fit Sharon for hike tomorrow. Incidentally, Sharon is a member of an American 'Extreme Frisbee' team which competes in proper leagues across the states. Presumably the pitch is shared with the local Hula Rugby team, the Rubix cube basketball team and the Action Man (GI Joe) Hurlers.
Bed in room beside bar was noisy but we got to sleep ok.
Day 33 - Saturday 27 September
Up early for bfast. (served up to 8.00am only)
. Transferred to newly built rondavel (en suite not yet fitted. Nicest room yet. Bright and airy. Met Sharon and decided to do the five hour hike to the top of Execution Rock. When we checked in to the reg book at the start of the hike the ranger asked, rather ominously, if we were fit. We laughed and said of course we were. Set off full of beans (literally) with lovely close encounters with the wildlife. After about two hours the terrain started to get pretty steep. Nicola said she could go no further at a cave so Sharon and I ploughed on. A little further up we realised that the peak we thought we were trying to get to was only a little hill on the way to Execution Rock (3075 ft) and we therefore decided to head back to Nicola. We had all but ran out of water by this stage and the temp was rising fast into the thirties. Started back by which time Nic was starting to feel dizzy. Stops became more frequent and she thought she might faint. Luckily Sharon managed to flag down a passing truck which gave us a lift into the nearby campsite. We emptied the bar's water jugs rehydrating and walked back to the hostel being careful to avoid the scornful gaze of the Ranger. Crashed for a siesta a were awoken by a tap tap tapping on the window. Got up to find an ostrich eating the putty from the windows. Rejoined Sharon for dinner of Impala stew with maize and salad, this time sitting in the good seats round the fire watching the new arrivals getting pods in their dinner and smoke in their eyes. Free shuttle then picked us up to take us to the rehydration camp site for a night of traditional Swazi dancing
. Very good. Back to hostel for fairwell drinks with Sharon.
Day 34 - Sunday 28 September
Another early rise at 6.00am for breakfast then lift to main road to catch local minibus taxi to Mhabane were we get another to Piggs Peak then another to Phopophane Lodge (private reserve highly rated by travel guides). These local taxis are minibuses licensed for 15 passengers which we never experienced carrying any less than 22. They are used almost exclusively by the local black population who were never less then kind and friendly to us, often asking if we were comfortable etc. We were charged 4 fares each time as our backpacks each took a seat which was fair enough as they only cost about 10 rand each trip (one pound). We eventually got dropped off at the entrance to Phopophane Lodge where we realised it was 3k to the Lodge from the main raod. No phone signal so had to don backpacks and start walking. Arrived sweating to Lodge. Realised that all other guests arrived by car. Lodge itself is set in a beautiful tropical forest with water running alongside all the little walkways. Sat beside pool and chatted to a young couple, he from Joburg, she from NZ, both currently living in London. He told us of some wood that the locals informed him that if you use it on a BBQ it will make the food cooked over it give those eating it the runs
. This would prove prophetic in the next few days. The girl gave us her parents address in Dunedin, South Island, NZ and said that we could stay with them if we were nearby. We checked into our lovely tent on stilts verlooking the river and waterfalls. Donned our cozzies and went back to the pool for a dip. Sunbathed for the rest of the afternoon and Peter got burnt on his shoulders. This would make carrying his backpack painful over the next few days. Due to very few guests being at the lodge during the day, the service was minimal and getting a drink nigh on impossible. Went back for shower and sat on our balcony watching a troupe of Vervet monkeys coming up the waterfalls, up the trees and over our tent. Back up to lodge for nice dinner and wine followed by our first malaria tablet (728 left). Negotiated dark paths back to tent for another early night. Party animals.
Day 35 - Monday 29 September
Up for breakfast at 8.30am. Decide to do easiest trek of about an hour. Legs knackered so it was hard enough. Sat down by waterfalls for a while just listening. Back to pool for dips and sun. Met a nice couple from New York who were going our way tomorrow but just when we thought our luck was in they pointed out that there were actually three of them and therefore couldnt fit us in. At sundown we took a bottle of Sauv B down to a lovely viewing deck over the waterfalls. Showered for dinner then met English family living in CT who were on holiday. Couple of drinks then to bed for early start and mucho minibus's tomorrow. Owner has offerred us a lift back into Piggs Peak where it should be easier to get lift to Swazi border at Jeppee's Reef.
We are curious to know what you think so far. Are there too many photos or maybe not enough. What about the text is it too long and boring or ok? Any comments gladly received.