One week while staying in Mozambique I decided to go to Swaziland. After about 4 hours on a small and fully packed mini bus from Maputo (6 euro) I arrive to Manzini in Swaziland. After buying some food and taking a quick walk around I continue to Mbabane, about 45 minutes away. This small town is situated just next to the mountains. The plan is to call my Couchsurfing host who I am supposed to stay at for my 3 nights here in Swaziland. But when I try to call him I realize I have no signal with my mobile company here. On top of this, the mobile store don’t sell sim cards TODAY (they are all sold), and the internet places tells me their internet is broken. Anyway, a nice café owner borrows me her phone and I manage to set up a meeting for 4 hours later (the guy is busy at the moment, which is weird because we decided to meet about this time).
While I wait at the place for the meeting, a fancy sports restaurant, I realize some of the food here seems similar to Indian food. This is something I also noticed in Mozambique but didn’t think further on. Later on I learned that this is because around 200 years ago a lot of Indians was moved here as cheap labor to work on the sugar cane fields. Nowadays they have created a big community in the southern Africa.
Back to Swaziland… The local people seems really nice here, calling me “friend” all the time and doing everything they can to help. Even when I asked a taxi driver about the (cheaper) mini bus earlier, he told me how much I should pay for the mini bus not to get tricked.
For the currency, they use Rand here, the same as in South Africa. Be aware though that if you withdraw money from an ATM machine you will get Swaziland currency, which is worth exactly the same, but you will need to exchange/use it before leaving the country as you can only use it here.
After checking a magazine and some billboards, still waiting for the Couchsurfer, I realize there is both a wildlife sanctuary nearby, plus a lot of adventure sports like white water rafting, caving, mountain biking and warm natural springs. I only have two full days here this time before I have to meet some friends for the Kruger Park in South Africa, but I look forward to these days for exploring this interesting and beautiful country!
When the guy finally comes to the restaurant where I am waiting I realize it’s the wrong guy because of a mixup of phone numbers. I borrows his phone and calls the other guy, which now is occupied and wants me to take into a hostel for the night instead. Later on I found out this was because of the guy having a date that evening.
Early morning. The hostel I finally ended up in yesterday was in a handicraft center and protected park, so I start the day with a short walk to see the surroundings accompanied by beautiful bird song. Finds a coin phone but it’s out of order since yesterday (what is it about me and phones on this trip?). Borrows a phone again in a shop and calls the Couchsurfer. The guy tells me to call him from the original place from yesterday one hour later. Walks there, tries to buy a sim card without luck again. Borrows a phone.. And finally we succeed to meet half an hour later!
After driving around and doing some choirs we drive home to my new friend “D”. On the way I learn that he has family from Finland and has lived there for some years. His mother is also a finish consulate here, as I can see on the flag that welcomes visitors on top of their house. D does not have a job so he has a lot of spare time, which he use to activate local kids. On top of this he is starting a business with handicraft workshops with the goal to get the Swaziland artists to create more individual and unique handicraft, instead of stick to the stuff they know sells.
D’s house is a nice cabin surrounded by beautiful mountains. Here I do some work and then we drive around to pick some kids up and continue to a school on top of one of the mountains. Here we do indoor climbing, basketball and ultimate frisbee with the energetic and incredible positive kids.
When everybody finally is out of energy we drive to meet a Canadian couple who have lived here in Swaziland for a month now. They actually came here with the intention to stay for 3 days, but liked it so much they stayed for longer. While hitch hiking here they met a guy who was going on a long trip and borrowed them his house for free if they look after it and the two dogs (called “Big dog” and “Small dog”) + one cat who lives there. Sadly Small dog was attacked by 15 wild dogs today and has some nasty bruces to prove this. Small dog is a Jack Russel Terrier, the same crazy and self confident dog that I was traveling with in Greece for a month.
When we arrive to the house the lights are out and we only have candles plus an open fire on which we make some food. After a nice evening with a lot of interesting talk and travel stories I decide to stay for the night.
The next day we go up around 7 to run for a while and to take a morning dip in a nearby, ice cold pool. I then decide to take a walk in the center, so me and a friend hitch hike there. After walking around for some hours, and also working for a while from a café with a beautiful mountain view, I go with some more friends to an art exhibition of an university here. The exhibition is great and shows the students final works before leaving the university and entering the big real world. After the exhibition we go back to the house and relax with some beers at a nearby lodge.
In the next morning I go up at 6:30 to hitch hike to the Kruger Park, where I will meet some friends from Mozambique. The hitch hiking have to wait though because a minibus stops and picks me up almost immediately. In the middle of the way the bus stops and the driver handles out tickets. I soon realize why when around the corner a police car stops us to check the papers of the bus. This is common here and a lot of minibuses seem to be illegal but still have no problems. The feeling in the bus in happy and cherish, with the people joking and having fun with each other. I think about the differences here and north Europe, where people take maximum distance between each other in the busses. Also I realize it will be difficult to leave Africa with its smiling and happy people. I came here thinking it would be a dangerous region in the world, after so many people warning me. But what I have found here is an incredible helpful and friendly people.
Actually, taking a minibus is one of my favorite things to do in Africa. The interesting road, African music pumping in the speakers (if you are lucky) and really positive and easy going people.
I make a stop in Pigs Peak, a small town with beautiful surroundings. Here I also find an ATM machine to increase my zero euro in my wallet to 7 euro, not wanting to take out to much because of the Swaziland currency.
After about 2 hours, 3½ euro and 3 minibuses in total I arrive at the South African border “Jeppes Reef”. Now when I have crossed the border its only about 2 hours to klimatipoort (3 minibuses, total 5 euro) before reaching my final destination, the Kruger Park.