Swaziland

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October 29, 2008 - Wednesday - Hazyview to Swaziland

After crossing into Swaziland at Jeppes Reef, we drive the excellent roads in this land-locked country. We stop at a roadside stand (one of many).  Normally I don't buy anything at these stops, but this time I decide to support the local economy by buying two stone carvings (an elephant and a hippo).  Next stop is the Ngwenya Glass factory in Motshane near Manzini, the biggest city in Swaziland.  I find the glass factory underwhelming, however Craig tells us the factory is an important contributor to the local economy, and I can honestly say they do make some beautiful glass objects.

Pouring glass into a mold at the Ngwenya Glass Factory
Pouring glass into a mold at the
Ngwenya Glass Factory
Elephant glass ornaments in the Ngwenya Glass Factory gift shop
Elephant glass ornaments in the
Ngwenya Glass Factory gift shop
Looking through the porthole in the Ngwenya Glass Factory gift shop
Looking through the porthole in
the Ngwenya Glass Factory gift shop
Stone carvers on the roadside
Stone carvers on the roadside
Houses being built beside the road
Houses being built beside the road
Homes & terraced areas
Homes & terraced areas
Kids waving at the bus
Kids waving at the bus
Taking the shopping home
Taking the shopping home
 

We pass lots of kids who seem to love to wave to tour buses.  Mbabane is the capital of Swaziland, although nearby Manzini is a bigger city. There is a very nice expressway built into Mbabane, and it is currently being completed through to the other side of the city.  There is obviously some money in Swaziland to pay for this rather expensive infrastructure.  It doesn't take too long for us to arrive at the Sun Lugogo Resort, which is where Thompsons Travel has booked everyone into for this evening.  I had previously arranged to splurge a little, by staying next door at the Royal Swazi Spa Resort. Craig organizes a shuttle for me, since he is busy dealing with rooms and luggage at the Sun Lugogo.  He pops over a bit later to ensure that I am happy with the accommodation.  The Royal Swazi Spa Resort is certainly deluxe - lawn bowling, full service pool, casino, 3 restaurants, tennis courts, spa, a country club & golf course, and a business centre.

Main entrance, Royal Swazi Spa
Main entrance, Royal Swazi Spa
Pool area, Royal Swazi Spa
Pool area, Royal Swazi Spa
Lower lobby, Royal Swazi Spa
Lower lobby, Royal Swazi Spa

After settling into my room and walking around the extensive grounds, I decide to have dinner at Planters restaurant in the hotel. I start with a Gin and Tonic and order the Sticky Ribs. My ribs were tough but flavorful. I order a cappuccino to finish, and it comes in a LavAzza cup with crystallized sugar on wooden sticks on the side - a nice touch. The meal cost 180 Rand (US$20) including tip, which by South African standards is expensive, but by European or North American standards is not expensive at all. There is a big thunderstorm outside for a couple of hours around dusk. The lights go out (briefly) in the restaurant a few times.

Of course, there is always people watching  to occupy my time.  There are four of us single diners in the restaurant this evening, including an overdressed Oriental woman seated at the table beside me. She sends back her salad, saying it is "scummy" - accusing the kitchen staff of not washing it properly. Mind you, she washes her cutlery in a water glass at the table before using them! Personally, I think she is a high class hooker from the house of ill repute down the street (which Craig pointed out on our way up to the resort), but I don't really know anything about her.  I always find things to amuse me as I travel alone. I'm very pleased to get away from the group for this evening.

October 30, 2008 - Thursday - Swaziland to St. Lucia

As with all our hotel arrangements, my stay at the Royal Swazi includes breakfast, but this morning I just can't face a full English breakfast of eggs and bacon. Instead, I have hot cereal, fruit, and brown toast. I catch the shuttle back to the Lugogo Sun Hotel and check in with Craig and board the bus. This is certainly the property the group tours use - there are people and buses everywhere this morning as everyone gets ready to depart. The Royal Swazi was tranquil in comparison.

Craig tells us some of the history of Swaziland, and we are taken around to see the royal compound where the old Swazi king Sobhuza II lived.  He had 70 wives and over 1,000 grandchildren!  The new Swazi king Mswati III has 14 wives at present.  Apparently a Swazi king is expected to marry a woman from every clan in order to keep good relationships with every corner of Swaziland. The current King isn't very popular, since most Swazis think he spends too much money on himself and his wives (which appears to be true).  A giant road sign near Manzini wishes the King a happy 40th birthday! Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS rate of any country in the world.

Sign announcing Swazi king Mswati III 40th birthday
Sign announcing Swazi king Mswati III 40th birthday
Roadside fruit & curio stand
Roadside fruit & curio stand
Masks in the window - folk art items for sale, Swazi Candle Factory
Masks in the window - folk art items for sale,
Swazi Candle Factory
Roadside fruit & curio stand
Roadside fruit & curio stand
Dyed cloth in the sunlight - folk art items for sale, Swazi Candle Factory
Dyed cloth in the sunlight - folk art items for sale,
Swazi Candle Factory

We stop at the Swazi Candle factory and a roadside fruit & curio stand before we get to the border point at Golela by noon. We wait for a half an hour in the hot sun to clear South African customs and immigration, however Craig assures us that wait times at the other border points into South Africa from Swaziland can run to several hours.  We are just grateful to be back on the air conditioned bus, and on our way to St. Lucia, located on the Indian Ocean coast.

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