post

Swaziland to St. Lucia

October 30, 2008 – Thursday – Swaziland to St. Lucia, South Africa

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.

JoeTourist: Swaziland &emdash; Dyed cloth in the sunlight at the Swazi Candle Factory

Dyed cloth in the sunlight at the 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. We stop at a highway rest stop and I have lunch at Wimpy’s again – ordering the hake fish & chips. It is very good and cost less than 50 Rand (US$5.00) including a small Coke.

We arrive at the Protea Hotel in St. Lucia at 4pm and soon learn this whole area is under severe water restrictions. The municipality shuts off the water at 9pm and doesn’t turn it back on until 5am. They also turn the water off midday from 10am-3pm. The hotel is no great shakes, but it will do for the night.

JoeTourist: KwaZulu-Natal Province &emdash; African Fish Eagle - St. Lucia Estuary

African Fish Eagle – St. Lucia Estuary

Most of us take the St. Lucia Estuary Boat Cruise at 5pm, which cruises up the estuary showing us some of the wildlife along the shores: African Fish Eagle, Goliath Heron, Hippopotamus, Kudu, and some smaller animals. I don’t think it is up to the standard of the Chobe River boat cruise in Botswana, but I take my best photos and video of hippos and African Fish Eagles on this cruise. I’m a bit annoyed by my group – they won’t stop talking, so the wildlife is skittish. The guy at the helm of the boat runs right over a hippo – such an idiot! This is one of South Africa’s World Heritage sites, however the South Africans need to take better care of it.

On the way back from the boat cruise, Craig tells us about the timing for the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve open vehicle safari tomorrow morning. Our wakeup call will be 4:45am, and we need to be out the door by 5:15am! He says the safari will end around 9am, so that works for me. I guess lots of us will be sleeping on the bus as we proceed to Durban tomorrow.

Wildlife in South African parks & reserves from JoeTourist InfoSystems on Vimeo.

This evening I went alone to Alfredo’s Italian restaurant for dinner, which is located across the street from the Protea Hotel in St. Lucia. This is a family run restaurant with very reasonable prices. I order the Seafood Misto (prawns, line fish & calamari strips), an Italian salad starter, and a glass of wine. This is the best seafood I’ve had in a long time. Total cost is 190 Rand (US$20) – a very good price! This meal would be at least double the price in Canada. I had a Cappuccino to finish – a bit watery, and the décor is drab, but overall I highly recommend this restaurant because of the excellent food and good service.

post

Hazyview to Swaziland

October 29, 2008 – Wednesday – Hazyview, South Africa to Swaziland

JoeTourist: Mpumalanga Province &emdash; Tourists crossing the border into Swaziland at Jeppes Reef

Tourists crossing the border into Swaziland at Jeppes Reef

After we leave the resort, we drive around the perimeter of Kruger National Park, so Craig tells us about the “Informal” development right up to the fence around the park. We take N4 national road, driving through a fruit and sugar cane growing region, crossing the Crocodile River, and end up at the border crossing at Jeppes Reef. Most of the group goes to see the “cultural show” at the Matsamo Cultural Village. I opt to just have lunch there, and occupy my spare time watching the big crocodile in the pond and photographing the Southern Masked-Weaver birds as the males build their nests. After we leave South Africa (more paperwork), we walk “no man’s land” (as Craig describes it) across the border into Swaziland. After clearing Swazi customs, we board the bus and carry on.

JoeTourist: Swaziland &emdash; Looking through the porthole in gift shop

Looking through the porthole in the Ngwenya Glass factory gift shop

We drive the excellent roads in this land-locked country, and soon 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) from the local artists. 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.

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.

JoeTourist: Swaziland &emdash; Main entrance to the Royal Swazi Spa hotel

Main entrance to the Royal Swazi Spa hotel

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 flavourful. 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 when I travel alone. I’m very pleased to get away from the group for this evening.