October 29, 2008 – Wednesday – Hazyview, South Africa to Eswatini (formerly Swaziland)
Southern Africa 2008
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.
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.
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 with lots of lightning 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.