27.12.2009 - 31.12.2009
It was with our now customary impeccable timing that we arrived in Swaziland. It soon got very grey and absolutely chucked it down, and that was very much the story throughout our few days there. Swaziland is a small, beautiful mountainous Kingdom, but with heavy rain, thunder and low clouds, much of it remained sadly out of sight to us. There was enough to get some glimpses of how nice is could be, and how much possibility the country had. It is also renowned as being the cheapest place (though I would say that currently Zimbabwe is cheaper) to buy crafts and stuff in Southern Africa, and we certainly managed to get some things.
But really, we saw very little of the small country and experienced even less. A mix up on arrival in Manzini delayed us a bit, though Swaziland Backpackers, out of town past Matsapha, was one of the nicest hostels I have ever stayed at. The following day we went back to Manzini (a kind of small semi European, semi South African town of no interest to non locals except as a transit point) to eventually discover the market we were looking for was shut as it was Sunday. For reasons that are now lost in the midsts of time I ended up walking about 9km home alone in a huge thunder storm, arriving back utterly drenched: My shoes and some of my clothes were still soaking wet a week later, and some things that I had had on my person – a notebook, a watch etc – were totally destroyed.
We returned for craft shopping the following day, before moving up the Ezulwini Valley: An area which would doubtless be nicer if the clouds weren't there, and we either time or a vehicle to enable us to get off the main track. And so after a few hours diversion spent in the capital, Mbabane, a small little city which oddly instantly appealed to me for no obvious reason, we then returned along the valley to a long roadside craft market where more money was spent. With time rapidly running out, the following morning we left for Pretoria, and a painfully squashed minibus ride – oddly, from Manzini, and not Matsapha which is larger, the capital, and which we had to drive past anyway, but had no minibuses – during which i lost feeling in my right arm and hand entirely (it took a day before i had full feeling back), and suffered horrible pain in my knees, back and shoulders. My knackered old body can't cope with much more of this, although Swaziland gets added to an increasing list of African places that I need to return to and spend more time in.
But I am rapidly starting to dream of travel in Europe again, where though you may have to stand, you will at least always have headroom and you never have to fit more than the officially designated number of people into the seats (insert wistful look into distance here).