Thursday, November 13, 2014

Swaziland (Part 1)

 I went to Swaziland with my buddies Narin and Mary. Here we are after climbing Sheba's Breast.

Swaziland! Swaziland!
Take my hand!
Marry me now,
Oh, Swaziland!
   Ok, that was real, real corny but my recent trip to the tiny southern African country has me going goo goo gah gah.
   I found the country to be an accessible tourist-friendly place where English was widely spoken. The infrastructure, including many paved roads, accessible taxi ranks and abundance of electricity, really impressed me.
   Bordered by South Africa and Mozambique, the country has about 1.2 million people, and gained its independence in 1968. Like Lesotho, Swaziland was a British protectorate, and has a king, the very controversial King Mswati III. The country also has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world.
   I ventured the country in late September/early October with two PVC friends, Mary and Narin, the perfect travel companions.
   Take a peek:

-I stayed at the Lidwala Backpacker Lodge, a 15-minute taxi ride from the capital, Mbabane. The lodge is in the city of Lobamba’s Ezulwini Valley. It’s reportedly one of the fastest developing areas in the country.

The grounds of the lodge made me feel like I was in a tropical rain forest.

 -I climbed Sheba’s Breasts on my second day there. The storybook trail started behind the lodge and took about an hour to complete. I saw beautiful flora and took in spectacular views, especially at the summit. The mountain’s twin peaks are named after Queen of Sheba from Ethiopia.

 -After the hike, Mary, Narin and I went to the Ezulwini Craft Market, a 20-minute walk from the lodge. The market was covered in blue and spanned at least one football field. Of course, I was in heaven! Good thing is that I didn’t buy the entire craft market because I came armored with a list – and a budget! I wanted to have enough money for other activities later in the week. Yes, yes, my friends, I’m growing up!

The craft market was HUGE, unlike any other one I'd seen in this part of the world. I was happy. Real happy.  

A couple of other tidbits:

On food: I ate fruit for breakfast, and a lot of cheese and salami sandwiches for lunch and dinner. I bought these items from a nice shopping complex called The Gables, which was about a 30-minute walk from the lodge. I did splurge on a nice glass of wine and lasagna at a nice hotel on my last day, though.

On transport: I hopped on and off taxis when I wasn’t walking. They ran regularly until around 8 p.m.-ish. The conductors and drivers spoke English and were friendly. The taxis weren’t crowded like the ones in Lesotho, and one of them had a TV!!!! At the taxi rank in Mbabane, the line going past my stop at the lodge snaked around the building but moved fairly quickly.

On Language: The Mother Tongue of Swaziland is Siswati, and I spoke it as much as I could. (Out of respect, I always try to attempt to speak basic phrases in the language of where I visit.) “Sawbona” is hello. “Yebo” is the response. “Malini” is how much? Of course, the locals were happy that I at least tried to communicate with them in their tongue. I did like that Siswati had some similarities to Sesotho, the Mother Tongue of Lesotho. Swazis click on their c’s, while Basotho click on their q’s. And Swazis say “lalela,” which means listen, while Basotho say “mamela.”
I can go on and on and on about Swazi but this will be all for today. Stay tuned for part two tomorrow!!

Sources: Lonely Planet book and various Swaziland tour books and brochures.

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