Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Swaziland, 2009

In 1966 the British officially recognized King Sobuza as King of the Swazi and placed the control and responsibility for National land and mineral rights in his personal trust. In 1967 Swaziland became a self-governing protectorate. Swaziland gained its independence from Britain in September 1968.

Fast forward 40 years to our visit. Yes, it is a different country from South Africa, completely enclosed, with border control posts. We went in the “back door,” coming over the mountains from Barberton via mountain passes with the roads under construction. It was scenic and exciting but slow.

The previous picture shows the best roads we were to experience for many kilometers. Once we found the “tarred” roads we thought we were home safe. That was until we saw the signs posted beside this very beautiful bridge. There were two: they said “Beware of Hippos” and “Beware of Crocodiles.” No skinnydipping here.

We stopped twice on our way to the lodge. One was at a roadside stand to buy some roasted “mealies” (corn, somewhere between sweet corn and field corn, roasted over an open fire, coming out slightly charred and hard, tasting a bit like chewy popcorn). It’s an acquired taste.

The second was at a Swaziland decorative glass craft center. Swazi glass is well known and prized.

We arrived safely, with more stuff, at Reilly’s Rock Hilltop Lodge located in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary. On our way to the lodge we were treated to views of Impala, Wildebeest, Wart Hogs, Waterbucks, Nyala, and Bontebok. I was assigned to take the definitive photo of a herd of Roan Antelope. You can only imagine my chagrin when my carefully chosen subject turned out (much later) to own a fine set of prosthetic horns!

Our three-bedroom cabin looked out across a valley and we could watch the animals feed across the plains. Very peaceful and relaxing. Dinner was served up at the main lodge. There was a brief show prior to dinner when the Bush Babies were called out of the trees and fed pieces of banana.

Following breakfast the next morning we arranged for a game drive. The only problem was that the Mkhaya Game Preserve was an hour’s drive away and we only had 50 minutes to get there. We made it and loaded up into the safari car.

Short sleeved shirts and shorts made for a bit of sunburn later, but for the moment the open car was great.

We saw this family of White Rhino trying to get and stay cool. Whites are grazers with broad, flat mouths designed for mowing the grasses of the veldt. Black Rhinos, on the other hand, are browsers and their mouths are pointed instead of flat so they can select the very best parts from trees and bushes.

Both species of Rhino are hunted, illegally, for their horn which is powdered and sole as an aphrodisiac. The head of Kruger’s southern region told us later that they had lost 60-70 rhinos recently. Really sick. We suggested painting the horns with cyanide. Also really sick.

Of course we saw elephants, giraffes and cape buffalo.

And more waterbuck.

Becky & Kurt made a find at a craft market. They found this two-lion stool in use by a craftsman and had to talk him into parting with it. It badly needed cleaning and delousing but they were willing.

We said goodbye to our new animal friends in Swaziland and headed out for Kruger the next morning. It was quite a drive, but more about that later.

Peace and love,


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