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2019 Adventure – Swaziland

Thursday: October 31, 2019

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Here is another post for my 2019 Adventure! Remember, I plan to keep these simple with a short introduction, then show the sites and the eats, along with a favorite memory or two. If you want more details, just ask in a comment or through here :)

On July 13th, we entered Swaziland (which recently changed its name to Eswatini, but the locals we met still called it Swaziland and thought the change was silly). Out of any place I’ve ever been, Swaziland is the most rural in the agricultural kind of way – little self-sustaining farmsteads with crops or livestock (often both) were the norm and the roads were dirt farm trails bordering the farms. I will also never forget the roads – the dirt ones are near impossible to navigate without all-wheel drive and sometimes were too skinny not to scratch a car. The paved ones are abysmal – the pot holes we read about were in truth larger than we imagined, and multiplied to such an extent – potholes within potholes with no way to avoid them – that driving was incredibly slow and quite uncomfortable. I’m talking literally the size of bathtubs – or more! – and deep enough where a cow could sleep in one without you seeing it. One or two here and there wouldn’t necessitate a comment, but, oh Swaziland, your roads are nightmarish! The photo you’ll see is a pretty decent road, actually. We also almost got stuck crossing a stream. Some local kids helped add more stones while we were out and about to make navigating it again easier on our return.

Our first two nights were spent with a farmer who introduced me to the actual granadilla fruit I had been enjoying through drinkable yogurt – the fruit was super tart and I loved it! He invited a local late-teenage girl to tag along with us all one day to visit Phophonyane Falls and then have dinner at a nearby resort. Her English was quite good so we chatted a lot and I was surprised that her goal after graduation was to join the military. We dropped her off and I was struck by the complex cultural collision I witnessed; she reminded me of any other teenager: on her phone with selfies and texting, wearing skinny jeans and a graphic tee. But her “house” was a small one-room wood shack (maybe as large as a king-sized bed?), a smaller wooden shack nearby (perhaps storage for the kitchen?), a basic outdoor cookfire, no evidence of a bathroom (no evidence of plumbing at all, and definitely no wired electricity anywhere, though maybe a solar battery was hidden away), and a chicken coop. She lived there with her mother and several siblings (when she wasn’t away at school, which is normal in the African cultures we visited – to send children of all ages to boarding school). You can read about this stuff, but seeing it and meeting the people who live this way is both humbling and jarring – so similar and yet so different!

On our trip overall, we learned that it is not always easy to find a place to eat, and one of the things we had to sometimes look for are resorts (of the fancy expensive type). We stumbled upon the most beautiful one I’ve seen anywhere and had a wonderful meal. I must also add that Swaziland landscaping culture is gorgeous – I noticed it at all the places we visited. I am sure it helps to be inspired by all the natural beauty the countryside offers!

The places (for all maps: Red = airport; Blue = overnight; Pink = short stop; Green = Day trip; Yellow = Border crossing; Brown = Train):

What we saw:

What I ate:

And most notable memory:

The places we stayed at were both designed for tourism, though the second was still in development and was built strictly for that purpose. The first, though, was still on a working farm, so of course there were farm pups to enjoy (and wayward chickens and roosters)! The littlest (turned away from the camera) was a little too crazy and got in trouble a lot. The oldest (not pictured) was super big and scary looking (as all rottweilers look), but was sweet and had a major open wound on her leg from an abusive neighbor (though perhaps she was attacking some livestock so they did what they had to). And this golden girl was super friendly – at night, when I had to walk down to the bathroom hut in the dark, she always guided and guarded me. We didn’t stay long in Swaziland, and my memories of it were really just finding peace in nature, so no adrenaline-pumping stories to share!

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