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Entries about eswatini

The Kingdom of Eswatini

A one-page summary cannot do a country justice – regardless, here it is

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Barberton Drive

Barberton Drive

Driving up through the Barberton Mountains on the border between South Africa and Eswatini—formerly known as Swaziland—was a humbling experience. The mountains are some of the oldest in the World, standing at 3.2 billion years of age (Earth is 4.5 billion years old). I ended up having lunch next to a piece of ocean floor, 1.600 metres above sea level. It was also brilliant in both a traveller’s and a driver’s perspective; panorama galore all the way.

Pastel Houses

Pastel Houses

These mountains are excellent hiking spots, with small colourful villages dotting the landscape. Someone had apparently decided that the village houses here should be in pastel colours. Clouds, however, drifted in on my days here, so I didn’t get to take advantage of the hiking possibilities. Instead, I opted for a visit to the World’s oldest known mine, where San people excavated an iron ore paint as early as 43,000 years ago. The mist again obscured the views but did give the whole excursion a rather Silent Hill kind of feel to it.

King at Incwala

King at Incwala

Eswatini is as intriguing as an African kingdom sounds. The Barberton Mountains in the west gives way to valleys surrounded by mist-covered peaks. Home of the royal family, of which the Queen Mother and King are the two most influential figures. These valleys are the most important cultural and spiritual part of the country. It’s also where the country gathers twice a year for the massive traditional dance festivals, the Incwala and Umhlanga. And once a year for the more modern Bushfire Music Festival.

Sibebe Rock

Sibebe Rock

For travellers, one of these valley-framing mountains, Sibebe Rock, is of particular interest. It’s the World’s largest granite rock. A massive builder, formed in a prehistoric volcanic eruption. It’s also the World’s second-largest monolith after Uluru (Ares Rock) in Australia. The Eswatini version is a lot less visited, though also less spectacular as other, more ordinary, mountains surround it. That didn’t stop me from climbing it. I good hour’s scramble up the steep cliff. The way down on the backside was a lot more relaxing.

Further to the east, the country’s sloping continues downwards into more traditional African Savannah and grassland before turning completely flat towards the South African coastlines. This is the usual scenes associated with Africa. Zebras, Rhinos, Hippos, et cetera. Except the rains running down from the mountains make everything pleasantly green, rather than dry Savannah-yellow found further to the north.

Zebra Family

Zebra Family

A few of the parks here allow you to stroll around on your own. Probably because there are no large predators. Crocodiles, hippos and half a dozen poisonous snakes are around, so tread carefully. For a city-boy like me, unfamiliar with any animal larger than medium-sized dogs, this is still pretty wild. I feel an urge to remind all the rural folk currently laughing at me that buffaloes, antelopes and cows have sharp weapons sticking out of their faces (casually referred to as horns, as if that should make them less deadly). And zebras injure more American zookeepers on an annual basis than tigers do. Just saying!

Silent Hill

Silent Hill

I did survive my park walks though, and a very short sniff to Eswatini was finalised with a rather uneventful drive to the South African coast. Returning me to the Indian Ocean that I haven’t seen since I left Dar es Salaam two months ago. As a little side note – while Eswatini is a Kingdom, it doesn’t avoid the usual problems associated with too many African leaders. Shortly before my arrival, the King bought 120 BMWs and 19 Rolls-Royces for more than 17 million USD. He blew another 25 million USD on his 15 wives. That at a time where both bread and fuel prices have risen for ordinary citizens. And public servants haven’t had their salaries price-regulated in the past three years, despite substantial inflation. Bro, if you’re trying to create a republic, this is how you create a republic.

Posted by askgudmundsen 11:05 Archived in Swaziland Tagged hiking travel mountain overland king safari mining motorbike southern_africa swaziland monolith eswatini incwala walking_safari sibebe Comments (0)

New Blog: SOUTHERN Africa Road Blog

Driving a glorified moped from Dar es Salaam to Cape Town

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Planned Route -ish...

Planned Route -ish...

I’ve got a dumb idea. Fun, exciting, but dumb! Why not drive, the small 110cc motorcycle that I’ve been driving for the last year or so, while working for the European Union in Tanzania, all the way down to Cape Town?

“Motorcycle” is probably the wrong word – glorified scooter will probably be more correct. Setting out for a 12,000 km (that’s 7,500 miles for the Americans) in Southern Africa, on a glorified moped is dumb. Silly at best. Particularly when taking into account the lack of driving skills in Southern Africa, or that a city bike probably shouldn’t be driven up a mountainous gravel road in rural Lesotho, or that the 140 km I can travel on a full tank (on smooth, plain tarmac) often will not be enough to take me to the next gas station… At least the diplomatic plates will spare me some of the bribery attempts and easy the border crossings.

Regardless, I’m sure plenty of people called Amundsen dumb when he decided to go look for the South Pole and Edmund Hillary insane when he decided to climb Everest. Adventure always require some caution thrown to the wind. I did the same in West Africa, and many more people seemed interested in that adventure, so I will once again be doing my fair share of travel blogging here on the site and post a daily photo on Facebook. Consider this the official relaunch of the Road Blog!

The Bike, known as 'the Diplonator' by friends

The Bike, known as 'the Diplonator' by friends

Highlights will include Lake Malawi, Mozambique’s Coast, the Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, the highlands of Eswatini and Lesotho and, of course, Cape Town – and many, many hours spent on the road with an increasingly sore bum.

I will set out from Dar on September 24th and expect to be in Cape Town before Christmas.

PS. If anyone is making a poll on when the bike will break down, my guess is on one of the first days in Lesotho. Then again – I know absolutely nothing about bikes.

Posted by askgudmundsen 08:43 Archived in Tanzania Tagged adventure driving africa tanzania zambia malawi zimbabwe motorcycle south_africa lesotho roadtrip southern_africa mozambique swaziland eswatini Comments (1)

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