Epic day trip in Swaziland
by Marion Smith
This tiny kingdom in Southern Africa may be land locked but you will be in awe at its wilderness reserves and the warn, friendly Swazi people that you will encounter. Wild animals roam freely in protected nature reserves, and the breath taking scenery stretching as far as the eye can see with the Lebombo Mountains forming a backdrop for the Mlawula Nature Reserve, its borders include South Africa and Mozambique.
It provides travellers the ideal getaway from various points of South Africa. We entered at the Jeppe’s Reef border gate. It opens at 7am and closes at 20h00. There was a lot of information on the internet and all of it said that we required car papers and insurance and a passport. We only had a passport. So we decided to give it a go. We arrived and were greeted warmly both at the South African gate and Swaziland gate. We paid a road tax of R50 and supplied only our passport, no car papers needed. We were stamped through both gates in less than 20 minutes. It was an amazing experience, if only all borders could operate like this.
First stop was at Phumulani Restaurant and coffee shop. With beautiful gardens overlooking the valley below one can sit and admire the peaceful , unique beauty. There are three shops that sell different items made by local women. The first shop tells the story of Coral Stephens who moved with her husband Bob from Pretoria to Piggs Peak in 1947. Coral began to weave mohair curtaining for her new home , then started taking orders from friends and so the business was born. Top grade Lesotho mohair is used for their fabrics and the yarn is prepared by hand .
The next two shops sell hand woven baskets and jewellery made from sisal. This is a weed planted to make cattle fences because of its long spiky leaves. They are harvested and the flesh stripped from the fibres. All processing steps are carried out by hand. The fibres are cleaned and dried in the shade. The dried sisal is then coloured in the workshops. Finely spun sisal is used in the silver jewellery disks.
Next stop was Piggs Peak Casino set among forests and misty mountains. The town is known as Piggs Peak. Gold deposits were first recorded in the area in 1872 and in 1884 a gold bearing reef was found by William Pigg after whom the town is named. This 5 star Casino has a large swimming pool and charges visitors E50 a person to swim. There is a big restaurant and free wi fi. Interestingly the actual casino area is very small.On entering the property through the pine forest there is a road off to right that travels about 3km to a waterfall. Its not advisable for a car to try it.
Leaving the casino we knew we wanted to see Phophonyane Falls. Driving through the pine forests we could enjoy the smells emanating from the surrounding trees. All I can say is WOW, it was breathtaking. The smooth rolling rocks, and the never ending vast expanse of valley below made me realise I had found heaven. According to legend , for a young Swazi warrior to win a maidens hand , he must present her with a leopard skin. While hunting in the Gabolandlo Mountain, a certain youth was seized by witches and condemned him for his trespassing by turning him into a white flower destined to bloom and die forever young among the mountain passes. The grieving maidens tears form the Phophonyane River and Waterfall. During the summer when the flowers bloom her sorrow is lessened , hence the bubbling and chuckling sound of the rushing waters.
Just South of Pigg’s Peak is Maguga Dam. Winding down the mountain there is scenic road and a bridge that crosses over a section of the dam . Its a picture perfect moment of the dam and its surroundings.
Pushing on we arrived in the capital city Mbabne. Gwamile street is the old main road and it still features several of the early tin roofed buildings. Originally named Allister Miller street after the man of the same name. Allister came here in 1888 when Mbabane was a dusty hollow, he was a man of many talents including being a journalist, author, politician and cartographer. He charted the first topographical maps of the country and founded the Times of Swaziland newspaper in 1897. The cleanliness of the city is what struck me. The was no loitering at the traffic lights, nobody begging or trying to sell me something. We could drive around during peak hour traffic with our windows down. Motorists give way to each other, politely waiting their turn.
The Hilton Garden Inn was the first hotel to be established in the city that is managed by an international group.The stunning white facade with curved tinted windows has a total of 124 rooms. Just below is Nando’s where we had a quick something to eat. The chicken tastes just as good in Swaziland and the people greet you with a big smile on their face and a spring in their step. Its so refreshing to see people enthusiastic to work.
Sadly we had to leave and so we departed through the Oshoek gate this time. It was just as pleasant with a friendly and efficient service.
This is the land of the kings whose line has led the people since the nation was established during the 15th and 16th centuries. The current king is King Mswati 111, he ascended the throne at the age of 18 years in 1986. Over the years he has amended the constitution and combines ancient traditions with modern technology and economic practise that attracts investors from around the world.
This is a country full of surprises waiting to be discovered with 13 border posts, two with Mozambique and 11 with South Africa there is somewhere for everyone to enter this spot of paradise.
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