Jill's African Adventure
* Tofo, Mozambique
* The Golden Lion Film Festival
* St. Lucia
* Coffee Bay
* Hiking in Nature's Valley and Hogsback
* Adventures in Oudtshoorn
* Cape Town
* The Problems of Zimbabwe
* Visiting Isabel
* A Day by the River
* Practical Stuff (But please read!)
* The Elephants Don't Want Me to Eat
* Its a Small World (Blantyre and Beyond)
* The Night Bus: From Nkhata Bay to Zomba
* Lake Malawi
* Reflections on East Africa
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 2
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 1
November 27, 2005
The best day I had in Swaziland was the day that I went quad biking. I went with three women from my hostel, Gwen, Doreen, and Diane. Our guide, Richard, picked us up around 8:30 in the morning and we went to his house where we got to enjoy the lovely views over Ezulwini Valley, the royal valley in Swaziland. (FYI - Swaziland is an absolute monarchy.) We also learned how to ride the quad bikes and had fun practiving, driving figure eights on the track around his yard. Then, after about twenty minutes of practicing we headed out onto the road.
After biking for a little while on dirt paths and over rolling green hills littered with rocks and boulders overlooking a secluded valley we had our first stop of the day. We stopped on a hill and from our vantage point we could look down int the valley and see a few homesteads, some cows, some small farm plots, and a few trees. Mostly th ough, what we saw was empty lush green valley. The portion of the hill that we were on led up to a high viewpoint. On our way to the top we saw some strange looking plants, gray with somewhat cactus-like "branches", made of what I can only describe as flakes. Out of these branches small tufts of grass were growing. They were called bushman's candles and, unsurprisingly, were once upon a time used by the idigenous people as candles. We also saw grasshoppers and their nests and a dung-beetle. From the viewpoint we had beautiful views of mountains in the distance. On one of the mountains was the world's oldest mine and the farthest set of mountains that we could see was the border with Mozambique.
Our next stop of the day was at a local homestead to look around and have tea. The homestead was very similar to village homes that I have seen elsewhere, but was a lot more isolated from its neighbors than most. There were many cute young goats running around the yard -- not at all unusual.
After staying at the homestead for a little while we got back on our bikes and rode into a valley with a river, woods, and a small waterfall. Locals do not go into this particular valley because of witchcraft. They believe that ther is a seven-headed snake (a form of witches) that lives there and that rocks and children often disappear in the area. Richard offered possible explanations of eels and children and rocks falling into underground rivers. In any case it was a beautiful area that we were able to walk around and enjoy for a little while.
We next stopped at another homestead for lunch. Lunch was basically avocado, which was just about perfect. The main house in the homestead was, I though, very posh for an African village. It was a multi-roomed house complete with telephone and gas-powered fridge. Shortly after leaving the homestead we made a brief stop to buy small crafts from some orphan girls before riding past some beautiful views over the Ezulwini Valley.
We then stopped at a cave that had (most likely) once been used by bushmen. (An archaeologist had apparently once found a spear in it.) I would guess that the cave was probably about fifteen feet deep. The front area was quite low, but one could easily stand up in the back, which had probably once been a sleeping area. As we walked out of the cave and up the small hill back to the trail and our bikes Richard pointed out some vertical line markings on a large rock on the other side of the track. The lines were bushman markings representing five generations of men.
Our final stop of the day was at another viewpoint overlooking the Ezulwini Valley from where we could see, off in the cistance, three of Swaziland's four borders. Then it was back to Richard's house for an excellent chicken curry dinner and watching the sunset behind the mountains.
As for the quad-biking itself -- it was fun. I now know what people mean when they say they can feel the power of the vehicle. (Despite never going particularly fast myself.) Most of the riding was really easy although we did go through a couple points which seemed a bit difficult to me: across a narrow bridge, over some very bumpy, rutty areas and through some water. But the water was really just more fun than difficult.
Posted by Jillian on November 27, 2005 08:32 AM
Category: Southern Africa
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