Swaziland – A small but beautiful country
After leaving the city of Johannesburg, a place that Claire and I had fallen in love with during our short stay, we picked up our car. We had a set of wheels! Both of us were ecstatic. Whist seven months of public transport had been fun, if a little squashed, we were now able to dictate where and more importantly, when we could go. Claire was obviously doing all of the driving, for which I was eternally grateful, but she was as happy as I was with the car we were given. Our small hatchback was now offering us more freedom than we’d had on the trip so far. After leaving Jo’burg we made our way to Swaziland, a small country between the border of South Africa and Mozambique. The roads were long, flat, in good condition, and most importantly, pretty empty all the way.
Swaziland is a country that is full of mountains. Claire and I were looking forward to spending some time in the country hiking and seeing what this small, pretty unknown place, had to offer. We were camping in a backpackers lodge called Lidwala Lodge in the beautiful Ezulwini Valley. Situated in the heart of the busiest part of Swaziland, our lodge was the perfect place for us to use as a base to see the surrounding hiking opportunities. We spent hours each day walking through hills and mountains, seeing excellent views and enjoying the peace and tranquillity that these isolated walking routes had to offer.
One day we even went for a walk through the Mlilwane National Park. We drove to the park and paid our entry fee before being handed a map. We were heading off into the park on our own to see the animals up close and on foot. Before we left we were told to stay away from the edge of the water to avoid getting too close to wild crocodiles. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and our walk took us through lots of varied terrain. We also got to get up close to zebras and other wildlife including a range of antelope. It was just us and the wildlife for a number of hours as we passed through wooded areas and crossed streams – always keeping an eye out for crocs.
Towards the end of the trip we came across a large lake where there were no doubt a number of crocodiles. The path in front of us split in two, with one half continuing along the way we were heading and the other pointing down towards the lake’s edge. I suggested to Claire that we go down a bit closer to see if we could see any crocodiles but she convinced me otherwise. When we got to the other side of the lake we looked across to where we had just been and right by the edge of the path that I was suggesting we walk down, sunning itself, was a gigantic crocodile. There was also one on a small island mere metres away from where we were stood. These two were huge beasts, and if we’d taken my advice we may have gotten a bit too close for comfort and interrupted the monster’s sunbathing.
The day before we left Swaziland we decided to hike up to the top of a mountain to some huge rocks. The top of the mountain was known as Sheeba’s Breast, and if these rocks were anything to go by, Sheeba had some rather odd shaped breasts. It took us an hour or so to make it to the top of the mountain and once we were there the views were astounding. Out in front of us we could see the Ezulwini Valley interspersed with small villages and towns. But once we walked to the other side of the peak, we were presented with a massive vista of uninterrupted natural beauty. It was so peaceful and quiet and the weather was so warm that we spent a while just sitting in the grass in complete silence.