Travel Journal

Swaziland – so small I don’t need to name cities

(Monday 7 February 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 174-7 1/27-29/11
The van to Swaziland had a mini-trailer in the back to hold luggage, so there was plenty of space in the van which was a pleasant change. It was an effortless transition at the border with no problems getting through. There wasn’t the usual gaggle of money changers there and we had a bit of Mozambique money left but I was sure we’d be able to exchange it later. We were left at the bus station at Manzini near the center of the country (it’s a small country that you can drive across in about 6 hours). At the bus stop we got some money at the ATM and tried to exchange our Mozambique money but the banks wouldn’t accept it. At the bus station, the exchange rate was so bad that I refused to accept it figuring we’d get something better later.
I had some concerns getting to the hostel since it is off the major roads, but we got a minibus fairly quickly that dropped us off at the turn-off for the hostel. It was about a mile away but we got lucky and a local was driving the dirt road and offered us a ride. We got the low down from him on the history of the place. The owner of the hostel inherited a vast farmland in the valley and was disappointed when he returned to claim the land that the large animals had been driven off by poaching. He gave a large part of the land to the government to become the Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary and after awhile the wildlife returned.
We arrived without reservations, in fact the place doesn’t take reservations at all; but it was the low season and there was no problem getting a double. There are many options here including the bee-hive huts which have only a sink and a bed but great views of the valley, dorm rooms and the doubles which we took in the main house.
This was all about resting and recharging our batteries and resting up. There is little to do here – no internet, the nearest store is about 5 miles away and you have to catch one of two shuttles from the hostel to get there so we spent time relaxing and hiking in the nature reserve. While this is not the Serengeti, there are quite a few large animals here. We didn’t have any luck at the hippo pool, but there were an abundance of antelopes and zebras. If you walked slowly and quietly, you could get fairly close to them. We also spotted some monkeys in the trees but they were a bit skittish around us. There is another lodge in the reserve which is a bit more upscale than ours but still offers the bee-hive huts where you can wake up with zebras outside your front door. Warthogs are aplenty here in fact our hostel’s bar is called the Warthog Lounge and they often come up and eat the grass in the yard…a sort of Swaziland lawnmower if you will.
The only downside to the hostel is, well it’s a hostel, and can attract a younger, partying crowd. We looked up one afternoon and a dozen twenty year olds were checking in. That night was loud music and drinking until late in the evening as we struggled to sleep with earplugs in.
If you have some dough, I’d suggest the House of Fire which looks to have good rooms. It’s a cultural center with a hotel attached. I visited it when I started to get internet withdrawals and caught the shuttle there. It’s like the Watt’s Tower with broken pieces of tiles arranged on plaster walls and has pleasant gardens to stroll through.
We stayed at Sondzela for three nights before we decided to leave. We were toying with the idea of traveling down along the coast before heading up to Johannesburg but the coast is mainly beaches and Julie and I are not really into that scene so we figured we travel directly to Jo-burg and spend eight days there before catching our flight out to Madagascar. The morning shuttle took us to the local grocery store which also served as a mini-bus stand where we caught a van back to Manzini.



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