Star Date: May 2011
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Sani Bonani! Unjani?
(Hello. How are you?
"Home isn't a place. It's where your passion takes you."
Proud. Fierce. Warned about the unpredictability and dangers of the Zulu tribe we were able to experience it face to face. Zulus have a well deserved reputation as fierce warriors. In the early 19th century the Zulu Nation was formed from surrounding tribes. With it's newly trained, extremely disciplined and formidable army, they began the 'mfeqane' or 'the crushing'. Led by the ruthless Shaka Zulu the army marched across Southern Africa leaving terror in their wake. The only nations to survive their conquest were the Basotho of Lesotho and the Swazi of Swaziland. We were told by one game reserve owner that the only tribe that the modern Zulus fear are the little bushmen because of the way they mysteriously appear and disappear, shooting their poison darts without notice.
We felt welcome in Zululand, glad that temperaments have mellowed and times have changed. Endless rolling hillsides full of family farms and compounds, each with round thatched huts, chickens and happy jumping kids were a welcome change from the black townships of the other South African states. Everywhere we stopped the Zulu people were friendly and in one village we were even invited by the chief to spend the long weekend full of dancing and singing. It was tempting but it was only Tuesday and Swaziland was calling.
We exited Lesotho, back to South Africa, near Golden Gates National Park. After a night surrounded by zebras and monkeys we continued following the scenic back mountain roads through the Drakensberg Mountains back towards the coast. This quiet, rural area is not to be missed. Here we happened on a tiny museum in Winterton featuring the life of the Weston family.
John Weston was born in an ox wagon in South Africa in 1873. He was on the move his whole life. As a young man he became a globetrotter working on ships, building Africa's first airplane, employed as a marine engineer, diver, explorer and big game hunter to name a few. He met his sweet Lily, a teacher, in 1904. In 1906 he bicycled 240 km to propose to her. They cycled 160km together, getting caught in a thunderstorm and while soaking wet, they sought out a magistrate and were married on the spot.
As a mercenary he took part in all the wars and revolutions he could find and was reported to have been a spy to help whatever cause he was currently backing. Weston was reported to have been a personal friend to Chiang Kai Shek, Stalin, F.D. Roosevelt, Churchill and many other colorful prominent leaders through history. These were the men who sat down over a glass of sherry and divided up continents, such as Africa. Done primarily for the resources the spoils were divided amongst themselves; controlling the outcomes of ensuing conflicts for their gain worldwide. The African people and tribes were simply pawns in their global chess game of power and unfortunately today not much has changed. All the current leaders here have their price and rather than sending in armies they just buy off whoever stands in the way.
In 1920 Weston visited the United States and was introduced to the idea of caravanning. He built his first caravan named "Suid Afrika". He and Lily and his family, 2 daughters and a son, traveled through Europe for 12 years. In 1934 they returned to South Africa and started a trans Africa journey; from La Agulhas South Africa all the way north. They had to turn around once and revamp their truck caravan so it would fit on the narrow boats used to carry it across waterways without bridges. Traveling on rugged dirt roads via Rhodesia and Tanganyika they were held up on the Serengeti Plains for days as the great migrations passed. Then on to Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Egypt, Persia, Turkey and France. One can only imagine what that journey entailed. On arrival in England they enrolled the children in school and returned to South Africa by boat. Settling down for the first time in his life he started up several farming estates and was murdered by 3 men who robbed him for the payroll money. After all his life's harrowing experiences to end this way! Either his sorted past caught up with him or when your number's up - it's up. He certainly had lived life to the fullest.
Weaving our way back down to the coast we were invited to spend a few days in Wild Acres, near High Flats. There we rested up at the edge of the lake, letting the cool water cleanse our dusty bodies right down to our souls and the flickering campfire warm our hearts each evening. This lake and forest transported us back to our childhoods, fond memories camping with family or attending camps. We even sang songs, "Kum ba ya" kind, while enjoying the brilliant night stars. I drew the line at scary ghost stories though. We slowly simmered our dinner, a vegetable and bean stew, in our poitijeke pot over the fire.
We have enjoyed the fun South African social tradition of 'braai', or cooking over the fire but skipped a few of the other food traditions such as biltong, salty dried meat sold along the road or next to every liquor store. 'Mashonzha' is a dish made with the dried worms or caterpillars of the emperor moth, mainly eaten in the Cape. Wondering what to serve for dinner? Drop by the frozen meat section for a bag of "walkie-talkies "(chicken beaks and feet for stew). All can be served with a dash of fiery 'peri -peri' chili sauce or a lethal favorite black Mamba hot sauce. A couple of fun establishments we drove by were the 'Snorting Grunter', 'The Pig & Whistle' and the 'Nip In Pub & Grub'. Food is the fascinating centerpiece of culture worldwide.
Durban is an old coastal city, hub of trading for the Arab dhows, Indian merchants, and European sailing ships for centuries. Downtown resonates with history at every bend and has some of the best authentic Indian food and spices in South Africa. The waterfront and expansive white sand beach received a smart facelift for World Cup 2010, with pools, walkways, and restaurants stretching over 5 kms. from the Sun Coast Casino to UShaka Marine Park. At UShaka they resurrected a 100 year old ship, complete with original furnishings. In this 'haunted' ship it is possible to have a fine candlelit dinner only inches from a school of sharks (behind glass), guaranteed hungrier than you are. We met Mr. 'Sausage' while fishing at the lake, (where we also met the friends of Mr. 'Chicken'). He told us to just park in the secure parking lot of the Durban's seaside Casino. We drove in, paying 10 rand and drove out 5 days later, walking miles and miles around Durban in between. By the time we left we had made friends with all the security guards and maintenance workers, not spending a penny on the slot machines but buying a few meals in their expansive complex. (Like McDonalds, great bathrooms.) Life is a gamble, that's all we need.
Lesothoho and Swaziland are inselbergs, or countries completely surrounded by the neighboring country, South Africa. Embedded in South Africa, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries on this massive continent. The people are happy and relaxed, with little racism or crime to worry about. Music and dancing are a big part of their cultural pride and all it took to get a full on performance from the kids was to start singing and moving. They were a party waiting to happen. We have started returning the performance with a little adlib Hawaiian hula, our favorite being "Going to a Hukilau". What we lack in precision we make up for in intention and the crowd usually goes wild.
Looks of amazement greet us as we travel along. A house on wheels?! In remote villages the kids would flock to the van, curious at the rolling anomaly to appear in their little world. We often give guided tours to wide eyed youngsters laughing at the water squirting from the sink, etc. Besides peanut and raisin treats or an orange we will often give a group of curious youngsters one of the glossy magazines put out by the tourist bureaus along the way. We have seen them sit quietly for over an hour going slowly page by page, looking at the vibrant pictures of far away lands (which may be only on the other side of the hills). Swaziland is bordered on either side by mountains, with pretty fertile valleys in between, Ezulwini means "Valley of Heaven". They are proud of 4 major parks, including Hlane Royal National Park (Big 5), with increasing numbers of animals due to better management. Hard to put money into animals when the people are hungry - but it is a draw for tourism and makes good business sense.
We chose to visit the out of the way game reserve Miliwane Wildlife Sanctuary. Small but pleasant to stop by, the main animals are hippos and crocs at the pools, nicest being the observation deck off the restaurant. Zebras and deer abound but unfortunately all rhinos have met their demise due to poachers. A display showed over 20,000 snares founds over the last 25 years and the skulls of hundreds of poached rhinos from the area. A new idea in wildlife preservation is to cut off the horns of the rhinos to save them from being killed. The wicked poachers have now started killing rhinos with sawed off horns so they don't have to track them again! This plan only works when all the rhinos, in an entire park, are dehorned. This has been done in one park, to date, with success. In the park's informative display there was a tribute to a memorable Park ranger, who after infiltrating the ring of rhino poachers, found it was composed of flunkies right up through top government officials. Once found out he was lying on his bed sleeping when he heard the glass of his window shatter. Almost lighting a match to see the size of the rock, he stopped short as the fumes of gas filled his room. An unexploded gas bomb lay at his feet, slowly leaking petrol onto the floor. Not intimidated by further threats he went on to expose the criminals, slowing down their operation and saving the lives of hundreds of rhinos. Poaching resumed and while out making rounds he was ambushed and stabbed in the neck, missing the jugular vein but striking his spinal cord. Paralyzed he collapsed onto the ground where his assailant stabbed him in the chest 8 times. Against all odds he recovered fully. Unfortunately it was too late as most of the rhinos were killed. Once a natural resource is gone - it is gone!
Our friend Fleur in Kwazi Natal recommended we stop at Phophonyane Falls, just past Piggs Peak. A long, bumpy road led to a magical little conservation reserve surrounding the falls. We spent an quiet afternoon hiking the lush trails, looking at the falls (where 12 people have fallen - 2 fatalities), sharing a stir fry dinner by candlelight and sleeping next to the roaring river in a tree top safari-type luxury tent. Waking up in the canopy to the singing birds was a unique treat. Phophonyane Falls Nature Reserve and Lodge is a place to put on your list while visiting Swaziland. Guaranteed your batteries will be recharged in the serene, natural surroundings.
Swaziland this proud mini
nation, is led by King Mswati III one of the last 3 monarchs in
Africa. This well loved monarch's reputation is starting to
tarnish as his spending and lavish lifestyle consume the people's
money in a country with 26% HIV Aids rate, high unemployment and a
life expectancy rate of 37. Crowned at 18, the 2nd of 67 sons,
he has ruled the country with his Mother at his side. He
currently has 13 wives and over 200 official offspring. He
seems to be oblivious to the extreme poverty surrounding him.
"Let them eat cake!" As with monarchies worldwide, change is
in the wind.
And so it goes.........................................Next month Mozambique. Until then let's try to find our passion in life and go for it! You never know where it leads. Glad you stopped by. Thanks for sharing our website with all your friends and family. We are going to have a get a bigger suitcase with over 80,000 joining us on our trip each month! How fun. We love sharing the world with as many people as possible. Take care. Keep smiling. Keep in touch.
Love, Light & Laughter,
$1.00 US = 7 Swazi Emalangeni, (same as South African rand)
Going through Rosetta Don't
Miss Chocolate Heaven - Every flavor of handmade Belgium chocolates
- including biltong covered in chocolate! Say Hi to Cindeez
Up 2-3 blocks from the waterfront, hidden away in back roads, is the Spice Emporium (just ask). Every Indian spice you can imagine at local prices!
Phophonyane Nature Reserve and Lodge. Rod, wife and staff are
sure to make your stay comfortable and pleasant.
Rod de Vletter Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge and nature reserve Pigg's Peak S w a z i l a n d
office +268 2437 1409 fax +268 2437 1319 reception +268 2437 1429
cell swaziland +268 7602 3670 South africa +27 78 484 1558
A Few Favorite places to park:
Golden Gates - follow the main road then turn off to the side. You can find a place to park along the road (maybe up a hill) away from the camps at either end.
High Flats/ Wild Acres. Less than 2 km out of town (towards the ocean) you notice a dam or lake on the left. Take the dirt road in. Let friendly Pam, Meg or Stewart direct you to a shady spot under large trees. Quiet scenic with only basic toilets -( no power) for 30rand per person per day . Mr 'Sausage' from Durban told us there was Great bass fishing.
Scottsburg south of
Durban: Find the golf course near the beach in Scottsburg
on the ocean.
Drive along the beach back north to a subdivision called Mtunzi?? or
something similar. Right before the gate on the left is a
Durban: Sun Coast Casino - near Tekwini
Beach in Durban. 10 Rand per 24 hours parking. Find a
spot under a tree, in the corner out of the way, near the beach and
away from the highway noise. Safe, secure, good bathrooms and
eating establishments. Free 30 minute wifi each 24 hours.
Zinkwazi Beach: Just park in the parking lot and enjoy walking the beautiful beach during the day.
(Many other places were covered in the last webpage highlighting animals and parks of South Africa).
Swaziland has many lovely remote places to park.
Park 'off a road, down a road', on the way to Miliwane Nature Reserve
Heading south along the loop to Maguga Dam. take the first right past the viewpoint, continuing up the hill Great views in a quiet pasture area.