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Driving through South Africa

Hello friends!

Right now I am sitting on my balcony in Maputo, Mozambique. The cool evening air is brushing across my face, the cacophony of traffic rumbles below me. The city is a buzz because of the upcoming African Games and the excitement is palpable. This is a very interesting city and I am looking forward to telling you all about. But first, I want to describe my amazing trip though Swaziland.

The last time I posted I was in Paris. My flight to Johannesburg was long, but fairly comfortable. I usual travel with Air France and have always found their service exceptional. I landed in Johannesburg around 9 in the morning where my friend Gert, who is also my guide/driver and owner of “Go Tripping,” met me. We immediately headed over to Britz Rentals and picked up our vehicle. I made sure to rent a vehicle that had a long-range fuel tank and proper safety equipment, both necessary for a long road trip in Africa. Since I planned on camping during this trip, I decided to also get a fully equipped vehicle, to include tents and camping equipment. Not only does this save on money and time, but it is really easy and very fun! Something to note as well, most of the rental companies require the driver of the vehicle to be 30 yrs of age and limit the amount of countries you are allowed to enter. If you are going to multiple countries make sure you leave with all the proper documentation, otherwise you will be out of luck at border crossings! After sorting everything out, we headed out on the road towards Miliwane, Swaziland.

Driving through Swaziland

The ride to Swaziland was very easy due to excellent road conditions and we reached the border crossing in ~4 hours.  I always recommend bringing a ton of mixed cds! They are absolutely key to a fun road trip. At the Swazi border crossing we took our passports and vehicle information and promptly checked out of South Africa. Then we crossed the border and repeated the process in Swaziland. It cost me 50 ZAR (South African Rands) or $7, to enter Swaziland. Once across we drove another 45 mins, passing beautiful countryside along the way.

We reached Miliwane Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in Swaziland’s “Valley of Heaven,” in the dark around 6:30 pm. We checked in and stayed in a traditional beehive. Although it looked small on the outside, it was actually very large. It had a bathroom, shower, and electricity!  It was a really great cultural experience and I recommend trying it out. The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and decided to go for a run. I cannot even begin to describe in words how amazing this run was. It was a little cool and I remember the wind whooshing past my ears. The sanctuary is absolutely beautiful and there are many trails to walk and run on. Along the way I spotted wildebeests, warthogs, zebras, impala, and hippos!! One could not ask for better scenery!

Sundbathing Hippos in Miliwane

After our run, we ate breakfast in the lodge restaurant, which is situated next to a small lake. I watched as two large hippos finished sunbathing and slowly eased their way into the water. Additionally, I learned that hippos do not know how to swim! They basically sink and walk along the bottom …who knew!?

After breakfast we went into town and visited the Mantenga Cultural Village. The cultural village is a living museum of old traditions and represents a classical Swazi lifestyle during the 1850’s. We toured the village and then watched and listened to Swazi song and dance. The performers were adorned in beautiful costumes and exhibited some amazing acts of athleticism! We watched as they performed traditional dances, which involve kicking their legs very high into the air (see pic below). It was a wonderful place and a must-see if you visit Swaziland.

Swazi Traditional Dance

After Mantenga, we headed to the Swazi candles, which is a small factory located in the Ezulwini Valley. The factory is a world famous handy craft shop where they create all different type of candles. Also in the same complex is a wonderful fabric shop, music shop and a large outdoor craft area. In all of these shops, you can watch the locals make their crafts and arts. They are very nice and eager to show you their craft. Again- its something you have to see if you are in Swaziland.

Candle Factory and Craft Market

Our last stop was by far the most unique and interesting! The House on Fire, is a crazy and whimsical venue created by local Swazi artists. It has an indoor and outdoor stage for shows of all kind and also some amazing local craft stores and art display room. I fell in love with the shop Gone Rural, which is a non-profit organization that sells beautiful home accessories, such as baskets, made by 700 local Swazi women. Gone rural was created to support the women artisans and their communities through health and education programs. Please visit the site and read about this organization. Plus you can buy their gorgeous items on line!

"Gone Rural" Shop

I had so many wonderful experiences in Swaziland. I was sad to leave, however, very excited to see what Mozambique would bring. If you ever have a chance to visit Swaziland- do it. Its beautiful, the people are friendly, it is rich in culture, and very safe. I am sure Mozambique is also going to bring some interesting but different experiences. I look forward to sharing them all with you very soon!

Until then, travel well and travel often!

Maia

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