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Ω2

Swaziland

   Swaziland is a small, peaceful country in Southern Africa. It is the last remaining absolute monarchy in the continent. The king is often accused of living in extreme luxury while his people are struggling to survive. Having said that, it is a fact that Swaziland with its absolute monarchy is far more democratic that many African countries which claim to be democratic…

The countryside of Swaziland

The countryside of Swaziland

   Entering the country from the south, I was riding through endless sugar plantations. I wild camped next to a river and decided to cook a gourmet dish of spaghetti and avocado. I love avocados but I had never used them for cooking. I wasn’t sure if I had to boil it or not. Ignorant as I was, I decided to boil it because it looked hard. As a matter of fact, the reason it was hard is that it was not ripe and I was not supposed to eat it. So, I food poisoned my self and found out later, when I asked, that I was not supposed to boil an avocado or eat an unripe one!

Traditional dancing to the rhythm of the drums!

Traditional dancing to the rhythm of the drums!

   I woke up in the morning having diarrhea and vomiting endlessly. Happily, when my stomach was empty again, I was fine. I was just very weak afterwards. I slowly packed my tent and my luggage but before getting on two wheels, I felt like lying down for a while. I fell asleep under the shade of a tree. When I woke up, I realized I was sleeping for two and a half hours! The next two days I was sleeping a lot until I fully recovered.

In a traditional settlement...

In a traditional settlement…

   I visited a few nice villages where I was hosted by some volunteers that are living there. On my way to Mhlambanyatsi the scenery changed to mountainous and it was full of beautiful, thick forests. As most forests in Southern African, those ones belong to a company which grows them to produce timber and paper. Luckily enough, those days there was an enduro race in the forest. I was watching it from the beginning to the end while I was exploring the forest on my motorbike.

I ran across an enduro race in the forest around Mhlambanyatsi!

I ran across an enduro race in the forest around Mhlambanyatsi!

   Near the capital city of Mbabane is Ngwenya, one of the oldest mines in the world. It is believed that the locals were mining hematite some 43,000 years ago! The mining came to an end in 1977 but the shamans are still using hematite to dye their faces and to make their magic potions. Actually, while I was hiking there, it seems that I ran across some kind of shaman ritual. A couple of guys were dancing and yelling insanely!

Ngwenya is one of the oldest known mines in the world, with a history of 43,000 years!

Ngwenya is one of the oldest known mines in the world, with a history of 43,000 years!

   It was time to hike for a couple of days in the Malolotja Nature Reserve. I tied my tent on my backpack and I headed for the green mountains. There was nobody around and I enjoyed the pristine nature a lot. I ended up wild camping next to a peaceful little stream.

I didn't meet anyone when I was trekking in Malolotja Nature Reserve and I enjoyed my two-day hike a lot!

I didn’t meet anyone when I was trekking in Malolotja Nature Reserve and I enjoyed my two-day hike a lot!

   Before exiting the country, there was one more place I wanted to visit: Bulembu. That was a huge settlement originally built in 1936 to accommodate the 10,000 mine workers. As it happens usually, when mining is not profitable any more, the companies migrate to greener pastures and they leave a mess behind them. So, in 2003 Bulembu was a ghost town.

They even had a cinema in the old settlement of Bulembu...

They even had a cinema in the old settlement of Bulembu…

   The NGO Bulembu Ministries Swaziland decided to bring life back to the old Bulembu settlement. They turned the place into a home for orphan children, who comprise about one fifth of the country’s population. This small kingdom has the highest HIV/AIDS infection rate in the world. It is estimated that 26% of the adults are infected. According to the World Health Organization, 64% of deaths in Swaziland are caused by HIV/AIDS! In 2000 the average life expectancy was 61 years, while in 2009 it was dropped to just 32 years… As a result, many children lose their parents and orphans are a very common issue in Swaziland.

The reestablished settlement of Bulembu houses orphan children, who comprise about one fifth of Swaziland's population.

The reestablished settlement of Bulembu houses orphan children, who comprise about one fifth of Swaziland’s population.

   Happily, a great job is done in Bulembu. Hundreds of children are raised and educated while adults are trained to work in the local businesses that support this entire community. You can find all around Swaziland the water which is bottled in Bulembu and their renowned honey too. After this interesting experience, I left Swaziland to visit South Africa again and explore the last part of the country that I hadn’t visited…

The cable car in Bulembu mine was manufactured by the German company Bleichert and it was covering a distance of 20 km (12.43 miles), all the way to South Africa!

The cable car in Bulembu mine was manufactured by the German company Bleichert and it was covering a distance of 20 km (12.43 miles), all the way to South Africa!

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

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