Although it is almost entirely embedded in South Africa, the kingdom of Swaziland seems to have a flavor all its own. King Mswati III (one of only three remaining monarchs in Africa) reigns over a country that feels both incredibly foreign (the king himself has 13 wives) and fairly familiar (Woolworth’s, one of the grocery stores there, bears a delightful resemblance to Whole Foods). We loved the time that we spent taking in Swaziland’s natural beauty. (The white-water rafting we did on the mighty Usutu River was the best–and the most dangerous–we’ve ever done.) No overview of this tiny nation would be complete without a mention of its huge AIDS problem: about 39% (39%!) of its adult population is HIV-positive. At that rate, it’s estimated that one quarter of its population will be DEAD by 2010. Incredible. We did notice some efforts to address the issue–AIDS-related billboards were everywhere and prophylactics were even available for free at the border!
Blog Entries We Wrote
To see all the blog entries we wrote about this country, please click HERE.
Pictures We Took
To see some of the pictures we took in this country, please click HERE.
Cities/Areas We Visited
- Ezulwini Valley (May 15-17, 2008)
Places We Stayed
- Sondzela Backpackers (May 15-17, 2008): This is one of the few places that we’ve stayed where the staff was actually actively mean. (One woman banged (and we mean banged) repeatedly on our door at 7am and loudly demanded the converter we’d borrowed from the hostel the night before.) We had planned to stay in one of their cute rondavels, but we arrived there only to find out that (1) the bathroom had not yet been built; and (2) the whole thing smelled like a gas leak. Pretty much the only good things about this place are its location (in the middle of Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary), its cheap price (about $20 a night for a room with a shared bathroom) and the fact that it’s a good place to meet other travelers.
Places We Ate
- Restaurant at Sondzela Backpackers: The braiied (that’s South African for “grilled”) steak, mashed pumpkin and beets were pretty good, especially considering that the whole thing cost about $4.
- Quatermain’s Restaurant & Pub: This place had wi-fi, which was a huge benefit in relatively unwired Swaziland. It seemed to be really popular with locals–it was packed on the Friday night that we were there. Derek loved his ribs, and Shanna’s fish was pretty good.
Things We Did
Went rafting on the Usutu River
Shopped at the Roadside Crafts Market
Drove in the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Shopped at Swazi Candles
Capital City – Mbabane
Currency – Emalangeni
Exchange Rate – 7.6 Emalangeni to 1