Today I woke up, had breakfast as usual but today we we were going to be busy again. First of all we had a trip to a Sangoma (Traditional Healer) and his Homestead where half the group went with Jenny and Thandi to see and listen to the Sangoma and see what he does whilst the other half which is the group I was in went with Sipo and Jack to help with whatever the ladies were doing which at that point was cracking Nuts, they made it look so easy and asked us if anyone wanted to give it a try so Howard tried first but failed trying to hit it gently until the ladies said do it harder and it finally cracked and then he had to dig the nut out with a stick type thing and place it in a bowl. I then had a go with Jo P and we got it first time which we were pleased about getting in above Howard lol! And then Dietmar and Anja also had a go and they did really well too. We then went onto mat weaving which Jo P showed me what to do once the lady had demonstrated and we did it together which was good fun and I had a little brown dog lying right next to the mat I was sitting on, such a sweetie but I resisted touching :). Then we swapped and we went into see the Sangoma and he explained about how far people come to see him, what he does and the things he uses to find out what’s wrong with people. Very interesting.
We then went to the Shewula mountain camp where we had lunch and we met with someone from the press who wanted to write an article in the paper about us and traveleyes.
We then did another sunset safari and this time we saw the King of the jungle just after they had had a kill and one cub was incredibly nosy and was about a metre or so away from the jeep which was quite scary actually but he was so beautiful and posing for us. We also saw an elephant who was distressed because of the lions and a wildebeest and several Impala. The other jeep had just missed the lions so we were right time right place as they say :).
Last night was lovely hearing the roaring lions after they’ve had a kill and hearing the hippos too with their scary voices through the night and in the morning. I woke up thinking how lovely it would be to always wake up with the sound of lions but then I thought about the poor Impalas which made me feel a little sad but I know the lions have to eat so I soon got over it!
Today we split up into 2 groups again 1 group going with sunny boy and the other with Dumi and Sicelo and we went for a lovely walk and what the guides had done especially for us was get different animal skins for us to feel along the way such as Impala, Monkey, Hyena and Crocodile which I found fascinating as I always wondered what these animals felt like and we had to guess what they were which I was very good at :). We also had to guess different animals footprints which again I got quite a lot right apart from when it came to the giraffe and I thought it was an elephant they told us we would know if it was an elephant lol! It was all good fun, we also saw dung beetles in action, amazing little creatures rolling dung balls 4 times the size of themselves!
We then came back had some lunch and went back out to the conservation hut just inside the national park explaining all about Hlane and its ancestry if we want to call it that but basically how big game parks began which was very interesting. We also got told and it was also on display about a man who out looking for poachers, came across one but unfortunately the poacher paralysed him, took his spine, shot him and left him for dead, how he survived I don’t have any idea but he was rescued and taken to the nearest hospital where they managed to treat him and he recovered and was able to walk again but what an horrific attack all because poachers want rhino horn etc! Swaziland has a very good poaching system which protects the animals and so if poachers are caught they go to jail for a minimum of 5 years and sometimes they can be killed if found to be poaching any animal in a big game park reserve! Good on Swaziland :). We also felt different skulls and had to guess what they were which was good fun as Jack was trying to tease me in the end with all the antelope! Then we went back had a bit of a break and then had dinner and then went to bed.
Today was the day we had to leave our lovely beehive huts and make our way via minibus to our final destination Hlane where we would go completely back to nature with no electricity, no wifi, no phone signal and no lighting apart from via paraffin lamps. I was really looking forward to this because we could sense the real Africa and this was the national park that has the big game such as lions, rhinos, giraffes, leopards alongside the Impala, Nyala, Blesbok and Wildebeest. It was going to take about 2 hours to get there and Jenny had arranged for us to visit a school which catered for disabled children as well as mainstream children. This was run by a charity called St Joseph’s mission whose motto is “we can do it”. They had all kinds of children from 5 up to whatever age really, I spoke to a 23 year old for instance. We got there and we were welcomed by a member of staff and several children came up to give us hugs and handshakes which was lovely. We were taken to the toilet first before heading in to talk to the head mistress who happened to be in a wheelchair, she told us all about the mission and she was so passionate about the work they do and the children they support and about the wonderful gentleman who had set the mission up but unfortunately he had died 2 weeks prior to our visit so the school was still in mourning. It was an incredibly moving part of our day, I was in tears as were several others. We went to visit several classrooms one of whom had children with communication disabilities and then we went onto a class of students with Down syndrome all whom were so cheerful and when I gave one of the boys a high five another lad wanted it too :). We then went on to see several classes of visually impaired/blind students all who had Perkins braillers or large print which was handwritten not typed like in England and they had nowhere near the amount of technology and resources we have here but they made do. We then went into see some older students with visual impairments and several of us spoke to a student. The girl I had was 23 and partially sighted, at first she was a bit nervous but I got her talking and we then went on to talk about all sorts like what she wanted to be, discrimination, boyfriends and dating etc and time was whiling away fast and before I knew it I could sense someone behind me and Jack was talking to Sarah saying we need to go which was hard because she was asking when will we go back to see them and I didn’t know, it truly was an inspirational place and some incredibly passionate people working there and the students were just so lovely and you could see how much they enjoyed school, the school gets no government funded and the children have to pay to go to school and the girl I spoke to said her brothers and sisters and don’t get to go to school, she is the only one because it’s so expensive! Education is such a big part of everybody’s life and to think how fortunate we are to get free education which I’m sure a lot of us take for granted, when you go to a place that makes you realise how fortunate we really are.
Once we had left we got back on the bus and headed on for Hlane. On the way in there were giraffes on our right hand side such graceful creatures which I managed to capture on my camera with its zoom capacity which helps me magnify and find things which are far away. Once we got in our huts were ready for us to settle in to so what we did was we just put our bags in and came for lunch which was by watering hole where we saw a rhino strolling down for a brief drink before going away again, there were also 3 hippos I was told sitting in the water and splashing their backs every so often so they don’t get sunburn.
At 4:30 we did our first game drive in Hlane with Sicelo and Dumi whilst the other jeep had Sunny boy. We didn’t see much on this safari but we hoped that over the next few days we would see something. We then came back for dinner and loo break as I was quite desperate at this point and so were several others. We had another lovely meal to top off a fantastic day and went to bed happy and very sleepy.
Forgot to add to yesterday’s that we had a wonderful barbecue under the stars on our last evening at Mlilwane where I tried Wildebeast sausages and pork chops which were very nice. We had a lovely evening and a wonderful chat with Anja, Dietmar, Jo and Jo about guide dogs etc.
Next day’s blog tomorrow…
The sun was back out shining that day so we were definitely up for the horse riding today which some of the group were really excited about and some were really nervous not having done it before! We had to be at the reception for 8:45 so our hats could be fitted, I asked on of the ladies how she felt and she said she was really nervous and I got nudged and realised I shouldn’t have asked her because it can sometimes make their nerves worse. 2 of the team decided not to join us so they went with Jenny on a magical mystery tour. Once we were ready we made our way to the stables where we saw all the horses waiting outside for us so we could groom them before the horse riding safari begun. The 3 of the most experienced riders got their horses groomed and saddled up quickly or for them I wasn’t sure which had happened but they went out before us so they got more time on the horses so they could trot, canter and gallop. Whilst the rest of us groomed our horses and were shown how to pick the hooves which I was worried about because I didn’t want to hurt the horse especially when he was being so good. I was paired with A young lady called Jo today which I was really looking forward to and we had a great time with Huckleberry our horse, most of the group were quite scared and I think I was the most experienced out of all of them ignoring the 3 who had gone ahead! We finished way before everyone else which gave us time to take pictures of us grooming, cuddling and hoof picking Huckleberry’s hooves. Once we had finished we all got different horses to ride so I had Baloo, we got the saddle on and went to a tree trunk so we could get on which was the hard bit and then getting my feet right and then the guide told me Baloo likes to eat so I had to let him which was scary because I felt like I was going to fall off because they jerk their necks so far you kind of jolt, Jo’s horse’s saddle wasn’t put on properly bless her so that gave her a fright because she nearly fell Sideways due to the saddle slipping but once it was on she was ok and then we were all on and ready to go. We had to kick hard to get our horses going and once we were away from the grass it was a bit easier until we got into the national park where we rode through herds of antelope, passed some zebra and wildebeest and I tried to take a video of me riding which I managed and some pictures of different animals too but I just put the camera away at the right moment because first the horse behind mine didn’t seem to like mine Very much so it kicked mine according to the guide which made mine freak a bit but I got Baloo under control again until about 10mins later when we were nearing the dam and we went downhill slightly Baloo spooked again badly this time nearly throwing me over his head but somehow I managed to stay on and I really don’t know how but I was shaken and so were the others behind me, the guide said well done for managing to stay on. I then calmed down and we were ever closer to the lake when the guide said stop your horses which I did but Jo’s didn’t want to stop, there was a crocodile below as well which didn’t help but fortunately she managed to stop him just in time but then she found it difficult to get him going again as he was being stubborn and just wanted to eat. The guide kept saying just keep kicking but it wasn’t working so I just told her try pulling on the reins which Worked and off we went for a much more calming 2nd half of the ride. When we got Back I had some more pictures taken before being helped off the horse. Jack came over and said how amazing it was I managed to stay on because he was fearing the worst bless him, I didn’t even know he had seen what had happened so he said he owed me a drink that night lol! We then went back to our beehives briefly before heading down for lunch. The 3 experienced riders wanted to go out again in the afternoon so they had booked it for 2pm and we all went to visit the chief’s village first. We all had to dress in red shawl Type things forget what they are called with the King on the front. We went in and Jenny introduced us and they did a traditional welcome dance for us and then made us join in after we had said our hellos in Swazi I got accosted cause i said it right I think lol and we ladies danced for ages and then the men did a lot less! We then went back and we went for a walk again through the park which was lovely and the experienced guys got their 2nd ride which they loved even more! We then had dinner and had an early night because it had been another funfilled but busy day.
Day 5 of our holiday to Swaziland (6th April): This morning we woke up and went with our room partners as we did normally for breakfast, as we walked in we bumped into Jenny so we apologised for last night and she laughed and said “don’t worry, I just wanted to let you know before you said anything embarrassing and not realise everyone could hear” we had a good giggle about it over breakfast. Today was meant to be horse riding safari day but due to the rain that had settled over Swaziland Jenny had decided it wouldn’t be nice to do that today so bless her she was running around like a headless chicken trying to rearrange the horse riding for tomorrow and reschedule tomorrow’s schedule today which for England would be a complete faff but in Swaziland everyone is so relaxed and they swapped things round so easily and didn’t bat an eyelid. So we went to Gone Rural where they showed us the process of how they used the grass to make coasters and bowls etc which was fascinating and we went into the shop and had a look around and I bought a set of 4 table mats, 4 coasters and a table runner for £20. Everything was so cheap in Swaziland it was incredible but so well made! We then went on to see how they made the candles and the batik pieces which I was so hoping to buy and we were able to do in the shop a bit further on from where we saw it being made. We saw an elephant candle being carved which was amazing the speed they had to do it at before the wax set, we also got to see soap being made and then how the process of the batik wall hangers and cushion covers were made which was incredibly creative and they turn out so beautiful I had to buy at least one but ended up with 2 when we went into the shop which are now proudly displayed on my wall in my new bedroom 🙂 I also bought a t-shirt with 2 zebras and 2 giraffes on the front with the words “kingdom of Swaziland” underneath and I persuaded Sarah to buy a Shawl which she loved and to be honest didn’t take much persuasion from me! Lol. We then went back to our beehives, I asked Sarah where my room partner was and she told me “she is over there together with Chris doing something”, I burst out laughing because of the way she said it which made her laugh hysterically and we were both bent over with laughter and finally when my room partner came she said “what are you two up to now” We finally stopped laughing, my room partner said she and Chris were going for a walk and she asked if we wanted to join them stating Carol was coming too so we agreed, gave ourselves 15mins before we went out for a walk around the park, we went to reception where they showed us the best route to go “the hippo trail” which would take about an hour which suited us perfectly so we signed out and off we went. We were told we must be quiet if we are to see anything which we knew obviously as it wasn’t fair but Sarah had this effect on me I couldn’t explain but we did behave apart from when Sarah wanted to hurry along the team a little but she was given a telling off and told to go ahead if she didn’t want to wait so she shut up after that! On that walk we saw lots of Impalas, Blesbok again and Wildebeast and we were the first ones to see a hippo who was casually sitting in the water looking right at us. It was quite a rocky path with some steep hills but we made it round and at the very end thanks to someone reminding me we saw Vervet Monkeys well I didn’t but the others did swinging from the trees and we were so excited coming back having seen the hippo that we wanted to make everyone jealous at dinner. We had a good laugh at dinner and I tried Impala meatballs which were very nice but I did feel sorry for the poor Impalas bless them but some have to be killed anyway due to the growing numbers and not many predators at that game park. We then went to bed hoping that tomorrow would be brighter and we would finally get to do the horse riding. My room partner and I spoke very quietly that evening and we went to bed quite early because we were getting tired by this point because the days had been full on which was good because it meant we made the most out of every moment of every day.
Day 4 of holiday to Swaziland (5th April): We got up had breakfast, bags had to be out of room for 9:30 and we had to meet at bus for 10am. The journey took about an hour, on our way in just before we arrived Jenny saw a boomslang snake run out in front of the mini bus. We had to wait in the bus whilst Jenny went to find out if our accommodation was ready yet. It wasn’t quite ready yet so we went for a drive through the big game park’s reserve Mlilwane where we would be staying. We got to touch a termite mound even though I’m not sure we were supposed to but we heard wrong so hope it didn’t do it any harm! We saw Blesbok and Impalas and the blue wildebeast. We then went back to the beehive huts because they were ready, we put our bags in and went straight for lunch where I decided to go for a chicken mayo sandwich and chips but I’m not quite sure the sandwich agreed with me as I felt sort of ill afterwards but thank goodness it didn’t last long and I begun to feel better. We went for a bit of a walk before settling into our huts and to get ready for our first game drive at 4:15pm that day. Getting into those jeeps was certainly not an easy task for me lol but I had some very nice hunky guides to lift me in and out and once we were all in it was ready to go, we were allowed 2 drinks for our safari drive so I chose grape tizer and lemon twist which were both very nice but I didn’t have both knowing I would need the loo,1 can was bad enough lol! On the game drive we saw lots of Impala and a few male Impala all alone which the guides called Losers because they hadn’t won a group of female Impala lol! We also saw Blesbok again mostly solitary so they were also losers, we saw wildebeast, the Burchell Zebra and a crocodile. We also heard the sound of the hippo which sounds quite scary but we didn’t see them on that game drive. We also heard and people saw lots of different birds, these include: hadida ibis, sacred ibis, ground scraper thrush, forked drongo, pied kingfisher, pied wagtail, Little brown job, water thickney, spotted thickney, beeater, red bishop and the pale chanting goshawk. We also got told about the eucalyptus trees and why they have to be destroyed because they take in too much water and about the poisonous tree (sausage tree) Kiegalia but that it’s used to cure cancer. I may have got this mixed up but we also learnt about Jezebel the oldest Game drive car and got to feel different skulls of different animals. In the evening we got told about the meaning of Mlilwane “little fire” and how they had kept it alight and burning since 1964! If it rains they put a cover on so it never goes out. In the pond behind the restaurant lives crocodiles, hippos, Terrapins or turtlees as they say but they mean turtles lol! Then Jenny went through the things we had done over the past few days whilst Jack did his usual giving us our day partners for the following day. Inside the grounds of Mlilwane lives Nyala I think, Impala and warthogs. Then it was bedtime and because my room partner and I hadn’t spoken all day due to the way things had worked out we had to catch up on each other’s news etc but what we didn’t know was that the beehives had no insulation and everyone could hear our conversation so it was only when Jenny cause she was next to us came knocking and whispering that she could hear every word and she didn’t want us going into some embarrassing conversation and everyone hearing it, we apologised and Jenny just laughed and said it was very interesting and made her smile so we felt better about it but didn’t talk so loudly from then on lol! We then went to sleep ready for day 5.
Day 3 of my holiday to Swaziland (4th April): Today was a busy day. First we went to Maguga Dam so we could have a boat trip on the dam which was unfortunately incredibly low due to the drought they had experienced so instead of a 1 hour boat trip we could only do 30mins. We learnt all about the dam, when it was first built, when it was last at its fullest point and how many years it takes for the dam to get to its capacity, I found it very interesting and tranquil even though there were supposedly crocodiles and hippos in the dam we didn’t see them thank goodness! We then got back on board the bus and went to visit Sipo’s homestead to meet his mum and dad and see his village which had a Parliament House were they would take people who had had disagreements etc and put it right, we found out where they keep their cattle, were chickens lay their eggs on side of the crawl (cattle barn) in nests made for them and about a little cat who is there to catch “mouses”. The swazi’s have a unique way of saying certain things and it’s quite cute! Definitely made me smiles :). We tried sugar cane which was lovely and met the children before heading back via a very muddy, rocky path. We then headed to Maguga lodge for lunch and to see some traditional dancing which was incredibly entertaining and then Sipo tried to imitate which had us in stitches. Over lunch we had the discussion about how to say “Pap” the correct way but I didn’t get it right according to Sarah so I gave up and after this me and Sarah got on so well we had each other in hysterics constantly, just thinking about it makes me chuckle! The traditional dancing especially from the girls was something incredibly special which normally only happens during the reed dance in August so we felt incredibly privileged to see this in full action and in the beautiful traditional dress. We then got back in the bus, Jack did his counting again and we went back to the hotel where I went for a swim with Carol (my sighed guide), Anja and Dietmar (The Germans), Christine, Jo and Jack and Jo M sat on the side watching us. We had a great time, lots of laughs, a good swim and then we went back to our rooms, had a bath and then rested before Jack’s and Jenny’s chat and dinner which again was a variety of different foods to try all very nice. Then it was bedtime ready for the next day.