May 2007


Grass Sweet Hut

As it was dark when we arrived, CQ and I had no idea what the area looked like until we woke up in the morning.

For me, that first glimpse came at 06:30 or so when I emerged from the hut and looked around. We’d walked across a grassy field after dinner and I had joked that we were stepping in animal shit. In the morning light it was readily apparent that my joke was not really a joke, it was the truth.

Warthogs and Impala wandered the grounds quite freely, munching on the grass, resting in the shade of the grass huts, and observing humans at quite close quarters.

It was easy to see why we were in the tourist-central of Swaziland: the landscape was gorgeous. After a quick (and, relatively speaking, expensive) breakfast, we headed out of the reserve to do some shopping. We picked up some locally made trinkets. In my case some of my relatives will be receiving authentic locally made goods for Christmas. We also hit the Pick ‘n Pay – a local branch of the South African supermarket chain.

In the afternoon we took a hike around the grounds of the reserve—walking through the grasses, enjoying the sense of “being” there. It was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon—and we got back about 45 minutes before the Sunset drive—when we hopped on a Land Rover, went around the reserve looking (and listening) to animals, before heading up the road for a view of Execution Rock.

Mind you our guide seemed sincere when he related the story of Execution Rock—which is actually quite factual. In days of yore, witches convicted of being witches were encouraged (with the tip of a sword, if need be), to take a hike up to the top of the rock and then jump off the end of it. The guide assured us that this practice had ended 90 years ago and that in today’s modern Swaziland, convicted witches were sentenced to a mere four years in prison.

As I remarked to CQ, that seems quite reasonable.

In comparison, naturally.

We also had a brief civics lesson about the King and his 15 13 wives (two have escaped to South Africa); as well as the governmental and educational system of Swaziland. All of this occurred whilst in view of Execution Rock whilst the sun was setting. It was a really fantastic—the sun settled behind the hills and the five of us (now fully bonded: A German from Berlin; his partner, a German living and working in Mozambique; a New Zealander living in Africa; CQ; and I) headed down the hill back to the grounds where a dinner buffet and traditional Swazi dance awaited us.

On multiple levels the traditional Swazi dance was somewhat disconcerting. One for the fact that the guys wore shorts under their traditional clothing and the women wore flags with the King’s image over their otherwise bare tops. It seemed to me that it was sanitized for tourist sensibilities. On the hand there were maybe 50-60 people in the audience; fewer than five were non-white.

Because it was “cold,” the dance lasted only thirty minutes; half the audience hanging over the long-running camp fire. After the show, CQ and I returned to our hut, and to bed: Saturday was going to be a long, hard slog; but we did not know it yet.

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