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Swaziland, February 2015

We drove up to Swaziland for a long weekend. It's close, green, safe, beautiful, and friendly. It also is Africa's one remaining true kingdom: there is a king, and he is in charge. He has a lot of wives, and he chooses new ones at an annual reed dance (which no, we didn't see).


Slideshow (big images)

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We are staying in the famous Swaziland beehive huts!
We're staying in the Mlilwane Park, about 40 minutes inside of Swaziland. It's a three-hour drive to the border from Pretoria, plus a bit of time to do the crossing.
Your guess is as good as mine...
We do some game driving. It's wet! But super beautiful and very green.
Finn has found a train!!! We examine the tracks for train parts. The rails don't appear to have been used for a few decades.
Astro needs to go potty.
We take a little field trip, walking the 1 km from our hut to the crocodile lake.
Double splash!
It's a nyala, walking through our camp! Nyalas are such awesome Doolittle-like creatures... a real composite.
CROCODILE! Oh, and there's a SECOND CROCODILE near the top right as well.
I just love pictures of crocodiles, because they're like little icebergs.
Ground Hornbill! These are super-rare (and it may be obvious why). There was at least one pair walking around here -- I suspect part of a breeding program.
The park is really beautiful -- at least at this time of year, much more lush and green than anything we saw in SA.
Roan and tsessebe. Mlwane is known for breeding these. The park (and several of the other parks in Swazi) is owned privately and still run by the one guy who started them several decades ago. But they are large, well-run, and accessible, and many people think they're national parks.
OK, now we've left Mlilwane and are at Swazi Candles. Apparently, about a decade ago, some NGO came up with the idea to make candles of animals and sell them. And sure enough, it works like crazy. It seems like every single tour bus and European or American who visit Swazi comes to the candle factory.

In fact, we went there twice. The first time was to see the candles, and have lunch. The second time was about two hours later, when Astro started crying: "I want my blankie! Where is my blankie? I want it now!!!" We had to drive much of the way across the country to retrieve it... fortunately, being one of the world's smallest countries, driving across it doesn't take long.

The animals never stop!
I like the hand-written addition...
Oh, and in case any tourist missed Swazi Candles, they probably came to the other main shopping craft place: Ngwenya Glass. This was set up in 1979, sponsored by the Swedish Embassy to Swaziland. It went bankrupt eventually, but has since been restarted, and is bigger than ever.
It's actually quite cool to see glass production on such a massive scale. They have a ton of people working here, and they move a lot of hot glass in a very organized assembly line. Glass is all about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and timing is everything as far as dissipation of entropy goes... too fast and it's rigid, too slow and it's already cracked.
Then we took a trip to the nearby Ngwenya Mine, which was not overrun with tourists (in fact, we were the only ones there). You're required to rent a guide, who was a neat guy who came up with us.
This has been an iron ore mine for a long time (> 1000 years). We're walking up now to one of the main pits. Ore was mined commercially here up until a decade ago -- as prices go up and down, it will probably re-open again in the future.
Just walking around, you can pick up chunks of iron ore. Apparently they're 70-80% Fe. Heavy, but interestingly not magnetic -- must be enough impurities in there to break up the fieldlines.
Check it out: we're at one of the original ore sites. This is where people came perhaps 1000 years ago to get iron 'paint' to put on their bodies. And you can grab a rock and smear it now just like they did then...
Check out those rhinos! Astro examines the scene from one of the most beautiful restrooms I've ever had the pleasure of using, at the Azlu Petroport on the N4, about 90 minutes east of Pretoria.

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Henry Throop

Last modified Thu Sep 10 21:59:17 2015