With my stay in Mozambique coming to and end the next day, I had a great random encounter with some riders from South Africa. They were on cheap little chinese 125cc bikes and were pretty much planning on riding them until they fell apart and then heading home. They had no plan beyond that and made for fun dinner companions.
Early then next morning I was off towards Swaziland and what I thought would be the last of the ‘real’ Africa before I hit well-developed South Africa.
Before I visited it, I had formed a less than positive image of the country simply based on what I knew- the highest AIDS rate in the world and an absolute monarch who pretty much treated the country’s finances as his own piggy bank, and its women as his own harem (his father died with over 1000 grandchildren, so you can see where he gets it!). The amazingly clean and efficient border crossing should have been a hint that the cover might not fit this book, but I was too stunned. The wide and well paved roads as well, but I was still trying to adjust. No, it wasn’t until I passed the BMW dealership that also had a large and well-run motorrad department that I really started to realise just how far off the mark I was.
Swaziland, with its wood and sugar exports/processing along with good tourism is actually doing quite well- for some. It’s not rich, but it’s certainly seems in better shape than any other country in Africa along the east coast. There are still many poor people and villages, but it isn’t a squalid poverty and there appears to be a realistic chances of improving ones lot. On the flip side, its AIDS rate has caused the UN to question its very future as a nation, and the BMW dealership gets about 90% of its business from the king. It’s certainly a mixed bag, but one that holds more good bits than the numbers might suggest.
Okay, to the riding! Swaziland is fully of wonderful riding- good paved and graded gravel roads with pretty views make getting to your playground a treat.
When you get there, dirt track spaghetti has been thrown all over the hills just to thrill you.
No, that last pic wasn’t taken in Canada, though riding through the rolling hills of the tree farms certain brought many thoughts of home.
At the end of exciting day, you can head over to House on Fire– a Gaudiesque music/culture/food venue that, if you’re lucky, will have a band on on your birthday just to make sure you get out and have some fun.
You can also get your Indiana Jones (well, Allan Quatermain really) hat on and gaze at one of Queen Sheba’s breasts. I mean that completely platonically. Really.
So, after a week or riding, getting new tires/servicing the bike, meeting cool people, and eating more BBQed meat than anyone really should, it was time to leave. I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but I certainly took a completely revamped view of the country away with me.