And then to Shewula
Apr 12, 2012
|We take our time over breakfast while our host gives us some advice on where we should go and how long various sectors will take. He and his wife used to own the property about 7 years ago. Now his daughter and son in law (I think) own it but are away – hence they are babysitting. They actually reside in the Garden Route on the southern coast east of Cape Town.
We finally get on our way but it is not very long before we have another brush with a police force. This time not so pleasant. It seems I came to a rather indifferent stop at a stop sign – a T-junction in the countryside. Some couple of hundred metres away were members of the South African Police Force.
“Madam, a stop sign means exactly that – you must come to a complete stop”.
Out comes this rather large printed list of offences with the corresponding fines – about 40 cms long and 15 cms wide – you almost need a magnifying glass to read it.
The fine for my offence is 750 rand – about $100.
“Please put the window down and can I see your licence”. I dutifully obey.
“Ah, you are a visitor and I am spoiling your holiday”
“750 rand is a lot of money for you – how much do you think you should pay”
Now that one made me a little wary – I didn’t want to be accused of trying to bribe an officer or the like so my answer was: “If the fine is 750 then I guess that’s what I will be paying”.
“I am spoiling your holiday, I think 400 rand will be enough”
So out comes the handbag and I hand over the 400 rand. My first traffic offence in 30 years and I don’t have to lose any points!
We then ask him about the rather curious way intersections with multiple stop signs work. We are forever being tooted at while we try to give way to the right. He explains that if you come to a three or four way stop intersection each of you have to stop and then the first one who arrived at the intersection has right of way, with the second person who arrived going next etc. Doesn’t matter if you are on the right or left hand side. Gets a bit tricky when you seem to have arrived together – and are relying on peoples individual judgement.
He wishes us a good holiday and we are on our way again. We are supposed to be doing the Panorama Route however most of the scenic points are shrouded in fog. Apart from a stop at one of the waterfalls it really is a waste time so after a brief stop while David watches and photographs some men falling trees we turn our attention to Swaziland.
We make a few stops to stock up on snacks, petrol and alcohol. The most white people we have seen is at a shopping complex.
We are making our way the Shewula Mountain Camp in North Eastern Swaziland. The instructions we have are for those coming in from J’burg so, as we are coming in from the north, we try to plot our own way, with the eventual help of the GPS, which sometimes needs a little encouragement. Our main concern is the standard of the roads because the maps are not very clear.
The countryside is very agricultural with bananas, sugar cane, paw paw, avocado and lots of citrus. Undulating and occasional rocky hills (or mountains - not sure what you would call them).
Our ‘little princess’ as we call the (fussy) GPS takes us on some interesting roads through many black communities. It is getting late in the afternoon so many of the workers are on the side of the road waiting for their buses.
We cross the border at Mananga – crowded and chaotic at immigration – much pushing and shoving of bodies trying to make way to the counter. Speaking to one lady who crosses once or twice a week it is unusually busy.
Once clear we travel through great expanses of sugar cane. Some being harvested and some being burnt. Also a couple of large factories. The side of the roads are neat and mown and everything looks quite manicured – wonder if the big sugar companies do this.
Still people walking everywhere, we have seen very few bikes although since we crossed the border we notice that many of the kids have half size wheel barrows – useful for carrying bags of produce and the odd live goose or chicken.
It is just on dusk when we turn off onto the road leading to Shewula – we have 13 kms to go. Well it may be a mountain camp but this section of the road is definitely a mountain track. Doubt there has been much road maintenance in recent years – the gravel is corrugated and deeply rutted with sections of large stones and rocks. All is travelled in first gear, and rarely second. Quite a struggle for our tiny car.
It is getting dark and there is no signage. The road gradually narrows the further we go and at times we are travelling through 2 metre high grass with barely enough room for the vehicle. It is at this point we start to wonder if we are on the right track (literally) and what are we going to do if it isn’t – the thought of turning and travelling all the way back to the main road in the dark and even where would we sleep is not a good one.
Just when we think the road can’t go any further we see a small sign welcoming us to the camp and are greeted by December – he is quite impressed when we tell him that friends of ours in Australia had talked to us about him. He takes us to meet the local ladies who show us to our rondavels and in half an hour dish up a delicious local meal.
The mountain camp is a community eco tourism project and is fully owned and run by the community and is a vital source of income and employment.
I can assure you I really enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine and felt we had earned it.
After a shower (in our open shower with a wonderful view) we crawl into bed early – the sites do not have electricity - just kerosene lamps. Nice to snuggle up and hear the wind blowing outside after a long and eventful day.