It felt like time to hit the road, we had been in Africa for a week, and still hadn't seen any wildlife, except some blokes in downtown Durban.
We decided to hire a car for a week, and do a trip up the east coast to Hluhluwe (more or less pronounced Shlushluwe) Game Reserve, and the St Lucia wetlands. Great campsite near Hluhluwe (did I mention we have a tent?), and a great safari day too where we saw elephants, a cheetah, giraffes, zebras, warthogs, baboons, loads of impala and nyala (which were of great interest to the cheetah), and also lots of exotic birds and nests - weaver birds build the most amazing nests. A fantastic day.
Giraffes are just beautiful, and warthogs are so ugly that they´re beautiful too.
The next day we drove out to St Lucia - the river is home to herds of hippos, and doing a boat cruise is the best way to see them. We were lucky with our timing as they only started running the boats again today after the problems with the big tides. In fact, the St Lucia estuary had just been broken for the first time in six years. None of this seemed to bother the hippos though, who sat/wallowed in the riverbanks just as always. It was great to see big family groups - big being the operative word for some of them (males I guess), who truly were enormous.
We had heard some good things about Swaziland, so decided to head there next. Luckily there was no problem taking the car across the border, and we found another nice campsite within the Mlilwane Game Reserve. This meant waking up in the morning and seeing zebras over the fence - very cool indeed! We also ate our first game meal here, barbecued (or braiied, in local parlance) impala. I did feel a little bit bad, but it tasted pretty good. We had to laugh when we saw the menu for the following day was impala stew - there must have been some leftovers!
We went for a hike up to a local view point - there were three peaks we could see from the campsite, and so we headed out towards them, and ended up, somewhat to our surprise since we were aiming for the middle one, at the one on the right hand side, Matenga View Point. It was a pretty stiff climb, specially in the heat, of about 2 hrs, but a great walk all the same - and a good view (as you would expect) from the top. Coming down was a relative breeze, and we spent the afternoon relaxing round the pool - this is camping African style!
Max with Swaziland all around him.
Our campsite was invited to a Swazi dance show that evening, and off we duly went in the minivan. It was such a hoot - I don't think they were exactly over-prepared, and there were lots of funny moments when unscripted things (like the lead singer/dancer's impala skin skirt dropping to the floor during a vigorous dance manoeuvre) happened. But it was a lot of fun. In fact Swaziland was generally quite light-hearted and relaxed, specially noticeable after the Sth African cities. Interesting to see that part of what seems to be the national dress, is a sarong-like shawl, with a picture of the Swazi king on it, like a giant tea towel. We saw them being worn all over the place, by men and women.
Next stop was the Drakensbergs - specifically Monk's Cowl. I think the Inkosana campsite is probably the best we've stayed in. Fantastic facilities, close to hiking trails, and lovely grass to pitch our tent on. We did a half day walk here, and it reminded us very much of New Zealand - the day was cloudy and foggy, but still quite warm, and the vegetation was similar to the Tararuas, including lots of ferns. Another really nice walk