March 9, 2018
Kruger to Swaziland
Time: 3 Hours (excluding game drive time and border post shenanigans)
We woke up at 6am to drive out of Kruger and do a little bit of paw searching. We weren’t exactly thrilled given how it turned out last night, but we were riding out and the guide reassured us that animals in Kruger are easy to spot. It was a beautiful day, fresh air, hanging clouds, and strangely enough I slept well. Breakfast was great at Berg-En Dal. It overlooked the watering hole. A couple of elephants swung by so we had a great view of them spraying water. We shared it with a bunch of Poles and their super enthusiastic guide. They have been to the same places we were going to, except that we were doing the reverse and met half way at Berg En Dal.
The most exciting vista we’ve captured was a herd of buffalos with swarming flies buzzing around them. I was amazed by how my Canon intricately captured the flies. Kruger is different. Kruger has mounds scattered around, there are more signs and people to help you if you get a flat tire or you’re being chased.
It took us an hour to get to Jeppe’s Reef, the border post at Swaziland, renamed to Eswatini, just after we left the country. We were expecting a smooth entry and then R&R at Mantenga Lodge located in the Elzuwini Valley aka Valley of Heaven. You bet, it was amazing! However, we had to overcome one obstacle. The border control officers spent a long time looking for our visas. Despite having checked a thousand times and re-confirming with the embassy that we do not need visas, the officers couldn’t find our waiver (for the country as a whole) on their system. At one point the officer got mad at me and our guide came in to do his thing – poke his nose then call everyone brother. He ‘saved the day’ and we were granted visa on arrival ONLY if we left via Jeppes Reef which would add another 4 hours into our journey to the next stop. We were supposed to leave via another border post closer to Golden Gate National Park back in SA, our next destination. We trusted the guide to know what he was doing, paid and agreed to add 4 more hours.
Despite all this, I was tense because of the way things panned out. I don’t know what went down but I was paranoid AF and wanted to punch the guide for acting like some kind of hero. We crisscrossed through spectacular scenery and mountains. I was tense. We stopped by view points taking in O2 as fresh AF, cowbells clanging in the background. I was still tense. My rotten attitude didn’t get in the way of appreciating the valleys though. Once we pulled into the hotel at 3:30pm, I totally forgot about the whole ordeal. The country side was pure bliss, I felt nothing but gratitude for being able to take a break from the road and spend two nights in this leafy retreat. The internet connection was slow, phone reception was on and off (off for the most part) but it didn’t matter.
Before we pulled into the resort, the guide rambled on about an annual event, the Umhlanga Reed Dance Ceremony. Thousands of maidens do this dance for the Queen’s mom. It’s an open invite on specific days. Like everyone, even tourists! Bummed we’d miss a colorful experience like this one, we opted to chillax in the vicinity of our resort, aka visit a couple of hip restaurants that served pizza and souvenir shops. We had dinner at the lodge and the setting was perfect. Dim lights, fresh food and a crowded atmosphere.