We crossed the border into Swaziland at Jeppe’s Reef and drove through the densely forested mountains to Piggs Peak. I don’t believe I have ever seen such tall and straight trees and we saw many logging trucks carrying the lumber that is used in the “post and beam” construction in these parts. The mountains and valleys are extremely scenic and we also enjoyed seeing the people as they went about their business at road side stalls, in small towns, and walking along the road. We saw lots of school children walking the road to or from school – many of them quite small – probably 7 or 8 years old. The local mode of transport – little white mini buses – zoom along and stop frequently to pick people up.
Just before Mbabane (the capital) we stopped at a glass making foundry where recycled bottles are used to make beautiful glassware. We saw a very innovative wine carafe with a dimple for holding ice to cool the wine, but decided against buying it due to difficulty taking it in our luggage. We also saw some beautiful locally woven silk, mohair, and cotton made into scarves, shawls, blankets, etc. and gorgeous colorful and finely woven baskets. Most of these products are created by local women and sold through cooperatives.
We skirted Mbabane and drove in the eZulwini valley making a stop at a Swazi cultural village. We had an excellent tour given by a young Swazi woman who explained life as it was in rural environments and how many of the cultural habits linger today. For example, it is legal to have more than one wife – in fact the King, whom we saw in a motor cavalcade on our way to this village! – has 16 wives and his father had 70 or so!!! A virgin wife costs 17 cows or the equivalent of 5,000 rand per cow! We continued our drive until we reached The Forester’s Arms where we are staying for one night. What a charming place! dating back to the 50’s it has all the old charm that one imagines. The staff were amazingly attentive and helpful and the women all wore traditional “mother-in-law dresses” (good dresses one would wear to visit or meet your mother-in-law!) The food was exceptional.