Category Archives: Swaziland

Heading West and By the Numbers

A four hour train ride took us from Pamplona to Madrid.  We got lost in the mesmerizing landscape grinning every time a small village with white stone buildings entered the scene.  Lush were the hillsides and fields of agriculture.

We walked by the Atocha Station a couple of times while in Madrid but discovered a lush garden inside after departing the train.It was an easy listless day – train and then a taxi to the hotel near the airport for our flight back to the USA the following morning.

It was an eight and a half hour flight to Newark where we were to have a quick layover and be one our way to Charlotte.  Upon landing lightening crashed in around us and the plane stood still on the tarmac as the airport closed.  An omen.  A half hour later the plane was cleared to head to the gate.

Unbeknownst to us the airline industry and particularly United was in melt down mode.  It was utter chaos. Cancelled flights and stranded people.  Our connecting flight to Charlotte a victim.

It was 5:00 pm.  A United agent told us it would be days before any  seats would be available. “Check online.” The internet confirmed the worst.

We had places to be!  The following day was our grandson’s first birthday and our son had taken time off of work – we didn’t have days…. who has days???

Quick change of plans – we rented a car and headed to Charlotte driving until dark.  It was 1:30 am Madrid time by the time we stopped for the night somewhere in Maryland.

We arrived at our destination 21 hours late but in time to celebrate.

We visited family, broke bread, raced cars and played with our grand babies. 

United continued its melt down and we feared we’d not make it home to Nevada as scheduled.  It all worked out – both flights harmoniously were delayed and we made it home.Now we shift through months of mail, dust off the house and get ready for summer.  We head out again in 8 days.

Our trip by the numbers:

13 flights, 1 cruise ship, a few boat rides, multiple trains, lots of car rides,  one tram – 34 beds and 18 Countries: South Africa, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, French Comoros, Seychelles, Omán, EAU, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Spain.

I wore everything that I packed, left one shirt (on purpose) and threw out 2 that I ruined.  I way overpacked even though we just had carry on.  Another lesson learned (again).  Way less is even more!

Thanks for following along!


The Kingdom of Eswatini

I ate some humble pie this morning as I face planted it in the hotel lobby. On the phone, and walking with my heavy pack on, I twisted my ankle (which I’m famous for doing ) and was unable to stop the slow motion fall. I heard the workers in the reception area gasp and then come running. There was no hiding.

Since we’ve never driven on the right hand side of the road we hired a driver to take us to Eswatini.  

It was a zigzaggy climb out of Johannesburg. Condos became homes – smaller than the ones upon entry but equally guarded by razor or electrical fencing.

The first stop was to get gas. Everyone left their cars running as the attendant pumped the gas. Fumes filled our lungs and I prayed we wouldn’t explode.

The hills became rich farmland with corn fields as far as the eye could see. It remained constant for a couple hours until we exited the N1 highway for a smaller 2 lane country road. Farmland gave way to man made eucalyptus and pine tree forests for miles on end. 

*click on photos to enlarge (many are life outside the car’s window)

Swaziland was renamed Eswatini (which t he locals have not embraced) in 2018 when the king celebrated the country’s 50th year of independence and his 50th birthday. We’re told he currently has 13 wives and 35 children. He rules the country with ultimate power unlike the British monarchy.

Our driver also told us that in Eswatini a man can not buy farm land (acreage) unless he has a wife. Marinate on that for awhile…

Mbabane is the condensed capital city which rests in the bottom of an old mine. Thankfully we stayed in Lobamba in the Ezulwini Valley where the area is dense with greenery reminiscent of Asia.  Per the hotel’s write up we were tucked beneath Sheba’s Breast Mountain. 

The central and most inhabited areas of Eswatini are surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains and farm land in the Valley.

The next day we toured the high points of Eswatini and visited a homestead where Bill helped Grandma get the chicken ready to become lunch. Fetching water for their home from the tap up the hill tested our strength after being sedentary for the past month.  I was encouraged to carry a pail full of water on my head which is customary.  I barely could lift it with my hands and could only imagine my neck bones crushing under the weight.  If only he had made the suggestion when it was empty!

Upon exiting the country and going back into South Africa the border guard, with a big smile on his face, asked if we smoked ganja. He was serious and then greatly disappointed when we said no. Although illegal in Swaziland it is known to grow the best marijuana in all the region.

It was until 2:00 pm that we started our 9 hour drive to Underberg, South Africa. The roads are riddled with potholes and make driving tenuous. We were in the car 14 hours – arriving in Underberg at 11:00 pm. Our next driver would pick us up in 7 hours…