Driving to Swaziland from Pretoria in South Africa you first have to pass through the drier than dry plains of Mpumalunga. The highway dips and rolls and the heat slick on the road recedes forever ahead. The land around is empty but people appear on the side of the road to walk or hitch in the hot sun.
Once through the hills into Swazi it is much greener and mountainous. I found the atmosphere to be much more relaxed and friendly than neighbouring South Africa.
So what is there to do in Swaziland (beyond getting a stamp in your passport from this tiny land-locked country) if you’ve only got a few days to visit?
The administrative centre of Manzini is thronged with Jacarandas in full magnificent purple bloom and has colourful local markets where I loved the sound of chatter and laughter while browsing through the craftwork on sale.
I wasn’t too sure about the guide-book-recommended model cultural village visit but in the end did enjoy the rhythms of the music and dancing:
Hlane Royal National Park is known for its cheetahs and I encountered a very regal cat, reclining in the long grass and allowing me to walk to within 20ft. There was no one else visiting, a contrast from the game parks of South Africa.
As I was walking around the campsite in the evening a self important warthog rushing past with tail straight up in the air, followed in the dusk by a family of giraffes rocking (you can’t call it running) across a gap in the trees, then turned to face a rhino mock charging, not me but another couple of rhino.
It was a lovely Africa experience and Swaziland is a small but perfectly formed glimpse of Africa.
By Natasha von Geldern