Friday, November 18, 2011



Even though crossing from South Africa to Swaziland involved driving through a gate, it was very apparent we had just entered another country. We drove through and there was a dirt road with a plywood sign with hand-painted letters reading, "Welcome to Swaziland". Then we drove through dirt roads and fields until we finally found the main road which was (thankfully) paved. We found Swaziland to be even more rural than South Africa. We never came across any big cities or even a big town. The land was really lush with these magnificent trees (possibly jacarandas) covered in purple flowers.

We drove around trying to find someplace to stay before dark. We found a lodge that had a room. It was an unusual place with an unusual caretaker who chose to sleep in a tent in the yard even though there was a whole house filled with empty beds. It wasn't the most comfortable or cleanest place to stay but we were happy to have a place to sleep for the night. When we went out for dinner we realized we didn't have any Swazi money. The waitress said it was no problem because they took south African rands and they were worth the same amount anyway.

The next morning, Sunday, November 6th, we went to the Swazi Cultural Village. We got a guided tour of the village and our guide let us go inside the huts. The doorways are very small and you have to crawl to get inside. The straw used to make them keep them cool and dry inside. Once children are six years old they sleep in separate huts from their parents. Girls and boys also sleep in separate huts.
Girls will marry around the age of 18 whereas the men would not get married until the age of about 30. The reason for this is because they have to pay the girl's father a dowry of between 10-20 cows. The price varies depending on whether she is a virgin or not and several other factors that will be negotiated between the groom and father. If the men can afford it they are allowed as many as two wives. A typical family would have 7-10 children. This would ensure that the parents would have someone to take care of them in their old age-Swazi Social Security.
The men would be responsible for hunting for food and the women would cook, clean, and take care of the children. The wife must always be subservient to the husband and when feeding him his meal she must bow, leave the food and back away. When eating meat, she is not allowed to eat the brain for fear she will become smarter than the man. She may not eat the tongue for fear she will talk too much. And she may not eat the feet for fear she will walk away and leave him.

After the tour, we were treated to a performance of traditional Swazi singing and dancing. This was so much fun and somehow the tribesmen kept dragging me into the act!

Afterward, we walked up the trail to see Mantenga falls and then we got back on the road and headed back to South Africa. We had no cash left so we stopped at an ATM and took out 1200 Swazi Lilangeni. We crossed over three border checkpoints to get into S.A. and then drove another hour to our lodge. When we got there we found out that they don't accept credit cards and no one in S.A. Accepts Swazi currency even though Swaziland will accept South African Rands. So the next morning we tried the bank and they wouldn't exchange it for us. They told us to try the exchange bureau at the Mozambique border. So we drove to the border of Mozambique but they didn't want it either. Even the ladies who sit on the side of the road at the border crossing and try to get you to change your money with them before you go into the exchange office didn't want our money.

The only thing we could do was drive back to Swaziland. So we drove an hour back to the border, got our passports stamped leaving S.A., drove into Swaziland, got our passports stamped entering Swaziland, and changed the money at customs. Then we got back in the car but the south African official wouldn't let us in until we went back and got a stamp to enter S.A. again. So we parked the car again, went back into the S.A. immigration office and got our stamps, all while providing entertainment and outbursts of laughter amongst the border patrol guards. We got in the car again and drove to the S.A. gate but this time the guard had to check our immunization cards just in case we might have come in contact with any diseases during our ten-minute visit to Swaziland that we hadn't been vaccinated for.

We thoroughly enjoyed both of our visits to Swaziland and found each of them to be a unique cultural experience in their own way!

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