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star1 Hatariluminancestar 2- Hatari Pigasus 20- Hatari
John Rice
Hatari It Isn't
Part 3
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Part 2 (jpt Issue 19)
On Friday, we headed out at 8 am to visit the Kingdom of Swaziland, one of the few remaining absolute monarchies.  The kingship is an inherited position. The current holder, a young man in his 30s,  lives an opulent lifestyle in a palace, with multiple wives and a collection of expensive cars, while the majority of his people live in poverty.  Shortly before we arrived, there had been the traditional ceremony in which dozens of young virgins are rounded up, dressed up and permitted to perform a complex dancing routine for the King.  He selects one of the group as his new wife, to add to his others.  Not surprisingly, this setup isn’t terribly popular with the much less affluent citizens.

 The road we took to the kingdom had recently been a dirt track, but now was widened and paved for the most part.  We stopped at the top of the mountain to look back down whence we had come.  We could see the dirt roads still remaining, going off into the distance.  I could easily tell how isolated this place must have been if that was the main route in. 
We reached the border crossing and went inside to present our papers and pay the “road tax.”  Guards at the border, carrying automatic rifles, inspected our bikes for the proper serial numbers and documents. 

South African side
    at the South African side of the Swazi border crossing

 Then after a few yards from the SA border, we came to the Swazi border post, where we had to show our documents again and have our passports stamped.  We passed through a small town, on potholed, broken pavement, and on the other side of this village, were stopped again at a checkpoint.  These soldiers again wanted to check the papers for the bikes, but did not demand our passports.

Where are your papers!
Your papers....where are your papers!

 space Hatari1
Darryl had asked me if I would mind a dirt road route, about 20 kilometers or so, to avoid a long stretch of straight pavement and town traffic. He said he watches riders for the first day or so of the tour to see if he thinks they can make this part.  Apparently I passed the test.  Brenda was a bit apprehensive, but game (as long as I promised to take it slowly), so after turning off the ABS and traction control, away  we went.   The red dirt road went up over a mountain, following the edge of a ridge line most of the way, affording spectacular views of the slopes and valleys below. Not many cars joined us on the road, mostly coming the other way, but the ensuing dust cloud did require a bit of holding the breath.  The surface was partly graveled for some of the distance and it was much easier riding when the gravel ended and we could be on just the red dirt.  In a few spots, there were rocky areas where the dirt surface had worn down to expose some clumps of rock beneath. Brenda wasn’t too happy about these, but I welcomed them as a chance to do a little more technical riding.  I was standing up most of the way, meaning Brenda’s view of this portion of the trip was mainly of my backside.

 At the end of the dirt portion, we filled up at a petrol station in a small town that was having some kind of market day or celebration.  There were hawkers selling their wares on the streets, music playing from different directions and a constant din of voices happily yelling across streets in what sounded like a variety of languages.  The bikes looked as if we'd spray painted them with reddish-brown dust.

 Swaziland seems made entirely of mountains, with the roads carved into the sides or running along the ridges at the top.  As we reached the top of one such peak, Darrell pulled over and told us there was an overlook above us, up a dirt track, looking down on a newly made lake. We bumped our way up to the top and parked in a grassy area between rows of stalls, only one of which was occupied by a vendor.  We walked to the edge and looked down on the new dam and the lake it contained.

View above lake

    Brenda admires the view, but wonders when we're going to get back on pavement
 For several days prior, whenever we went to restaurants that gave us mints at the end of the meal, Darryl had told us to “save them for the Swazi kids.”  On the way out of the overlook, we were met by a group of children who began dancing for us, an enthusiastic if not entirely choreographed performance.  We caught on quickly and Brenda began shelling out the collected sweets.  As soon as each child had received one, they left us and turned to Darryl, even though Brenda still had a few left. I think they'd been through this before... 

perusing menu
perusing the menu at the lakeside restaurant above the dam

Darryl lead us to the Swazi Candle Factory, a small enterprise set in a group of shops off  yet another dirt road.  This is an effort by locals to use their resources and labor to produce something for export and tourism, controlled by themselves within the country.  The slogan is "Lighting Africa."  We watched a woman at a small table, working quickly and expertly to make the brightly colored candles, dipping each one in a bucket of water to set the wax.  On display were hundreds of different varieties, shaped like African animals or odd geometric configurations, all in multicolored wax that seemed impossible to deconstruct into their component parts.  Traveling by motorcycle does limit the number of large heavy things one can bring back, so we got only a small sample of their wares.
at the Swazi candle factory Swazi candle factory
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