We finally had a morning to sleep in after the last few days on the IES trip. We woke up with jut the nine of us left in the hostel after everyone else left for Jo’burg to fly back to Cape Town or other destinations for the rest of the break. Myxo, our driver picked us up at the hostel after breakfast. Six of us went in Myxo’s van while the last three got a ride with Myxo’s friend Rizzo in his hot pink Chico. We were traveling to Swaziland in style! It was only a couple hours to the border, and Myxo offered to take us around before checking into our hostel. We went to the Ngwenya glass factory and into the city of Mbabane where we stopped at a market with traditional medicines and other goods. Our last stop before the hostel was a cultural village. It was clear to us that the village was a replica and not actually functional, but the music, song and dance were still amazing to see and it was clear how proud the people were of their Swazi culture.
We woke up ready for our hike to Execution Rock but it was raining so we waited it out watching VH1 Classics and playing in the pool. When it cleared up we started our walk to the mountain. Since we were in a game reserve, we encountered impala, zebra, wildebeest, warthogs and baboons along our way. The map provided by the hostel was confusing and we got turned around a couple times, but we eventually made our way to the top of Execution Rock where we had a view across Swaziland. We could see the cultural village we visited the day before and hear their drums.
After an early breakfast we piled into our zebra-striped mini-bus and started our drive to Durban. After a few hours we reached the South African border, but we still had about four hours to Durban. When we reached Durban we ran into some other IES students at our hostel who told us about their experience in Durban so far.
We ate dinner at an Thai & sushi restaurant near Florida Road, Durban’s main strip. Dinner was delicious and the conversation and company made it all the better. We called it an early night to get ready for our trip to the Drakensbergs the next day.
We left Durban early to get to the Drakensbergs, the mountain range that makes up part of the South Africa Lesotho border, by mid-afternoon. Four of us went to a music festival not far from our lodge, and the rest of us went straight to the lodge to explore the surroundings. We checked in and made a quick lunch before heading out to hike the short Stromness trail loop. As we hiked up the mountain we could hear Zulu song and drum echoing through the valley, and when I scanned the hills through my camera lens I could actually see the celebration going on at a house in the distance. This has definitely been one of the most memorable experiences during my time in South Africa so far. After hiking down the mountain we did a short walk to a waterfall in the valley. We took some time to follow the river and found a place to swim in another smaller waterfall. We ate dinner at the lodge before the others got back from the music festival.
After another early wake up we made a big family breakfast consisting of eggs, beans, cheese and more toast. At nine we all jumped into our 4×4, four of us cramming into the back seat. We had about an hour long “African massage” (a really bumpy ride) from Sani Lodge to the South African border post where we received our exit stamps in our passports. Then came the real fun. The rest of the road to Lesotho consisted of countless switchbacks up the mountain into the clouds. When we reached the top of the pass we were totally enveloped in clouds. We walked past Basotho shepherds with their herds of sheep and goats to the Lesotho border post.
We drove through a small village and around a mountain past more shepherds and their sheep. When we got to the area where we were supposed to hike, our driver decided it was best if we didn’t since it was too cloudy and foggy. We were all pretty tired from bracing ourselves against the African massage all day, so we weren’t too disappointed. We made our way back to the village where we were invited into one of the mud and rock rondavel homes. The homeowner had prepared some sour home-brewed beer and uncovered some bread for us that had been baked in a cauldron covered in coals.
We learned about the history of Lesotho and the Basotho people, then made our way back to the border. Before we crossed back into South Africa we stopped at the Highest Pub in Africa. It was warmed by a toasty wood stove and the walls were covered in international currencies, photos and skis for the occasional snow storms that hit the Drakensbergs.
We made our way to the Durban Airport where we ran into some fellow IES students and caught our flight to Johannesburg. Most of the IES students who did not return to Cape Town after Kruger were on the same flight as us returning to Cape Town, so we all shared stories about our trips as we waited for our flight home.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Alex Paone is a junior at the University of Vermont, majoring in Anthropology and double-minoring in African Studies and Geography. He enjoys photography, cooking, hiking and has a passion for travel. Alex is looking forward to calling Cape Town home and also exploring more of Africa beyond Cape Town and South Africa.</span></p>