After the wedding of the year, the enjoyment of the weekend continued, largely due to the fact that Swaziland had yet another long weekend – this time to celebrate the past King Sobhuza’s birthday. With two days up my sleeve, I decided to join some friends on an international trip. Okay, so by international I mean a two-hour drive just across the Swazi-South African border. My spirits were high, though, as it was the first time I’d been out of Swaziland since I’d arrived.
The ultimate destination was White River, but first we had a roadtrip planned. We had to pass by Barberton, an historic goldmining area and the site of SA’s first stock exchange, then through Nelspruit, the provincial capital of Mpumulanga. We stopped for a quick bite at the Wild Fig Cafe in Sabie, a cute leafy town set on a hillside. Then we made our way to Blyde River Canyon, passing through another cute town called Graskop and stopping at lookouts galore on the way. When I had told people that I would be heading to this area on the weekend, I received an overwhelming outpour of compliments about the region and the drive. Even Lonely Planet, the backpacker’s bible, describes it as “one of South Africa’s most scenic areas”. Needless to say, my expectations had been raised.
Now, if I hadn’t travelled through Australia and seen Cradle Mountain, the Blue Mountains, Mitchell’s Falls, Purnululu, or Karijini, I would probably agree that this drive to Blyde River was incredibly scenic. Instead, for me, it was…..pleasant. The Pinnacle had one skyscraper-like formation, as opposed to our hundred-odd little spikes. God’s Window offered so much promise in its name, alone, and did provide a view of greenery as far as the eye could see. Unfortunately, the greenery was almost endless pine plantations that had replaced the indigenous landscape. Our last stop, The Three Rondavels, did actually bring a murmur of “Wow” to my lips, mostly for its view of a blue lake in front of overlapping hilly silhouettes rather than the rondavels themselves. Sadly, and gladly, Australia has ruined me in the best possible way.
After we were viewed out, we made our way back to Sarina’s Lodge in White River, owned and managed by Cecilia. This place did meet my expectations, as I enjoyed a steaming hot shower before dousing my insides with chilled wine by a crackling fire. With limited dining options on a Sunday night, we headed to Nelspruit to eat at Spur, a steak and burger chain that offers a variety of menu items dominated by meat, covered in cheese or deep-fried (or all three!).
After a rough night’s sleep due to an encroaching cold, Monday in White River/Nelspruit was spent doing what all Swazis come to Nelspruit to do: Shop. My first priority was nuts, lots of them, and I wasn’t disappointed. Ambassador Foods, you are my saviour, with your kilo of cashews for only AUD$10! Second priority was bicycle accessories, and for this I relied on Valencias, a material and home goods store like Spotlight, but with bike gear. Every girl’s dream. Finally, it was lunch at the Riverside Mall, before stashing our newly purchased goods in secret hiding spaces in the car to avoid paying tax on the Swazi border, and crashing out in my own bed, exhausted after three days of adventures.