If ever there’s a day to miss home, it’s January 26. This was not helped by all the pictures of sunny skies and azure water-based fun that I saw being posted on Facebook – thanks guys! However, in a glass half full kind of way, and being the first Australia / Invasion Day away from Australia in about 10 years, I knew that I had to do my best to bring the magnificence of Australia to Swaziland.
So, I rustled up as many Aussies as I could find (5), plus as many others who were willing to play the part of Aussies (7), and together we headed up the hill to the Rock Lodge (Kopholo Lodge). You may, or may not, remember the Rock Lodge from my blog dating back to September 2012. Needless to say, in a landlocked country, there was no white sand or sweet surf breaks, but with some off-road driving, semi-camping, hiking and water nearby, it had all the makings of typical Aussie weekend getaway. To make the environment a little more like home, we were able to create a weekend of feasts that would make many Aussies slobber with envy.
Upon arrival, we kicked off the proceedings by plastering everyone in attendance with temporary Aussie flag tattoos. Then we indulged in some freshly baked ANZAC biscuits, married with crispy cold beers. As evening approached, and we watched the sun setting over the hills, we lit up the barbie to blacken copious amounts of meat. (Actually, if we’re being honest, people from the nearby community lit the fire in exchange for a donation. They also removed many of the resident wasps – some of those perks you don’t get in Australia). The meat to salad ratio was in perfect Aussie proportions – 5:1 – meaning after we had got our fill of protein, coleslaw, potato salad and green stuff, we had just enough space to squeeze in a piece of crispy, melty, chewy pavlova. That is, if you were fast enough – I ran away to get the camera and came back to 80% of the pav gone! Our temporary Aussie contingent were clearly filling their role well.
The following morning, we awoke to a slightly overcast, but otherwise balmy summer’s day. Freshly brewed coffee and tea awaited us, followed by the breakfast of champions – Shakshuka (eggs and tomato/vege stew), and Vegemite on Toast (thanks Thorpie!). Then, for the energetic amongst us, it was a hike down to the Ngwempisi river for a dip, while a few stayed behind to enjoy the Aussie tradition of dropping our daks. No, there were no moonies, just an outdoor shower shared with grasshoppers, overlooking mountains and the river, while modesty was protected at all times by a big boulder.
The festivities ended by filling our bellies once more with leftovers and then removing any possible last ounce of tension with massages, courtesy of one of our weekend Australians.
All in all, I think we did pretty well to replicate an Australian experience in the Swazi bush, with a few extra touches. Despite some of down under’s imperfections, I am so proud to call Australia home. Yet, in the absence of feeling Australia’s soft sand beneath my feet, being an Australian in Swaziland is a pretty awesome alternative.