Before man, mammals, birds, fish, viruses and eukaryotes, there was the Swaziland Supergroup. This sequence of rocks, found in the country’s North-West, contains traces of ancient granite / greenstone belts dating back 3.5 billion years to the Archaean epoch, making them some of oldest identifiable rocks on Earth.
Among these rocks are batholiths, large domes formed by molten rock that was pushed up from the Earth’s mantle into underground chambers, where it cooled before eventually being exposed on the surface by erosion.
Among these batholiths is Sibebe, the largest batholith in the world, the second largest monolith in the world (after Uluru), and also the name of a local Swazi beer, which is fairly apt given that a cold beer is exactly what you crave after climbing the darn thing.
Yes, this past weekend, I underwent the Swazi rite of passage and survived Sibebe……just. As Becky and I headed off from the main gate on Sunday morning, we were given one piece of advice: Follow the arrows. Things were looking good as we passed our first arrow at the start, and then turned rather sour 200 metres down the track as we found ourselves wandering through a homestead whilst being surrounded by rabid dogs. The owner kindly put us back on track – through overgrown grass with NO arrows – but it wasn’t long before our adventurous / navigationally challenged side found us track-less once again.
After getting lost in the Himalayas 10-odd years ago, being lost around Sibebe did not concern me. After all, our destination was a massive big rock that would be impossible to miss. Surely! So, we wandered along and soon enough came face-to-face with a massive big exposed granite face. Certain we were on the right path (despite not actually having a path), we decided to take the most direct route to the top – straight up.
We made it, and in record time (less than an hour!). What’s more, the views were spectacular. So spectacular, that as we looked out from the top of that shiny dome, we saw another shiny dome a little further in front of us. Were we actually on Sibebe? As we pondered this question I instinctively pulled out my smartphone and switched on the GPS. It confirmed that we were indeed in the middle of nowhere. Don’t judge me.
With plenty of wind left in the sails, we decided to tackle the other dome regardless. As we reached that mighty peak, another lofty bald spot loomed large ahead of us, making us once again doubt our location. Not to be beaten, we made our way towards the summit of our third possible Sibebe – this was shaping up to be a long day. As we got closer, we were frightened and then elated to hear the sound of other humans who, it turned out, were a bunch of our friends chilling out in a cave. They politely guided us in the right direction, up and through tiny caverns until finally we knew we had made it. We had summitted Sibebe.
The next challenge, of course, was making our way back down and since finding the world’s biggest batholith proved to be such a trial, how on earth were we going to find our comparatively tiny car? With sheer determination, we headed off in the general direction, stopping only for a quick dip at a bubbling brook. I believe we managed to make it most of the way on a well-defined track until the last couple of kilometres, at which point we took another scenic detour past homesteads before ending up on the main road only a few hundred metres from the car park. Tired we were, yet triumphant.