With three weeks of relentless cloud cover and drizzle, we were finally blessed with a two-day reprieve of glorious sunshine. Fortunately, that reprieve fell on a weekend, and it was on this weekend that Helene, Louise and I decided to head to the South-West of Swaziland to a little place called Mahamba.
Mahamba roughly means “runaways”. It is the area where, in 1844, Christian missionaries first set up shop in Swaziland. For a couple of years things went well for them, with many locals converting and a school being established. However, the Wesleyans soon found themselves caught in the middle of a row between the king and a rebellious relation who was hiding nearby, which eventually erupted into violence in the mission yard. No missionaries were hurt, but they fled the country none-the-less, and the name Mahamba stuck.
Our journey started well, buoyed by the surprising weather. One hundred kilometres in, however, things started turning sour. A light rattling in the car forced us to pull over for a look and we found leaking oil and a baking engine. A single call to the mechanic and it was decided that we needed to be towed home. Still, one could not waste the sumptuous sunshine, so while waiting for our knights in towing armour, we decided to enjoy a picnic lunch and a dash or two of rum, helping the time to evaporate. The festivities continued as we were towed back to town, where they dropped us off and I grabbed my car to attempt the adventure a second time.
We arrived at Mahamba Lodge in the late afternoon, a community-run enterprise with beautiful self-catering stone-walled cottages overlooking a gorge and the (now bulging) Mkhondvo river. The remainder of the evening was spent sipping wine on the deck, as we soaked up the views, chatted under the (almost) full moonlight, and made friends with the resident mouse.
After a nice sleep and huge breakfast, it was time to do some exercise, so we set about hiking toward the ridge of the gorge. As the sun continued to rise, Louise opted to head home, while Helene and I pushed onwards, upwards and around. The view from the top was……windy…..but for those moments we were able to stay upright, it was also beautiful. It stretched far into South Africa and showed off the sheer lines cutting into the gorge face opposite. As we descended using the most direct and, hence, steep “route” available, the river beckoned us nearer. Upon closer inspection of the muddy waters, though, we decided not to venture in, but we still enjoyed the itchy grass and slippery rock scramble alongside it – no doubt disturbing several deadly snakes in their warming slumber.
Louise was already preparing lunch on our return (bless her!), which we enjoyed leisurely before making our way home. No trip to Mahamba is complete, however, without first paying a visit to Swaziland’s oldest (intact) Christian church, a gothic Methodist structure built in 1912. It owes its continued existence to some recent renovations, and a swathe of masking tape. We also detoured slightly into the bustling metropolis of Nhlangano, the region’s capital, before paying our respects to the previous day’s injured vehicle by stopping where it did and crossing a rustic old bridge that we’d spied from the tow truck. The two days of sunshine and adventure was bliss and just enough to prepare us for the return to Swaziland’s wintery summer.