The cold Johannesburg morning forces me to hide in the comfort of my electric blanket and toss a duvet over my head. I’m fresh off a safari in Kruger National Park, and still waking up at dawn, though there’s not much to wake up for. I’m not inspired by Johannesburg, and with only a week left in Africa, I decide I need to make the most of it.
I roll up to a seated position and flip open my laptop. I see the wild coast, the Drakensberg Mountains, and Zimbabwe to the North. Then, I spot a tiny country wedged between Mozambique and South Africa.
“I should go to Swaziland!”
I laugh at the thought that this is what my life has become. I love how I can just wake up and decide to go to Swaziland. I can just roll out of bed, pack my bags, and venture off towards lands unknown to me, and many. I love that even in this world that seems to grow smaller every year, I can still have a spontaneous adventure to a place I know nothing about.
The road through South Africa to Swaziland is dramatic. The road winds up an impressive mountain then tumbles back down the other side. Views stretch to the horizon, and wide open spaces seem to carry on endlessly. Nearing the border, the landscape turns flat and it reminds me of a scene from Mongolia.
I cross the border in mere minutes and with a welcome and a warm Swazi smile, I waltz into a country I had no plans to visit even just a couple hours ago.
The wide freeway carves around heavy cliffs, and then bobs and weaves through mountainous valleys. The humble Swazi capital sits nestled in a pocket within the mountainous setting, and I skirt past it towards a national park called Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary.
Unline Kruger National Park, Mlilwane is tiny and much less developed. There is also a lack of big game, though rare species of antelope, plenty of zebras, and a wealth of bird life find sanctuary here. The lack of big game, however, has its positives as I can walk or bike through the park whereas in the big National Parks of Africa you are rarely allowed to leave your vehicle.
Aside from the animals, the views aren’t bad either. Tall rocky mountains rise up from the yellow grasses. Bright red mud roads carve through the national park, and crystal lakes reflect the world around them majestically. I find peace in Mlilwane and don’t feel the same stress to experience it as I did with Kruger.
After three days of photos, exploration and a touch of relaxation, my spontaneous time in Swaziland comes to an end. And as I drive away I am again struck by the fact that I can race away to places like this on a whim. But I’m also stuck by the realization that these unplanned excursions, the ones lacking any sort of planning at all, always seem to be the best. Without expectations, or knowing what one can see, your expectations can only be exceeded by what you experience.
I don’t know if I’ll ever be back in Swaziland. But if I am, next time I promise to spend more than three days.