Monday, December 03, 2007

Swaziland + more photos

First, another polite African sign

And a picture of me in my hole at the Convention Centre
And, a note that today is my last day working in the above hole, and the end of my Internet access until I get back to the states.

Back to the journal (photos are still in 'catch up' mode). Speaking of 'catch up', here, what we call catsup or ketcup is "tomato sauce."

We departed for the Kingdom of Swaziland, about 40 minutes from our Hluhluwe hotel. There, we showed our passports to exit South Africa, walked a short distance across the border and got them stamped again as we entered Swaziland. The drive took us through the gamut—subsistence farmers living in little more than shacks, and up through more ‘modern’ buildings built of concrete, and then into the capital city with some exorbitant mansions on the hillsides, parks, and typical urban bustle. Along the way, it seemed there was an abundance of hair salons. Not sure why. We stopped for lunch in a small craft village, then got back on the bus for the drive to the Piggs Peak Hotel and Casino. The travel gods were not with us this time, however, and after being stuck behind a slow-moving tractor trailer hauling who knows what, with a driver who refused to pull off to the shoulder to let anyone pass, our bus began to overheat.

Seat rotation had put us in the front seat behind Allenby, giving us a view of his shirt as he stood to point out everything along the way. We could see the temperature indicator on the driver’s side climb into the red, and when he and Allenby discussed which way to go at the turnoff to Piggs Peak (all spoken in Afrikaans, but fairly easy to figure out), and we went in the other direction, we figured something was wrong. Allenby announced another comfort and shopping stop at a glass factory, even though we had just stopped about 45 minutes earlier, and his normal “pace” between stops is more like 2 hours. However, he didn’t indicate anything was wrong to the passengers, told us to be ready in 40 minutes. At that point, what with numerous people poking around the bus’s engine and speaking rapid-fire Afrikaans, it was clear something was wrong, and probably a little more than an overheated engine. Allenby reported an extension for another half hour, but by now most of us had figured out there was a serious problem.

I don’t know why people can’t just be honest – most folks will tolerate at LOT if they’re told what’s going on. Finally, he wandered back and said we’d blown a head gasket, but he was ‘working on it’ as far as getting us to the hotel and getting a replacement bus.

Due to the kindhearted nature of another tour bus driver, we waited for him to drop off his tour group about 5 km up the road, come back, load all our luggage, and drive us another hour to the hotel. The replacement bus was supposed to be on its way and would be crossing the border into Swaziland when it opened at 7 the next morning. We got to our hotel by about 8 and I crashed.

Zebra in Hluhluwe

Note the "5th leg" on this male elephant.

Now -- in an earlier post, I said that as a writer, naming characters is a challenge because people often have preconceived images of someone with that name. Of course, as parents, we can't be sure how our kids will 'grow into' their names, but I promised you a picture of our guide, Allenby. He's on the left. Does he look like what you pictured? (Andres, our bus driver, is on the right.)

An aside: Allenby reported that he was the first to train blacks to become bus drivers for tours. Under apartheid, they couldn't stay at the hotels with the tour groups, but after it was abolished, he pushed to get jobs for them with tour companies.

1 comment:

Dara Edmondson said...

Cool stuff and pix. I love the signs. I bet Dan loved seeing all the animals.