We woke up on our last morning in Swaziland and it had finally stopped raining. I put on some clothes and went to complain to the manager about the water being off. He had it turned back on. Don’t ask me why it was off. I was just glad we could brush our teeth.
After a mediocre breakfast, we said goodbye and good riddance to the Mantenga non-Tented Camp. (In case you missed Part 2, Mantenga dismantled their lovely tents to build luxurious but leaky safari-chic huts. We won’t stay there again.)
On our way out of Swaziland we stopped at a souvenir place called Swazi Candles – one of our favorite hangouts in Swaziland. Swazi Candles is a quirky, artsy tourist trap. It consists of a complex of buildings, one of which is the candle workshop/studio. Then there are several other shops, a small café, and an outdoor area filled with artisans selling a local crafts.
The candles are beautiful and it’s fun to watch them being made. But our favorite activity there is sitting under the trees at the café, sipping coffee, and watching the batik paintings blow in the wind.
It was a relaxing end to a hectic visit to Swaziland. We put our new candles and placemats in the back of the truck and headed for the border.
Rather than go straight home to Joburg, we decided to stop and visit our friend Vikki, who is now a management trainee at a lodge near the town of Badplaas. (It’s pronounced “BUTT-plahs,” which I can’t help but giggle at. Badplaas means “Bath Farm” in Afrikaans. It was so named because of the natural springs in the town.) After we crossed the border, Joe called Vikki and she gave us directions. “It’s not far,” Joe said when he hung up. We set off.
We drove for an hour or so. We passed through a couple of towns that I couldn’t find on the map. We pulled over. “Is this the R40?” Joe asked a guy walking past. “I don’t know this road’s name,” said the guy.
The paved road became a dirt road and we were suddenly in the middle of the bush. I looked up from studying the map. And saw an elephant.
Turns out we were on an unnamed road that skirts the Songimvelo Nature Reserve. We were heading away from Vikki’s lodge, not toward it. Obviously I am a poor navigator. But in this case my poor navigation skills came in quite handy.
After we’d had our fill of elephant-watching, we turned around and went back the way we came.
We eventually reached Vikki’s lodge, called Dawson’s Game and Trout Lodge. It’s a beautiful old farm that has been converted into a luxurious vacation spot. We had some coffee and Vikki gave us a tour.
Around that time, I realized it was Thanksgiving. There had been so much going on that I’d hardly thought about it. I called my parents, who both sounded a little sad that I wasn’t with them. Sniff.
It was 5:00 p.m. by that time and driving back to Joburg was out of the question. Sadly, Vikki couldn’t get off work to have dinner with us and we definitely couldn’t afford to stay at Dawson’s. But Vikki found us a room at Hlumu Lodge, a more affordable place up the road.
Hlumu (pronounced “Shlumue”) was a cluster of rustic cabins and small main lodge, looking out over the Hlumuhlumu Mountains. Our cabin was completely no-frills, but it was clean and dry and quiet. The water even worked. We were happy.
There were three items on the dinner menu at the Hlumu restaurant: Fish and chips, spaghetti, and chicken schnitzel. Joe and I both opted for the fish and chips.
We were served our dinner by the hotel manager and the cook, both of whom appeared to be about 16 years old. They were the only two employees at the lodge, as far as I could tell. Joe and I were the only guests except for one other couple sitting in the far corner. I can’t recall what the food tasted like, but it was hot and it filled my stomach. A pretty good Thanksgiving dinner as far as I’m concerned.
We slept like logs, ate a hearty breakfast the next morning, and drove home.