I walked with them on the first day as they were planning to do 15 km, but boys being boys, they didn’t want to stop walking, so we ended up covering 27 km in the first day! It wasn’t too bad, as the route we took was pretty flat so it wasn’t too strenuous and they have it easy – no haversacks to carry with them, we did all the cooking for them and we stayed in an educational lodge at the Game Reserve – not a tent in sight!! It was a really good day, giving me a chance to talk to some of the boys and get to know them. They all speak a little English, some better than others as Siswati is the main spoken language but English is the official written language. The boys we took were between 17 and 25, so they liked having a laugh and a joke! Most of it I didn’t understand but we had a pretty good idea! Andreas and Iris have been here for 8 months already and have a good grounding in Siswati, so they were able to translate some things. It was lovely in the evening as it gets dark around 5:30 we were all gathered round the fire cooking the food and chatting and having a sing song – the boys are all Westlife fans so I’m in good company!
I wasn’t feeling too well on the second day of the trip – had a really bad tummy – so I didn’t walk. I was feeling very, very homesick though and at one point really wanted to come home, but that’s part of travelling I suppose! As the boys arrived back from the walk, they’d covered nearly 30 km so well over the 48 km they were supposed to do, I was feeling a little better and we walked over to the football pitch which was about half a mile walk away across a river with no water in – all good fun! The boys played soccer as they call it (trying to educate them that its football lol) for a good solid 90 mins! I was impressed! There was no way I was getting up there though – my hand to eye co-ordination for ball sports is nil. I was content watching and talking to some of the boys who weren’t playing. They’d bought a chess board with them and I attempted to teach them how to play – which is difficult when you don’t fully understand the rules yourself…….
On the third day of the trip, we were supposed to be finishing off the walking, but as the boys had well and truly completed their miles, we set to work with the other aspect of the Prince Makosini Award, which is the Service. The lodge at the Game Reserve we stayed at was an educational centre – focusing on global warming, biodiversity, sustainability and those kind of things which are at the forefront of British news but has yet to hit the mainstream here. It is aiming to be self-sufficient (from what I could work out), so has a vegetable garden and a guinea fowl breeding programme (don’t fully understand how that helps…). We helped with the vegetable garden, by rotating the soil, weeding it and watering it. The rainy season has just finished here and it's coming into winter (still averaging temps of 25 degrees though!) so the garden will need more looking after. I got stuck in and helped the boys with the gardening, but it was hard-graft in mid-day heat. We left the Game Reserve about 12:30ish and drove back to Manzini, which is about an hours drive away. I didn’t see many animals while we were there – caught a glimpse of an alligator and some birds. There were lots of impala tracks, but wasn’t lucky enough to see one. Swaziland is such a beautiful country, very mountainous (but not overly, in between mountains and hills if that makes sense!)
Yesterday, we went to Ezulini Valley which is one of the main tourist areas in Swaziland. We went to the local market there which is a 500m row of shanty stalls selling all sorts of African arts and Crafts. It was amazing! The stall holders could be a bit pushy at times, but it’s their livelihood and remember “it’s free to look”! Again the scenery there was beautiful, the drive over was amazing. I kept having to ask Iris to slow down so that we could absorb it all!
Today we’re going to a club-type place called house on fire, where Johnny Clegg is playing (apparently he’s a really popular singer from South Africa) so that should be good! We’re taking a picnic with us and making a day of it – I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s the school holidays at the moment so everything’s completely off timetable, just trying to do whatever I can to help. Mainly following Iris around until I get my bearings properly and I feel more confident about things.
I hope everyone’s ok! Sending all my love to good old Blighty and I’ll e-mail again soon!
Megan x x x