This weekend was Alejandra’s 22nd birthday and we celebrated by taking in some Swazi sights, walking a lot and fitting in a scary number of movies.
Friday after work, we picked up a few things in town and headed home just before it got dark. We had dinner with our family and then hung out with our older brother and some of his friends in the house next to ours. It was fun to meet some new people, drink yummy rosé and stay up later than we had in a while (aka past 9pm). We left the guys early to fall asleep watching movies, with an added soundtrack of the always-on TV, music from next door and our friendly neighbourhood roosters.
On Saturday, we started Ale’s birthday off with what we thought was a trip to the Ezulwini Craft Market. First we walked with Sonto to the Corner Plaza for lunch at Galito’s and then turned the corner to find 6 stalls set up. The crafts were beautiful, and we managed to find a few little things to bring home. The other UBC girls had told us about a market with hundreds of stalls, so when Sonto said the next market was just down the road, we figured that’s where she was taking us. Almost half an hour (of mainly uphill) later, we arrived at the entrance to the Royal Swazi Spa to find one craft stall! I was a little disappointed, but I’m sure the walk was good for us; we’ll visit the actual market some other time.
Once home we passed out on our beds, watching movies and relaxing from our walk, until dinner time. After dinner, we started on Ale’s birthday dessert: brownies and ice cream! She blew out her candles and we dished out the yummy dessert, which was a huge hit with our family (way better than the baked mac n’ cheese disaster).
Sunday morning was a slow start for us but we eventually made it over to SOS (we can’t seem to go a weekend without stopping by work) to meet the other UBC girls. The three of them, two of us and a bunch of girls from the youth home headed out to Sibebe Rock. Sibebe is the second largest freestanding rock in the world and the largest granite one. Ale and I had heard mixed stories about hiking or rock climbing Sibebe, but the SOS girls had just planned for a picnic at the base. We piled 13 into a truck/van and took a very bumpy ride over to Sibebe.
Once at the rock, Laura, Karen, Ale and I decided to hike up a little and take in the views. The whole climb is about 3 hours but it was already late afternoon by the time we got there, so we didn’t have time to do the whole thing. The view was beautiful; I’m always amazed at how varied the landscape is for such a small country. Flats planes covered in tall grass met giant boulders that bent into a green valley dotted with homes in the distance. Laura remarked that it was the quietest she had ever heard Swaziland. We took some photos and headed back down to join the other girls for a picnic of ham sandwiches, s’mores and chips. The girls had never roasted marshmallows before and we were more than happy to introduce the traditional Canadian camping snack into their diets.
The truck/van came back to get us and this time we piled 15 girls into the back for a total of 18 in the vehicle. This is a vehicle that has 3 actual seats and a trunk that comfortably fits a single mattress, or uncomfortably fits 15 grown women. Squished against the metal frame with the cold wind rushing in from above and one of many singing/screaming girls sitting on my feet, I couldn’t think of a worse transportation experience. But we laughed as the youth home girls belted out songs (their favourite being a chorus of everyone’s names) as we raced over bumps and around corners. After a little confusion with the directions, the driver brought us right to our home and I, a little bruised and numb, slid out of the trunk with a sigh of relief. Ale and I waved goodbye to our friends and finished the night with a little plate of dinner, bigger cup of ice cream and yet another movie.
All in all, an amazing weekend here in Swaziland!