Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Gate 1, South Africa - Day 6, Swazi village

We had driven into Swaziland yesterday, Day 5, after the game drive. This entailed getting out of the bus, getting our passports checked at the border post out of South Africa, walking a short distance, getting our passports checked and stamped entering Swaziland and then getting back on the bus. As we drove along Renier talked about the cultural and economic differences.
Renier spends a lot of his time at the front of the bus, with the microphone, explaining things to us, pointing things out as we drive by (sometimes slowing for pictures) and answering our questions. Each day he provides us with a poster of the itinerary for the next day, including the weather forecast. We (by this I mean Tessa, not me) take a picture with our phones so we know when breakfast is, when the bus will leave etc etc.
The rest stop this morning was at a glass factory
We could walk around on a balcony above and look down at the glass being blown, cut and processed.
It was started by a Swedish aide group who bought glass blowers here to teach how to create the pieces to be sold. Employment is created as many make money from collecting used glass as well as at the factory itself.
I have been reluctant to buy souvenirs until I had a sense of what I wanted to take home but I was in trouble here. I bought 2 of the wine glasses with elephant stems
and 2 of the wonky stemmed wine glasses because they just felt good in my hand.
They had a lot
of blown glass
Missing Rasta.
Recycling was a theme here with jewelry made of old magazines and baskets made of dyed grasses.
After crossing the border out of Swaziland (a slightly longer walk this time) we stopped at the Matsamo cultural and traditional centre where we learned about Swazi culture.
After a discussion regarding whether any of our group was offended by bare breasted dancing it turned out to be a moot point as we sat with another group and the dancers opted to be clothed.
They had beautiful clear and carrying voices
singing traditional Swazi and gospel songs.

The dancing involved a lot of kicking their legs up over their heads and stomping feet down in time to the drumming.
The animal skins are part of the ceremonial dress and we saw men around the Swazi parliament building also dressed this way.
After the show the guide took us into the traditional family village. There was a hut for the man, a hut for each of his wives, a hut for the adolescent male children and a hut for the adolescent female children.
The huts were made from wooden poles lashed together with strips of animal hide and thatched with grasses. We saw similar huts being used both as homes and as shelter for animals, as we drove through the countryside.

Our guide spoke of the traditional customs and then admitted that only the older generation still adhere to them and that younger people have adopted some more progressive ways.
We had lunch in a thatched building surrounded by lush gardens
and then returned to the bus.
The South African economy is driven by tourism and exporting fruit and wine but most of the agricultural land is taken up growing corn which is their staple food. They often eat it for all 3 meals of the day, calling it "grits". If the family can afford it the grits may be flavoured with some chutney or some sausage. It was not unusual to be driving on a road with corn growing on either side, covering the whole valley. Sugar cane and pineapples were also prevalent.
I had not anticipated the beauty of the South African countryside.

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