Driving Geography – A Tour of Southern Africa - Swaziland to start!

Having just completed a near 5000km round trip through four Southern African countries, I am somewhat sad to be back on South African soil, and moreso on South African roads. Don’t get me wrong, South African roads are a dream. In fact, they are undoubtedly the best roads I have ever driven on. But I digress. Let me set the scene:

10 days, 2 cars and 3 different border posts made for some interesting driving lessons. And I can definitely tell where a driver comes from just by observing driving style – no number plates required.

Crossing into Swaziland from South Africa is a good revelation. The roads are actually better on the other side. (only for a while though) Swaziland has recently built a Highway that runs from the Oshoek/Ngwenya border through the capital of Mbabane and into Manzini, the other commercial hub of the kingdom. Although sometimes littered with cows, goats or dogs and of course roadkill, the Highway is a dual-lane haven full of twisties for those who enjoy their driving. It meanders its way down the infamous Malagwane hill: a 5km descent through some breathtaking scenery. This hill used to be treacherous and many a life has been lost on this road. There was a murmur some years back that the hill had a Ghost hitchhiker. It used to scare the love out of me when I was younger, but I never saw her so I don’t believe it anymore. The story was that you would pick up this beautiful woman dressed in white, and when you got to the bottom of the hill, she would have vanished from the back seat of your car. Anyways, there was also a murmur that the hill was in the Guinness Book of Records for being the most fatal stretch of road in the world. I never looked into that one.

Like some of the neighbouring Southern African countries (except South Africa), Swaziland has been flooded with second hand cars from Japan and Singapore. The cars are more affectionately known as ‘Dubai’s’ and you’ll find everything from weirdly named Toyotas to Subaru WRX’s and of course, the ever famous Nissan GT-R in all it’s different forms. The cars are cheap, but the banks don’t fund them so it’s a cash-only game. But it seems to be working, as the roads are full of them and young, hardworking guys can actually afford sports cars. It’s fantastic!

Swazi drivers are fantastic too. They’re polite, they drive slowly and obey most of the rules of the road. If anything, you need to keep your eyes open in the evening for: 1) black cows in the middle of the road; 2) Zionist worshippers walking on the road in the dead of night; (3) An old battered bakkie or tractor with absolutely no lights and any other forms of wildlife. (I have been fortunate enough to witness a huge Lion crossing the main road in all its majestic splendour. What a sight! I will never forget it.)

Other than that, an amazing country with amazing people, respectable roads and similarly respectable drivers. Yes there are potholes and unroadworthy cars, but as you read on, you’ll realise Swaziland has a twinkle in its eye. Bayethe!

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