Becoming At Home in the World – Travels to Pretoria, Kruger Park and Swaziland

I am currently reading a great travelogue called “At Home in the World” by Tsh Oxenreider. The book chronicles the travels of the author, her husband and their three children. The family sells their house in the US and embarks on a journey around the globe for nine months. Throughout the book, Oxenreider struggles to reconcile two conflicting feelings: on the one hand, she has a serious case of wanderlust and loves discovering new places; on the other hand, she considers herself to be a homebody who needs the comforts of a familiar place. These simultaneous urges seem to tug at her soul incessantly.

I think one of the reasons I am enjoying this read so much is because I can completely relate to her sentiments. Not only are we traveling as a family (which, as she correctly observes, rarely occurs in travelogues; usually the genre is dominated by individuals in search of themselves!), but I also feel this simultaneous tug of the unknown and yearning for the familiar. We left Brazil at the beginning of last August, spent the late summer and early fall staying in 13 different locations in the US, then moved to Maputo where we have spent two months living in a hotel and another two in temporary quarters. We have unpacked our suitcases, but our boxes with all of our belongings remained sealed and stowed away until we move into our permanent residence. I am ready to be settled and to call a place my home again.

But at the same time, I have been eager to explore Maputo, the rest of Mozambique and its neighboring countries. Africa’s natural beauty takes hold of you and puts you in a state of awe–from the gorgeous beaches of Mozambique, to the lowveld bush with all of its beautiful creatures in South Africa, to the mountains of Swaziland, I continue to be amazed by this continent. Here is a short write- up of our recent travels to Pretoria, South Africa and Swaziland.

Pretoria

Pretoria is a funny place. Sometimes I looked around while we were out and about and thought, “Wow, this is a lot like the U.S.”. For example, on one morning we visited the Hazel Food Market and I was struck by how much it resembled markets in the States.

Then I would notice the ten feet walls, barbed wire and electric fences that surround nearly every house, business and school and I would realize that we were, indeed, in South Africa, where crime is not to be taken lightly.

Also, where in the U.S. do zebras roam freely within city limits?!

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Zebra in Pretoria

Since we were visiting friends and running errands, we didn’t actually make it to many tourist sites in Pretoria. But that just means that we will have to return in the near future to check out the other sites. We did discover, however, that Pretoria has an amazing dog park and the Hazelwood neighborhood has a fantastic food scene.

On our way back to Maputo, we took a detour through Kruger Park. Though it turned our roadtrip into about a 12 hour drive, it was well worth it. It is exciting to watch our son become more and more engaged by spotting the animals. He can now recognize elephants, buffalo, giraffes, lions and impala! Below are some impressions from our detour.

 

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Iconically African
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Giraffe sticking his tongue out at us
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Wildebeest
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A crocodile at … Crocodile Bridge!
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Impala
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Playful impala

 

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Mama elephant with her baby

Swaziland

Did you know that Swaziland is a tiny landlocked kingdom that borders Mozambique and South Africa? And that its monarch, King Mswati III, has ruled since 1986? And that it is home to numerous master craftsmen and -women that make beautiful hand-woven baskets, candles and soap, handblown (recycled!) glass and batik cloth? And that its natural environment is simply breathtaking?

I learned all of this on our four-day weekend that we spent in a guest house nestled in the mountains located about forty minutes outside of Manzini. We spent the weekend hiking, soaking up the mountain air and checking out all of the cool craft stores. Below are some snapshots from our hike.

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We also visited the House on Fire, the venue for Swaziland’s famous “Bushfire” festival, which we hope to attend next year. It is a really quirkly, eclectic place that includes an amphitheater decorated with tile mosaics and quotes by Rumi. Next to it are also a series of artisan stores and a great restaurant with a beautiful view of the mountains.

On our last day, before heading back across the border to Mozambique, we visited the Ngwenya Glass Factory, where glass products are handmade from 100% recycled glass. Our little boy was fascinated by all of it and kept asking for “more hot”–in other words, to stay on the observation deck watching the glassblowers shape red hot glass into giraffes, elephants, glasses and decanters. What impressed me most was the sustainable business model the factory has embraced. Aside from using 100% recycled glass, they are dedicated to raising environmental awareness and to promoting nature conservation efforts.

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The view from our guest house in Swazi

Now we are back in Maputo, anxiously awaiting word on when we can finally move in to our permanent residence. And another trip is just on the horizon… Stay tuned!

 

4 thoughts on “Becoming At Home in the World – Travels to Pretoria, Kruger Park and Swaziland

  1. We did a post in Maputo – also State Dept – loved having Kruger and Swazi in ‘our backyard’ so to speak. We got the Wild Card pass for Kruger and used it as our scenic route on the way to our monthly grocery runs just over the border. I’m very much enjoying seeing KP, Maputo and the area again, through your eyes!

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