Last night I slept for 6 hours straight and an another 3 after a toilet break (kinda strange to talk to park rangers at 4 am in your pyjamas). This is remarkable because I have not had enough sleep in the past week due to my malaria medication I think. We usually go to bed around 10 pm as it’s supposed to be quiet on the campsite then and we are too lazy to read in the tent. I am often tired but I simply couldn’t sleep for hours after laying down. When I finally do I have the weirdest dreams (is Ian a lumberjack yet?) thanks to the Lariam and I wake up often. What’s really bizarre is that I never seem to lack sleep the next day. Only when we are on the bus for a while I get a bit sleepy but then again everyone would.
So finally last night I broke the habit and it didn’t take an exhausting day activity, heavy food or much beer for some reason. I popped in some ear plugs because we have a bunch of loud kids in the huts next to our campside and off I drifted. In the morning I didn’t even hear the others get up (usually an alarm clock goes off or the sound of a hundred zippers fills the air) and the smell of fresh monkey shit that woke up my tentmate didn’t bother me either. Hopefully I can keep it that way.
While others were horseback riding Sylvia and I opted for a 3 hour morning hike in red dusty soil and plenty of heat around the hippo pond. We saw 3 hippos, many gnus and zebras and a bunch of monkeys. The wart hogs and kudus are everywhere as well so I basically disregard them…
After lunch we walked to a cultural village. In Swaziland women are supposed to wear skirts so we were given the traditional red cloth with a picture of the King on it.
We met the highest tribe woman, evidently a famous person here, as she is married to a brother of the king and therefore responsible to run the area here. She spoke to us in the Swasi language that is most similar to Zulu (not that that helps) but occasionally switched to English when we didn’t do things exactly right… as there were rules we had to follow. First we had to shake everyone’s hand in the village. Since the men are all working on the fields and most women as well probably there were only about 30 small kids and 3 teenage girls there to greet us. They were all lined up and we passed them using the “3 way homie shake” you can sometimes see in Harlem or between frat boys; all that was missing was a shoulder bump. We also had to say “how are you?” in the local language and failed miserably at that.
We then had to sit down, were greeted officially by the tribe mother and were taught a local song – 7 women separately from our 2 guys. This proved difficult…it’s hard to remember two long lines of words you don’t see written down. To top it all off we had to get up and join the dancing procedure while singing the song and that’s when we could occasionally hear the odd “I told you how to do this dance” or a “sing louder” from the tribe mother and the teenage girls – very embarrassing.
They showed us how to twist grass into useful ropes, make pots and strainers for beer (that only the men are allowed to drink) and grind corn, all while continuing to sing the ‘happy’ song. One kid demonstrated how to sleep in a Swazi bed with the cow and kudu fur for a blanket and a wooden block for a pillow. On the way out the small kids sang a goodbye song and danced to it – it was a bit bizarre because the dance basically consists of a stomp and step combination, and the song as such didn’t really have a melody either. Regardless it was great as it is so different from South African customs and the Swazis really worship their king.
Finally in the evening there was a traditional dance performance in our lodge. Again it was the somewhat monotonous singing and stomping, followed by the women kicking up a leg high while blowing a whistle, and the men doing a shuffle dance that reminded me a bit of an N’sync video. At the end the audience was animated to join in and some people got up and walked around in a big circle to the beat of tribal drums.