Monday, January 7, 2013

Mahamba Gorge

December 17th - 19th, 2012

Since my time is Swaziland is rapidly decreasing I have made it a point to start checking of things on my Swaziland Bucket List.  One of these things was to go camping at Mahamba Gorge.

This gorge is situated on the southwestern border with South Africa, very close to where I did my pre service training in Nhlangano.  Myself and 6 other volunteers made the trek down there for a 2-day camping stay-cation.  The Mahamba Gorge Project, which included the camping site, is a community run project as a source of income generation for the community.  The campsite consists of tent space, 4 small cabins that can be rented and a small main lodge.  There is no electricity on the premise, but there is running water as the community pumps water from the gorge.  On arrival you meet Babe Kunene, he handles check-in and out.  He is a friendly Swazi man, who really went out of his way to make sure we had everything we needed.  He let us power up the gas run refrigerator and gas stove, for no charge, gave us a key to the main lodge to use the kitchen, and showed us how to cross the river, find the waterfall, and climb around the gorge.  His directions included phrases like “you follow along until you see a pile of rocks, then you follow that tree,” as he points to the top of a mountain, “see that one, the green one.”  Oddly enough once you get out there those directions actually make sense.  We did find the tree, the green one, at the very top.

We camped under the stars on the banks of the gorge, nestled snug between towering hills.  We ate family style and played cards outside under a tree framed by the beautiful, picturesque landscape.  We spend all of day two exploring. Our first adventure was crossing the river.  It was waist deep and the current was a bit strong but we forged our way across.  Then we discovered the waterfall.  Exact words upon discovery I believe were “holy crap, its amazing.”  It was amazing and fell approximately 30 feet into a small, very cold, pool of crystal clear water.  We had packed picnic lunches and after the waterfall we spent the rest of the morning climbing to the very top of one of the mountains to have lunch.  It was hard, but I made it.  I climbed a freaking mountain!  We found the green tree, sat underneath it and devoured our lunches while looking out across the world, Swaziland to our left, South Africa to our right, Mahamba gorge down below.

The Green Tree
Aside from the waterfall, the green tree, and the rock pile, we saw some other pretty cool things.  We found a group of grasshoppers all migrating together.  It was a mass of bright green, yellow, and black all hopping together.  A snake was briefly seen by Kelly; we all stopped and were curious about what kind it was, but our wise friend Mia gratefully hindered any snakebites by instructing us all to “stop asking questions and walk away from it already.”  We also meet a group of six dogs that were loving life at the top of the mountain.  They had owners who we saw later, but we enjoyed watching them run and play across the hills.  And of course what is walk anywhere in Swaziland without an encounter with a herd of cows.  It was amazing to see the cows go up the mountain – but I wonder if they can come back down?  Isn’t it that cows can go up stairs but not down?

Mahamba Gorge is officially being added to my list of favorite places in Swaziland!!

The Waterfall!

The hill furthest back is the mountain we climbed!

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