Days 4 & 5 – Jozini
We left Mbabane at sunrise and headed south-east towards Jozini via Big Bend. When trying to buy a coffee in Manzini my smoking companion (with all due respect to him; not the “smoking hot” variety) got us thrown out at a petrol station. With panic in his eyes the station manager apparently didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of a burning cigarette a mere five meters from his petrol pumps.
Without coffee and grumbling tummies we left Manzini in a huff. The road from there to the Lavumisa border post is dreary at best but we kept at it and pulled in for a long overdue coffee and breakfast at the Nisela Restaurant. Signs of the drought were everywhere to see and none more so than at the pool in front of the restaurant’s deck. It normally is home to a couple of crocodiles but it was now bone dry.
The border crossing at Golela was uneventful. The Swazi border police are very trusting as they didn’t check the back of my panel van on entry or exit. Not that there was anything illegal in there. Due to our hasty planning we didn’t know whether there was a grocery store at Jozini and decided to do our shopping for necessary supplies at Pongola. With that out of the way we soon headed up the Lebombo mountain range and Jozini dam came into full view. It was the first time I had been on this fascinating road, snaking over the mountain and into Jozini gorge where the dam wall is situated. Traffic in town was chaotic due to Easter weekend and to our dismay we saw a Spar. Typical.
Our destination was 10 kilometers east and down river of the Jozini dam wall at Pongola River Company. The detailed directions and Mr H’s navigational skills got us quite close to the tented camp but the dirt road suddenly vanished into sand and bush. Due to the Caddy’s abysmal off-road capabilities I was not going to try my luck going any further. The GPS showed that we were very near though, which prompted Mr H to search by foot. Twenty minutes later he arrived with the camp manager who led us then back to camp. We had somehow missed the correct turn off a hundred meters before from where we stopped.
I was blown away by the camp’s setting. It is on the Pongola River’s edge underneath beautiful sycamore fig trees. After unpacking, a fishing expedition in kayaks was in store for the afternoon. Although we didn’t manage to catch a single fish the experience was totally worth it. The water was surprisingly clear and it fascinated me to see how the local natives depend on the river either by washing, swimming, fishing or mining river sand.
We drifted downstream for about three kilometers. It always feels further though as it took us the whole afternoon to cover that distance. We were grateful to be driven back to camp. We opted for the self-catering option which is not a problem as there was a fire and we had tender meat and more than enough beer in the cooler. It irked Mr. H that he hadn’t yet caught a fish on the trip and he was soon off fishing. We were assured that there weren’t any crocodiles within two kilometers from the camp and that there were also no hippos.
With Mr H fishing and clouds rolling in overhead from the east it was the perfect opportunity for some night time photography. I don’t know what it was but the colours on these photos turned out just incredible. It is definitely some of my favourite photographs I’ve ever taken. Apart from one massive strike on my watch the fishing didn’t improve.
The next morning was a relaxing affair. To wake up in a tent next to the river was blissful. Coffee brewed on the fire and I could hear the chatter upstream of women doing their washing. Few things beat a hot shower under open skies and checking the loo for snakes. After brunch we had to get going and pull ourselves away from this amazing little paradise for we were on our way to St Lucia.
The road out was much easier than in. We stopped for a few photos at Jozini dam wall and then headed south on the N2. It was time to see the ocean.