A fter several hours of driving from Durban, I began searching for a way into Swaziland. I had originally planned on going through the Emahlatini border crossing near Houdkop; but the paved surface of Theo. Mocke Street in Piet Retief to get there ended not long after it began — and there was no way I was driving a rental car on an unsealed road. I turned around and continued north on Highway 2 and then onto highway R33.
I headed east on highway R65 towards the Nerston border crossing; and the closer I was to Swaziland, the more it seemed as though time forgot about highway R65, which on either side was overgrown with tall weeds and pocked with rutted pavement and my dreaded nemesis: potholes.
I finally arrived at the Nerston border crossing — only to find the gates closed. A lone guard emerged to let me know that the Oshoek border crossing further north was open.
I then realized that it was a good thing I did not attempt to drive on 20 kilometers of dirt road on a drizzly night, as the Emahlatini border crossing was most likely closed as well…
…so I ventured further north on Highway R33 to Highway 17 — which is more of a main road — and headed east to the Oshoek border crossing, which was indeed open. I went through the whole rigmarole of gate passes and customs and passport checks and stamps before finally heading east down highway MR3, which is the main east-west highway in Swaziland.
By this time, a thick fog rolled in; and despite being equipped with street lamps along the entire stretch of highway all the way to Mbabane, only sections of the hilly and curvy highway were lit. The fog was so thick that I had to catch each reflector embedded in the road to figure out which way I was going. Fortunately, there were only a few other vehicles on the entire highway.
After passing through central Mbabane on the highway, I drove down this long descent — curving this way and that way — until I turned off at the first exit after that long stretch of hill. I then proceeded south on route MR103 for several kilometers — and thankfully, I saw and followed the signs for Mantenga Lodge. It was already after midnight — shades of Katse Lodge in Lesotho in terms of arrival time — and I was once again concerned that I would be locked out again.
Not this time. The guard at the gate let me in so that I can park the rental car. He escorted me to my room and opened it. Not long after he left, I took photographs and fell asleep from arriving so late and driving greater than 500 kilometers.
I really liked this room. It was distinctly African; but not slovenly or decrepit…