Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Traveler's Review: Swaziland

I've just made it back to the blog after a stint away in the semi-tropical forests of Swaziland. Here's what I thought of the place.

Legends Backpacker Hostel: When I first got there, all I saw was a shebeen and a tiny courtyard walled in on all sides -- but with no gate. (A shebeen is an illegal bar, usually run and patronised by Zulus out in the boonies.) Not very encouraging. Then they charged me R90 for each of the three nights I was staying there. This was my boudoir for half a week:

No, I wasn't impressed either.

By the way, that guy painted on the bed above mine? His name is Leni, and supposedly he's a lidloti (a spirit) that haunts the place — and infuses travelers with the spirit of adventure. There are a bunch of references to him around the building, with signs, but that's as far as Leni goes. I never got infused with anything except small-town boredom.

When I walked into the bathroom, I was greeted by the shittiest shower I've ever seen. The showerhead was immovable, and it actually sprayed directly onto the bathroom floor if you turned it on with the door open. The bath's apparatus was, if anything, more intimidating, not unlike finding a snake in the tub:

I met some good people there, but guys: R90 is what you pay for a posh, upscale hostel. I'm paying R100 for my hostel in Cape Town, and it's located in a central and upscale part of the city, it's got duvets and towels included every night, daily cleaning, a cheap cafe and bar downstairs, the works. This was not worth it.

To top it all off, it is right next to a small tourist complex with an overpriced cafe, a few knickknack shops, and a tour service with a monopoly on anything remotely fun. They've got rafting, hippo watching, a few full-day safaris. I hear the big stuff is pretty nice, but I wouldn't know. All I did was rent a mountain bike and go biking through a game park. The bike's seat wouldn't stay clamped, and my butt continually slid down until my knees hit my chest as I pedaled.

Final Review: Shitty building, maintenance, location and vibe. Overall, nothing much. I heard from a Dutch girl I kept meeting on the Baz Bus that she had stayed in a place called Sondzela Backpackers, and it was quite nice. They offer horseback and vehicle safaris, nightly braais, good accomodations — if I was to go back that is where I would stay.

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