When I opened my eyes after crossing the border, I entered Swaziland, then I blinked and when I opened my eyes again I was already back at the South African border. That's the feeling that I got from my flying visit here. Swaziland is a country the size of freckle within this massive continent and I almost certain that most of the people in this world don't know it even exists. I needed a little less than two days to ride across its entirety from side to side. Neither its hilly terrain, nor its bad weather were enough to extend my stay a day longer.
Neighboring Swaziland is a very poor kingdom that seems to have been absorbed by the industrial powerhouse that is South Africa, whose large companies, especially the agriculture ones, are present throughout the country in the form of large plantations and several industries in the Manzini region, as well as by large shopping and supermarkets chains. The local currency is fixed to the South African rand, but one does not even need to exchange it because the latter is accepted countrywide.
If there's any fame this country earned it is sadly for something really serious. It is the country with the highest HIV infection rate in the world with horrifying figures estimating that almost half of the population is infected, reaching epidemic levels. Tens of thousands of orphaned children grow up with their grandparents and thousands of young people are infected every day from lack of basic care when having sex. While the government today provides retrovirals for free for all infected people, it is only a solution to put out the fire, but the essential problem of education has not yet been resolved.
Despite my fleeting moment through here, the few exchanges I've had with the local people were very nice and the Swazi have shown me the very same education, respect and high level of English that I had already been finding throughout southern Africa. Perhaps the greatest memory that will stay with me from this country, is that of a school teacher who frowned at me suspiciously when I asked if I could camp in the school garden to spend the night. After hesitating a moment he said he would prefer not to and instead, I could stay at his home, because black mambas abound in this region and he wouldn't feel at ease with me sleeping outside.
Even though I knew about the enormous danger of this snakebeforehand, the most lethal in the world, I asked:
-What happens if a black mamba bites me??
- Well, if it bites you below the knees, you have a certain chance of getting to a hospital in time, if it's relatively near - He pauses and continues - However, If it bites you above the knees, and they do it very easily because they have the ability to jump until biting in the head, then you have no more than a few minutes to left to live and nothing can be done. He finally concludes - Now, the exception would be if you got bitten in the arms, in which case, the only chance for survival, would be to have someone next to you that would be willing to cut off your arm immediately to prevent the venom to flow quickly into your system.
- where in your house you said I could sleep in?......
In the blink of an eye I cycled across Swaziland, it is such a short time that it is impossible to arrive to proper conclusions about a culture. However, all in all, I leave with a positive impression and not a very different one from the one I left with from the other southern african countries.