After staying in Komatipoort for a few days, and visiting the magnificent Kruger National Park, I took a combi bus to the border with Swaziland at Mananga, then another to Manzini. On the South African end of the journey I saw witchdoctor shops offering spells to cure your “broken penis, smelly vagina, and unwanted pregnancy.” How that is legal to advertise, I don’t even want to know. In Swaziland I was taken in a loop around the country as the bus stopped here and there, giving me a good insight into “Africa Time.”

At Manzini I found another bus heading towards Ezulwini, but had to swap buses halfway and get one towards an area called The Gables. I finally arrived, after a very long day of travel, at my destination. As the bird flies, The Gables and Komatipoort are only a little over 200km apart, but it took me almost a full day to get there.

I checked in at Legends Backpackers, feeling thoroughly exhausted. The place was quiet, and in my large dorm room there was only one other person. It’s a nice place – clean, with new toilet and shower facilities, and surrounded by trees. They do, however, have a dog which is fond of biting customers. Be warned.

In the morning I hiked out, intending to climb Execution Peak. It’s a large and prominent landmark in the middle of Ezulwini Valley, where prisoners of ancient times were forced to jump to their deaths. It looked too beautiful and impressive not to climb.

I didn’t have a map other than the GPS on my iPhone, so I just set out following the roads on that. It took me first to Mantenga Falls, at the nearby Mantenga Park. Here there were many signs warning of crocodiles in the river. But I didn’t see any. The water with chocolate-colored, so it would be hard to see anything move. I did, however, see a big snake shooting across the top and into some reeds.

I walked to Mlilwane National Park (pronounced closer to “Milan” than “Lil Wayne,” if you’re wondering). Getting there took a few hours, but took me on winding little back roads through villages and farms, where people always smiled and waved.

At Mlilwane I just walked into the park, and the guard said it was okay to walk. By this point I was badly burned and dehydrated, but managed to cover up and found a shop in a nearby camp to buy water. The shop had been closed but evidently I look pitiful enough for them to open up for 5 mins.

In Mlilwane I was able to walk freely across the plains and through the forests. No one else seemed to be doing that, but there were hiking paths here and there, so evidently it’s not uncommon. I was stunned that I could walk amidst the wildlife as it went about its ways. Antelope with huge horns looked at me and turned and ran, when they could easily have gored me to death.

I followed trails and eventually made it to the top of Execution Peak, thoroughly exhausted. It had been a long day. By the time I’d gotten home it was getting dark, with nine hours having passed and 53 km gone under foot. I’d be nursing blisters for a while, but it was a hell of an adventure. Additionally, from the top of Execution Peak, the view had been spectacular – Sheba’s Breast to the north, the Valley of Heaven stretching out to the east, and mountains and forests all around.


Confronting my fear of heights at Execution Peak.

Sadly, in Swaziland, tours of any other national park proved prohibitively expensive, as did any other activity, and so I chose to leave the next day and move on to another part of South Africa.