Following the second Leg Three Baz Bus route in reverse, we leave the City of Gold and Gauteng Province behind us, and enter Mpumalanga Province (pronounced mm-poo-mah-LONG-ah, try saying that three times fast after a tequila shot or two…). This province has breathtaking scenery as far as the eye can see – and is also home to the world-famous Kruger National Park, named after Paul Kruger, leader of the “South Africa Republic” in the late 1800s, who founded the park in 1898. Today’s post is loaded with Kruger pics!
BAZ STOP: WATERVAL ONDER (“Under the Waterfall”)
The 70m-high Elands River Falls is situated in the beautiful Elandsberg range of mountains, where, geologically-speaking, the highveld escarpment plunges down to meet the lowveld plains.
The falls tumble over a sheer cliff (offering some of the best rock climbing in the country), splashing on to rocky boulders before cascading into a deep, clear pool. The river continues to carve its way through the valley before disappearing into the Lowveld.
- Where to stay in Waterval Onder: Aloes Backpackers Lodge.
BAZ STOP: NELSPRUIT
The capital of Mpumalanga Province, Nelspruit is a shuttle point for 3 other Baz stops (Sabie, Graskop and Hazyview – see below), and is also the last town we will stop at before entering the Kingdom of Swaziland, Africa’s last monarchy. So now is the time to pick up a few supplies.
Finally, Nelspruit is also the gateway to the Kruger Park. From here you can hop on a safari tour organized by your hostel, and spend a few days searching for the Big Five.
- Where to Stay in Nelspruit:
Funky Monkey Backpackers | Old Vic Travellers Inn
- Important Note: This Baz Bus route only runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. So be sure to plan well. Nelspruit has a lot to offer, but for many it will be a drag to get stranded here.
BAZ SHUTTLE: SABIE
Hiking and wildlife abound in this small town – and waterfalls! Choices of the latter include: the Sabie Falls, the Mac-Mac Falls Pools, the Bridal Veil Falls and the Lone Creek Falls.
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But there’s not only hiking, you can also visit the Echo Caves (truly lives up to its name, name, name…) and Bourke’s Luck Potholes, a reptile park and Pilgrims Rest.
BAZ SHUTTLE: GRASKOP (“Grassy Hill”)
Being just a hop skip and a jump from Sabie, Graskop has much the same to offer, just from another perspective.
- Where to Stay in Graskop: Graskop Valley View Hostel
BAZ SHUTTLE: HAZYVIEW
Just 16km from the Numbi Gate of the Kruger National Park, this small town makes an ideal launching pad for sorties into the park.
Especially if the sound of roaring lions and whooping hyenas makes you uneasy at night, you can use it as a home base for day trips, then return across the park border to enjoy a rest in your hostel.
But I promise you, the best lullaby in the world is the sound of a DISTANT lion letting you know whose king of the jungle. (Note the emphasis on “distant”).
NOW – Get your Passports ready, and do you have your visa in order??? For it’s time to cross the border into Swaziland!
- Important Side Note: BE SURE TO CHECK IF YOU NEED A VISA. Otherwise you will either hold up the whole bus, or be left waiting at the border. In most cases, it is possible to get a visa at the border, but if you’ve arrived on a weekend, or it’s just gone closing time, or if your customs officer is simply having a bad day, there could be hassles for everyone.
- Swaziland High Commission
(For checking if you’ve got the right papers!)
BAZ STOP: MANZINI, SWAZILAND
This is our fifth required stop. The Baz Bus spends the night at the Swaziland Backpackers.
But there are many other interesting hostels to stay at, too. Since there are limited Baz Bus stops in this tiny landlocked country, traveling around it can seem a bit daunting. However, there are plenty of friendly, helpful people around, and many hidden treasures to seek – all it takes is a little confidence and a smidgen of adventurism to do it!
- VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Here the Baz Bus’s own schedule makes a short stop in Swaziland difficult. If you are coming from Joburg and arrive, say, on a Wednesday night, you either have to leave the very next morning or stay until Sunday morning. This is what happened to me and I decided to cut my stay short, something I regret. The Baz Bus schedule is as follows:
Joburg to Swaziland: Monday, Wednesday, Saturday
Swaziland to DBN: Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
Going the opposite direction, it runs on different days – be sure to check ahead of time. This scheduling is, unfortunately, one of the few downsides to the Baz Bus.
But don’t let that caution darken your stay, be brave and stay over in Swazl! There is so much to do and learn.
The country seems to have a game reserve around every corner, with names that challenge even the best elocutionists, such as: Mlilwane Reserve (known for its 240 bird species); Hlane Reserve (belongs to the King, and part of it is a royal hunting preserve); Mkhaya Reserve (the first park to reintroduce the elephant, featured on the Swazi crest and in folklore); and Malolotja Reserve (named after the 90m falls, primarily a reserve for day walks).
For those of you in search of bargains, visit the Manzini Market and stock up on your souvenirs. Another famous stop is Ngwenya Glass, where you can get everything from a hand-blown recycled glass elephant to a hand-carved rocking horse – and how about a delicious hand-made chocolate to end the day. Last, don’t forget to eat some pineapples!
- Where to stay in Swaziland:
Swaziland Backpackers. This is where I spent the night; it has a chill vibe and delicious food. The bar is right under the main dorm, which makes sleeping interesting. But very enjoyable indeed.
Otherwise, try Sondzela Backpackers. My original plan had been to stay here, as it is located on a reserve. However, the confirmation of my reservation arrived too late and I had to cancel. Everybody I met who stayed there, though, loved it.
- IMPORTANT NOTE: Once again you will be tempted by wacky tobacky / Swazi grass, but remember that they check at the border for the stuff – and, these days, all along the roads, too. There have even been instances of travelers being sent all the way back home, so it’s really not worth it.
BAZ SHUTTLE: MAPUTO, MOZAMBIQUE
To get to Mozambique talk to your hostel managers – they will help with the arrangements. If you like scuba diving Mozambique is a must. A place I wished I had had time to go to, this time ’round.
Well that’s all for now, keep on trekkin’ and join me next time as we begin our last leg and head back to Durban.