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Swaziland

Swaziland

The kingdom of Swaziland, though only 17 000 square kilometers in area, has an extraordinary diversity of scenery. On its western border stands a jumble of mountains – the northern end of the highveld of central South Africa. Well watered by rain and mist, the mountains are thickly grassed and, nowadays, densely planted with trees.

In these highlands gold, asbestos and iron are found, mining and timber make this the most economically important region of Swaziland, The road from Mbabane to Piggs Peak and past the Havelock Mine to Barberton is an adventure into a world of deep valleys, steep gradients, wide views and rivers cascading through narrow gorges in many waterfalls.

The higest peak in these mountains in Mlembe (“Place of the Spider”) whose dome-like summit is 1 862 meters above sea level. The road from Piggs Peak to Barberton twists around the mountain slopes and winds down into that place of ugly memories 0 the sinister Valley of Death at Barberton. Before the road was built, prospectors blazed a bridle path into Swaziland which climbs near to the summit of Mlembe and crosses a great cleft by means of the Devil’s Bridge, a natural stone causeway. This old path can still be followed. The climb is worth the effort for, from the summit, almost the whole of the African Kingdom can be seen.
The mountainous area is known to the Swazis as the Nkhangala (‘treeless country’). To the east it gives way in easy stages to the lowveld – called by the Swazis the Hlanzeni (‘place of trees’) – stretching away to end in what resembles a garden wall. This is a long, level-topped range known as the Lebombo (‘ridge’), which acts as the border with Mozambique.
The entire width of Swaziland, facing eastwards from the heights of Mlembe, is 120 kilometers. North to south the country is 180 kilometers long and on a clear day distant peaks, even those on the furthest borders, can be seen. In any direction, in any season, the view is awe-inspiring.

The Lowveld is the sub-tropical garden of Swaziland. In it the soil is deep and rich with the humus of countless trees. The climate is warm and the rainfall heavy, with rivers and streams providing vast quantities of water for irrigation. Sub-tropical fruits and nuts grow to perfection. Sugar cane flourishes while cattle fatten on the sweet grazing and the nutritious leaves and seed pods of the acacia trees.
East and west from the lowveld, the impression is very much that of a vast garden contained within high walls. The mountain range of the Lebombo in the east and the massive jumble of peaks of the Kobolondo, Makonjwa and Ngwena ranges in the west hold the country in their rocky arms. The deep blue sky seems to rest on these heights like the mighty dome of a fairy palace.