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My next main stop was Hogsback, a lovely and very small town in the mountains that supposedly inspired some of Tolkien’s description of the hobbits’ Shire in his writing. I did a couple of days of hiking in the mountains and to waterfalls there. I had a little excitement when I couldn’t find one of the trails and got a little lost on the mountain just as a storm started to roll in with thunder and lightning. I eventually figured out where I was and walked for about an hour in the rain to get back to the hostel.

From Hogsback, I went to Cintsa on the coast. I celebrated my 33rd birthday there, just walking along the beach and feeling a sense of wonder that I was in South Africa and at the Indian Ocean. Very cool.

Next, I went to Port Edward and stayed at my favorite backpackers’ place of the trip, a hostel called Ku-boboyi. It’s more like a bed and breakfast, and has incredible views in all directions – down a river to the beach on one side and the hills/forest on the other side. I spent another day walking along the beach there and saw a bunch of dolphins from the shore. They were having fun surfing along the waves and then jumping in and out of them.

Unfortunately, my next hiking trip turned into my first mishap of the trip. I went hiking in a nearby nature reserve with a guy from Germany named Thomas. After we’d hiked for about 2 hours, the trail crossed some rocks about 10 feet away from a little waterfall. I decided to walk over to the water and stepped up on a big rock. Well, the rock was wet (which I knew) and had either moss or algae on it (which I didn’t know). Within a split second, my feet shot out backwards, leaving my face to slam against the rock. I ended up with a big gash on my forehead and cuts along the bridge of my forehead and lip. Fortunately, I somehow managed not to knock out any teeth. Thomas helped me stop the bleeding and get cleaned up (thank goodness he was with me!), and then we had to hike for another hour to get out of the reserve. The owner of the hostel took me to his doctor’s office, and the doctor decided that I didn’t need stitches. He used several pieces of tape to close the cut on my forehead and wound a bandage around my head like a headband. For the past week, I’ve had some pretty major head pain and my face swelled up like crazy around my nose and eyes. I looked like I’d been in a boxing match and had lost in a big way. But, the swelling is mostly gone now, my lip and nose are finally healing, and the cut on my forehead doesn’t look too bad – just enough that I’m getting lots of sympathy! In really good news, my trip to the doctor came to a grand total of 70 Rand, the equivalent of less than 10 US dollars. Can’t beat that. – Despite being in pain, I couldn’t let the injuries change my plans, so I still went on to Durban that day and took a jeep trip the following day into the Southern Drakensberg and just over the border into Lesotho.

To get to Lesotho, we went up and over a really stunning mountain pass. We also visited a small Lesotho village, which was pretty interesting. I’d really love to spend more time in Lesotho someday.

I left Durban the next morning to go to St. Lucia, another coastal town. I spent my full day there doing a game drive into a local game reserve. I finally saw white rhinos in the wild, so I’ve now seen the Big Five (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard). The rhinos were cool, but elephants are still the best.

For the past several days, I’ve been in Swaziland. I did another day of hiking in a wildlife sanctuary, and a morning of horseback riding. Both of those were great because we were among a lot of wildlife at close range (nothing too dangerous, though). Today, I went on a trip to some different markets and a cultural village. I’m leaving Swaziland tomorrow for a long bus ride to Johannesburg. From there, I’ll plan my trip to Namibia. So, with the exception of the head injuries, everything’s going really well. 🙂 I can’t believe I have less than 3 months to go. I’m going to try to cover a lot more ground in that time. If possible, I’ll send updates a little more often so that they’re shorter.


Love, Sharon

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