Pinawa’s Great Trail

 

Pinawa Trail MapPinawa’s section of the Great Trail, formerly known as the Trans Canada Trail, spans 27.5 kilometres, from the Seven Sisters Falls Hydro Dam in the south, to the historic Old Pinawa Dam Heritage Park in the north. The trail travels through boreal forest and over granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield. Along its length it follows both the Winnipeg River and the Pinawa Channel, and connects the communities of Seven Sisters Falls and Pinawa.  It is a part of the Border to Beaches trail that runs from West Hawk Lake to Grand Beach, and it connects the North Whiteshell and Blue Water sections of the Trans Canada Trail. Services available along the trail include restaurants, camping, motel, hotel, grocery store, a beach, pool, tennis, golf course and more. Yesterday I had the pleasure of hiking the entire length of this spectacular piece of the Great Trail.

Distance: 27.5 km
Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Location: Manitoba, Canada
Map: Pinawa Trail Map PDF File

Seven Sisters to Pinawa

Seven Sisters Falls Hydro Generating Station
Seven Sisters Falls Hydro Generating Station

My day began at 9:30 AM on the south side of the Seven Sisters Falls Hydro Generating Station.  Tucker and I walked over the dam and followed the trail along the berm that skirts the Winnipeg River.  Look for loons, Canada geese, pelicans and other marsh birds. At 5.5 km the trail turns into the forest, but is still a beautiful 2-tracked trail, perfect for hiking or cycling side by side with your companion. Over the next 2 kilometres the trail narrows, the track softens and the grass closes in.  We startled a coyote here that sprung right across our path. At 6.8 km there is an exit to Hwy 211. Take this in an emergency but expect to encounter water, mud and uncut grass.

Follow the TCT signs to avoid wet feet
Follow the TCT signs to avoid wet feet

Be sure and follow the Trans Canada Trail signs here. There is also a winter trail for snowmobiling in the area that is wet and not maintained in the summer, and you don’t want to wander on to  it accidentally.  The proper trail continues 1.5 kilometres to the Pinawa lagoons (8.3 km). At  9.4 km we reached a fork in the trail.

Junction to the Suspension Bridge
Junction to the Suspension Bridge

We could turn left and proceed directly to the Suspension Bridge, by-passing the town of Pinawa and missing almost 10 km of riverside trail, and all the  services Pinawa has to offer. We continued on to Pinawa. The Pioneer Bay Campground, at 10.3 km, is essentially a seasonal campground but does offer 8 transient sites which could be a wonderful place to spend the night if you’re passing through on the Great Trail or the Border to Beaches. This is also the start of the Ironwood Trail, a busy section of town trail used by over 40,000 people a year.

The Ironwood Trail

The Ironwood Trail
The Ironwood Trail

Just steps past the campground, the Winnipeg River comes back into view, and the trail hugs it for the next 5 km.  Scan the far side of the river for the eagle’s nest at the top of one the pine trees. Tucker and I are now walking through residential Pinawa – the beautiful Winnipeg River on our right, and Willis Drive and homes to our left.  Watch for the plentiful number of deer grazing along this section and if you’re lucky you may spot otters and beaver swimming. Notice the trees wrapped with chicken wire – that’s to keep the beavers from their busy work.

Downtown Pinawa
Downtown Pinawa

After 2 hours and 45 minutes we arrive, 12.4 km, to downtown Pinawa. Hunger has set in and we have a choice of restaurants. The Wilderness Edge Resort, the Burger Boat, which is conveniently located right on the trail at the Pinawa Marina and the Solo grocery store which sports a deli with seating.

Ray joins me for lunch
Ray joins me for lunch

 

We chose the Burger Boat and Tucker and I shared some great fish and chips. Marlayna is the new owner of the Burger Boat and you can give her a call for hours or to pre-order at 204-753-8249. There are a few options for bedding down for the night here as well – the Wilderness Edge Resort, the Pinawa Motel or Deer Ridge cabins. The two port-a-potties here might also be a welcome sight by this time.

leaving the Ironwood Trail
leaving the Ironwood Trail

After lunch Tucker and I continued past the Marina and Sailing Club. At 14.3 km we passed the recreational centre of Pinawa – the beach, pool, tennis court and golf course.  Keep your eyes open for snapping turtles. There’s another great restaurant here at the golf course, as well as flush toilets and running water at the beach (in the summer months only). This marks the end of the Ironwood Trail. Tucker was tuckered and had to go home for a nap, so I continued on by myself.

 Diversion Dam Trail Head
Diversion Dam Trail Head

From here the trail link can be a little tricky to find. Walk up the length of the golf course parking lot and look for the TCT trail signs on the golf cart track that runs along the west side of the 10th fairway.  The trail takes you up to Hwy 211. Turn east and follow the highway for about 500 metres to the end of the cul-de-sac. Cross over the Diversion Dam – the scenic Pinawa Channel on your left and the entrance to Crater Lake on your right.  15.3 km and 4 hours to this point, 45 minute lunch stop included.

The Heritage Trail

Follow the blue and white Trans Canada Trail signs only
Follow the blue and white Trans Canada Trail signs only

At the far side of the Diversion Dam follow the TCT signs on your left. If there is any section of the trail you could get lost on, the next stretch to the Suspension Bridge is it.  There are several trails in here – skiing and cycling – follow only the blue and white signs and you’ll be fine.  I call this the wild and wonderful section of our trail. Although the trail follows the Pinawa Channel, you hardly ever even get a glimpse of it and you feel like you are deep in the forest. There’s plenty of granite outcrops -follow the cairns if you don’t see a trail sign. Watch for bears and grouse.  At 19k and 5 hours arrive at the Suspension Bridge. The last port-a-potty is just up the trail from here.

Alice Chamber Trail

entering the Alice Chambers Trail
entering the Alice Chambers Trail

From the Suspension Bridge trail turn right and pass the yellow barrier on the Alice Chambers Trail.  Follow this soft two-tracked trail for the next 2.5 kms. This is another great stretch to walk or cycle side-by-side, but do use some caution as this stretch is shared with ATV traffic.  The odd contraption you pass at 21.5 kms is a rice boat.  A glance at the Channel here makes its use obvious. At 21.7 km turn north off of the Alice Chambers, crossing bridge # 1.

 

Old Pinawa Trail

SwansThe next 7 kilometres follow the Pinawa Channel. There are some scenic rapids at 23.7 kms. Cross bridge #2 at 24.7 km and enjoy a nice rest stop on the granite outcrop beside the channel at 25.2 km.  Around 27 km look for some resident swans in the Channel, then cross bridge #3 at 27.3 km.

Arriving at Old Pinawa DamYou are now walking through tall grass and should begin to see the ruins of Old Pinawa in the distance. You arrive almost abruptly, at 27.5 kms in the parking lot of the Old Pinawa Dam Heritage Park. Total time 6 hours and forty minutes.

Hopefully you’ve save some energy to explore the ruins because the trail has by-passed all of them. The flat rocks and picnic benches make this an excellent rest stop. Explore the ruins and enjoy a refreshing swim. You have just completed Pinawa’s most magnificent Great Trail.

The ruins of Old Pinawa Dam
The ruins of Old Pinawa Dam

 

Canada Day on the Great Trail

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than with a hike on the Trans Canada Trail. Please join me on July 1 as I lead a guided hike along a beautiful stretch of trail in Pinawa, Manitoba.

Where: The hike will begin and end at the Pinawa Marina. We will hike along the Ironwood Trail, following the Winnipeg River to the Diversion Dam. We will follow the wild and wonderful Heritage Trail to the Suspension Bridge. Willis Road will take us past the Pinawa Cemetery and across the highway where we will rejoin the trail just north of Pioneer Bay campground. We will meet up with the Winnipeg River and the Ironwood Trail again at the campground and follow it back to the Pinawa Marina. The hike is 11.5 kms and should take us approximately 3 hours. Most of the trail is rated as easy with some moderate bits out on the Heritage Trail.

When: We will meet at the marina at 8:50 AM with a start time of 9 AM.

What to bring: Bug spray and water. Good footwear is required but hiking sandals are fine.

What to eat (important): The Wilderness Edge Restaurant will be providing a “hikers special” on the menu for after the hike. Please RSVP to me at donna@traillady.com if you will be joining us for lunch so I can pass on the numbers.  The Burger Boat may be offering a breakfast menu starting July 1. If you think you might enjoy breakfast before starting out PLEASE send me a line, as I’d love to entice them a little.

For anyone who would like to join in but not hike the entire trail, we expect to be at the Diversion Dam at 9:30 and at the Suspension Bridge around 10:30. You will have to arrange your own car pooling for this.

 

 

 

 

Cycling Pinawa to Seven Sisters

Approximately 17 kilometres from Pinawa town centre to Seven Sisters town centre.

Pinawa’s favourite cycling path is back! The Trans Canada Trail between Pinawa and Seven Sisters is open for business again.  This trail has been closed for almost two years – first due to construction at the Pinawa lagoons, and then because of construction over the Manitoba Hydro Dam in Seven Sisters.

Trail Conditions
New trail through the new Pinawa lagoon

The trail up to the lagoons is in excellent condition. The grass has been mowed and the trail is dry and a pleasure to cycle on. The new trail through the lagoon needs a little leveling but is still a pretty nice ride. Just past the lagoon the trail turns into a soft grassy bed, a tougher ride but still okay. There is about a kilometre or so of very muddy patches, but with only one exception I was able to get through in low gear without stepping into the mud. One larger puddle got me, but Ray got through it all. Wear sandals and you won’t care.

 

There is a fork in the trail where one section heads up to Hwy 211 that locals commonly call the Smoky the Bear fork because that’s the sign up on the highway that marks the spot. The mud ends just a few metres west of this spot, and from here the trail is again fantastic.

New Trail Signs

New on the trail are some awesome signs. These signs are maps of the trail with a “You Are Here” star and a listing of distances to all important destinations along the trail.  I’ve actually never seen such useful trail markers on any other trail – well done Pinawa.

You may also notice some new branding on the signs. The Trans Canada Trail has made the bone-headed decision to re-brand the name of the Tran Canada Trail to “The Great Trail”.  I have no idea how much this re-branding will cost, but I’d like to see how many kilometres of trail those dollars equate to.

The Hydro Dam Crossing

My sources tell me the Hydro Dam will be open for hiking and cycling all summer long. I removed the sign on the Pinawa end that warned people about the dam closure, but there is still a sign at the dam. Currently the dam is open, so lets hope my info is correct.

We like to head over to Seven Sisters for lunch, and starting Thursday there’s quite a few choices. We ate at the Seven Sister’s Motel, but the Tourist Hotel, Little Maria’s and Jennifer’s are other options. Jennifer’s opens on Thursday (May 18) and Little Maria’s appears to be open every day except Monday and Tuesday.

There’s a pile of gravel at the town yard that  I hope is meant for this trail. The pile would go a long way to solving the mud puddles, but experience tells me that so will the season. That trail has been muddy every spring since it was built. A couple of weeks will make all the difference.

Many thanks must go out to all the Pinawa trail builders. I don’t even know who they all are so listing them would be an assurance that I’d miss someone. I do know that we should be naming our trail after Marsha Sheppard as she is tireless in her trail efforts.

 

 

Cape of Good Hope

Cape Town to Cape Town complete. Our 11,400 kilometre African road trip is over, ending fittingly at the Cape of Good Hope, where sailors breathe easier once rounding.

We too were a little emotional today. The trip was fraught with things that could go wrong, and none of them did.

I started thinking about this trip over two years ago. There were many times when I didn’t think it would happen. When I first told Ray I wanted to drive around Africa and live in a van, it would not be a stretch to say he wasn’t completely convinced.

Ship wreck at the Cape

No matter what other way I found to travel Africa, none of them measured up. I finally decided I would give up on the whole idea if we weren’t self-driving and camping. It was at the end of a month-long Westie road trip in eastern Canada that Ray suddenly said “Okay, I’ll drive you through Africa.” He’s been quite the companion / driver and braai-master for such a reluctant participant.

Animals of the Cape

Two months is a long time to live in a van. We’ve watched two full moons, one on top of the largest sand dunes in the world in Namibia, at sunrise, the other while enjoying Passover with some campground mates on ToFo Beach in Mozambique. We’ve made some wonderful friends, but we’ve also been the only two people around for as far as we could see, We’ve grown tired of the cramped quarters and the nomadic life at times, but then we find an amazing spot and it’s all forgotten. It’s been the most romantic adventure we’ve ever shared.

Britzie down below, waiting for us as usual

We got stuck in the sand, in the middle of nowhere on the Skeleton Coast. We followed our Garmen up D1212 – a road that was so treacherous neither one of us slept that night. We went to a music festival in the mountains of South Africa and tasted wine in the elegant wineries of Stellenbosch. We dodged police and cars and people for 500 kilometres through Mozambique. Ray learned that two lanes become three easily, and four when needed. He figured out the left hand side of the road mostly, but still hasn’t got the signal lights figured out. I’m not sure how he’ll drive back home.

We will never be back this way again, of that I am certain. Besides the fact that we have 34 hours of airports in front of us, there is no duplicating the sense of discovery and adventure of a trip like this. We have one more day here and that will be spent on the impossible job of cramming twice as much stuff into our backpacks as we came here with.

It’s been lekker.

Sunset over Long Beach, our final camp

Stellenbosch

First tasting

The two wino’s have finally made it to the heart of some of the worlds best wineries, Stellenbosch, South Africa. It is a painful reality that Canadians are only allowed to bring back two bottles of wine per person. One of life’s regrets.

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is a lot like the Okanagan Valley – on steroids. Like the Okanagan, we are in a valley, with a big craggy mountain as a backdrop but the sheer number of wineries here sets this apart from anything we’ve seen in Canada.

The weather has suddenly become pleasant again – warm during the day and perfect braai and sleep weather at night. We arrived in a dramatic thunder and lightening rain storm, but that subsided in time to light the fire.

Tasting in the cellar of Kleine Zairze

When we first arrived here, the reception office of our campground was closed for lunch. We thought we may as well get started on things. For our first tasting, at the Kleine Zairze winery, we sat in a private room in the cellar with some big cushions on the bench. The walls were covered with awards. Every wine we tasted was fantastic, the generous portions appreciated. Cost for the tasting was R30 ($3 CDN) for 5 wines, waived of course if we bought a bottle, which of course we did.

Britzie patiently waiting for us

The next day we spent a couple of hours walking through the very pretty town of Stellenbosch. It’s a University town, vibrant and youthful. The Botanical Gardens highlight the centre of town. The streets are lined with interesting shops and restaurants. The very modern mall is a hustle bustle place.

Lunch at L’Avenir

Our next wine stop was French , L’Avenir. We thought we’d order a snack with our tasting and both got a generous lunch. We ate and sipped wines on the deck, surrounded by beautifully manicured lawns. We brought back two bottles of Shiraz from here. In Canada wine tasting are comparatively rather rushed affairs. Expect at least an hour here, maybe two if you eat something. Very relaxing.

Our winery map

Our last stop of the day was more rustic, we tasted wines while chickens walked under the table. Louisenhof Winery poured us the most generous portions, but unfortunately not of the best wines. There was an amazing rose that cost R45 ($4.50 CDN) that I was tempted to bring home for one of those hot evenings on the patio, but with space for only 4 bottles I had to be selective.

Mountain Breeze Campground

We’re leaving today, heading down to the Cape. I still have room in my back pack for one more bottle, so we’ll take the wine route out of town. There really are only wine routes to take anyway.

The diversity of Africa will never cease to amaze me. Stellenbosch, and this wine region, makes me feel like I’ve fallen out of Africa completely and landed somewhere in Europe. If I had time to linger anywhere, I’d linger here.

South Africa – the Garden Route

Last week of travel and it looks like we’re going out in style. We’ve reached the “Garden Route” of South Africa.

If Namibia was Africa light, Botswana Africa wild and Mozambique Africa crazy, the Garden Route is Africa civilized (Ray says soft but I disagree). We are skipping from one phenomenal National Park to the next right now, with just a couple hours drive in between. One day we are on safari roads in Addo National Park, surrounded by wild elephants, zebras, kudus and then, as if sending us off in style, three beautiful lionesses who just narrowly missed bagging a warthog. The next day we’re enjoying a brutal coastal hike (the start of the 5 day Otter Trail that I couldn’t get a booking for) in Storms River National Park, along the Indian Ocean. Tonight we are in Wilderness Park, on the shores of a lazy river – quiet except for the sound of birds, frogs and crickets.

Laundry on the road

Ray was most worried about this part of the trip. On the crime map, we’ve hit the red zone. From Durban all the way down the coast to Cape Town has the highest crime rate of anywhere we’ve been so far. After 7 weeks on the road with no problems, and the appearance of utter colonial civilization all around us, it’s easy to become complacent, but the signs are everywhere and not all that subtle.

We’ve driven through some beautiful cities the last few days – Port Elizabeth, East London, Knysna. There are lovely homes with beautifully landscaped yards – surrounded by tall, usually concrete fences and topped with razor wire. As we passed by these beautiful homes on one side of the highway, the other side were townships. The contrast is remarkable.

Hiking the Otter Trail

Razor wire is everywhere, around every one of our campgrounds, even on the side of a bridge we hiked over. They are no longer meant to keep out lions. When we read reviews of campsites, security is almost always mentioned – as in “security not what was advertised”, or “was the victim of crime here”.

We’ve met many South Africans, all of whom live in gated communities and couldn’t imagine it any other way. We’ve met a young man whose mother was murdered in a robbery, a farmer whose neighbours were murdered just recently. The dark side of this paradise.

Ray starting the braai at 5:30 PM

Dark side aside, South Africa may just be the most beautiful country in the world – with the most beautiful climate. We’re here in late fall, short days and cool evenings and yet it’s just about perfect weather. They could use some rain, I hear – Cape Town is nearing the end of it’s water reservoir, but there doesn’t seem to be any in our forecast. The worst that happens here is the need to don a sweat shirt after dark, but there’s almost always a braai (fire) started anyway.

With our last week looming time seems to be speeding up. So much to see yet, so little time left.

South Africa – The Wild Coast

We’ve been on the road for a long time now and feeling road weary. There are days that all we’d like is a transporter machine to get us home.

We’ve arrived on the eastern shore of South Africa now – to an area inexplicably called The Wild Coast. We were heading to Gonubie Beach because some Jews in Mozambique told us this was our best chance of some good snorkeling. At the 11th hour of the day I found a slightly different spot, a little bay with a river and a campground with great reviews, so we’re staying just beside Gonubie Beach.

Our spot at the Yellow Sands Resort was just what two road weary travelers need to refuel. Our camp spot is perched on a cliff above the beach, with a temperate climate of 25 degrees all day dropping to 18 at night. The water is 24 degrees. What a relief from the frigid mountains, but also from the extreme heat of Namibia and Mozambique. We are camped on grass and there are NO bugs. The sound of the ocean lulls us into sleep at night.

During the day there is nothing to do here but go to the beach. Our first snorkel into the mouth of the river was disappointing to say the least – nothing but murky, sandy water. While we were swimming the tide began to come in. You could feel the pull on your body, it was like swimming in a current pool. Right before my eyes, the water cleared and the fish arrived. Twice a day here for about an hour and a half the snorkeling is amazing – the rest of the time – nothing.

We spent the day snorkeling when the tide was right, and reading and watching surfers when it was not. We got up early the next morning for an hour more of snorkeling before leaving.

As much as we’d like to stay, we have to press on. We’re on the last leg of the journey now and Britzy is due back in Cape Town on May 1, as are we. Next stop – Addo Elephant Park.

The Drakensberg Mountains

All those places that were just names on the map are coming alive to me now.

Since we’re in the neighbourhood, we decided to check out some world heritage site hiking in the Drakensberg Mountains. We got out the maps and asked some advice, and landed ourselves at the Garden Golf and Spa resort in the southern Drakensbergs, just an hour away from Splashy Fen. On the way we stopped at the Underberg Cheese Farm for some great selections of local food.

For 300 Rand a night (or $30 CDN) we camped at a resort that had every amenity you could possible imagine. Go ahead, pick something a resort should have… I’ll likely miss something on this list: swimming pools (three), squash, tennis, restaurants (three), bars (not sure how many), zip-line, petting zoo, climbing wall, mountain bikes and trails, BMX bikes and trails, trampolines, golf course, spa,  lawn bowling, wildlife and hiking trails. All we did was hike.

We showed up at the resort tired and dirty from the music fest and found the campground almost full to capacity – of people packing up to go home. We decided to park and go on one of three hikes while everyone else got going, and climbed high above the resort for an hour of much-needed leg-stretching.

By the time we’d visited reception the place was virtually empty and we picked a wonderful spot beside the babbling creek. We both took off to have a warm bath – yes campgrounds here have bathtubs, and in case you’re worried about cleanliness they also have doting attendants to clean up after you, that you hardly ever see. We had our usual braai,  this time of steak and baked potato, before turning in early. Sleep eluded us both even in our exhausted state because of the cold. Yes, we’re still in the mountains and it’s still really, really cold at night – below zero I think.

In the morning we decided to combine hikes 2 and 3 to make for a 3 hour hike. The trail was spectacular, climbing high over the resort and the beautiful green gentle Drakensberg mountains. It warms up significantly during the day and we worked up a good sweat. We unexpectedly walked into a couple of elands, an animal we’d yet to cross off our list. We also spotted a few baboons playing on the golf course – looked like a mother teaching her baby how to putt on the green. We packed a lunch and ate it at the hippo pool, cooling our feet off in the water. That’s a South African joke – there are no hippos here (apparently), just rocks that look like them. We were told to bring our “cozzies” (South African for bathing suits).

A braai is essential here in the mountains, if only to stay warm. As the sky darkened, at 5:30 PM now, we lit the fire and threw on some South African sausages. The highlight of the evening was getting a skype call through to my sister, who is hiking the Camino right now and another to my son. Killed all the cell data, but it was worth it.

There’s a drive up here called the Sani Pass that climbs up to about 3000 metres, into the country of Lesotho that is apparently not to be missed. 4X4 is required but there’s no doubt Britzie could make it. There are Sani Pass tours available from the resort it’s so popular. As we lay in our freezing bed we decided we were going to take a pass (pun intended) on this one and head to a beach – enough with the cold already. We set Garmen to Gonubie Beach, on the wild coast, and the alarm to 5 AM because the beach is 8 hours away and shivered through the night.

 

Splashy Fen

Want to know how South Africans celebrate the Easter holiday? Well, at least about 5000 of them go to Splashy Fen, a music festival in the foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains. It’s much like any music fest you might attend in Canada, but with a distinctly crazy South African flair.

First of all, Easter is not spring in Africa – it’s fall and it’s not exactly warm in the mountains. In fact it dropped to almost zero or maybe even colder (Ray did see frost on the ground) overnight. It was so cold we Canadians froze our butts off in Britzie, but most everyone else were in tents.

I really feel like the most culture I found so far took place at Splashy Fen. Sure we drove past the bushmen’s village in Namibia and stopped to look at trinkets being sold by the near naked Himba people in Botswana. At Splashy Fen the Zulus showed up to party and we joined right in. We sat around a fire with a great bunch of South Africans, listening to what it’s really like to live in South Africa – having a lekker time of it.

I did notice a few differences from any music fest I’ve been to in Canada. The first thing you’d notice when you drive in is the typical African chaos. If there are any rules to the camping or parking we didn’t know them. Just go wherever. Ray saw a sign pointing to Electronic camping and wisely thought this might mean we could plug in and have WiFi. I threw out the theory that it might be where electronic music is played loudly all night long. We asked the person with the vest at the corner of this intersection but she didn’t appear to speak English. Luckily, before a debate could break out, someone else walked by and said just keep going straight. Later we discovered I was closer to the mark.

Somehow we got through the throng of people walking on the road, the cars parked just anywhere and bumped into a fairly level spot among wonderfully considerate campers, where we spent two of the coldest nights on the road trip so far. Thank goodness you could just light a fire wherever you wanted, which we didn’t but which our neighbours did for us. At night, when the music stopped, so did all the parties. Maybe it was the cold , or maybe we lucked into a great location, but this was the quietest festival camping I’ve ever experienced.

There are three stages at Splashy – the River stage is, you guessed it, down by river. Here you can lay in the warm sun, leaning on hay bales while watching one band after another – or you can bring your floaty and play in the frigid water. We did the hay bale thing.

There’s an acoustic stage in the food court where we enjoyed a couple of good bands, one of them a cover band that had everyone up dancing through their entire set. This was a great place to settle in with your stir-fry or hot dog or whatever else you purchased from the food vendors.

Main stage started at 5 PM and by then it appeared that there may have been some drinking going on. Again about the rules – there were no drinking rules. Buy your drinks from one of the bars available near every stage or bring your own. There was some kind of bright green cocktail being consumed by the youth out of 2 litre plastic bottles that appeared to be quite potent.

I just read the web site and its possible there was an actual electronic stage that we missed completely. Wherever it was, it was set up to somehow not bother those not inclined to that kind of music, even at night.

A couple of bands that seemed to be really big here were The Temper Trap that we missed because we showed up halfway through the festival and the Parlotones. Our new friends at the fire were amazed we’d never heard of the Parletones – they’ve gone international! They came on stage like the rock stars they are here – half an hour late and in a puff of smoke. The audience had life-size card board cut-outs of the lead singer to wave with one hand, swilling back bright green cocktail with the other. Great fun.

We met the mounted police, one of who has always had the dream of joining the RCMP. It was fun being Canadian here. On Easter Sunday we followed a group up the hill and enjoyed a pleasant Easter ceremony, complete with a sing along and bible reading.

The best part of the music fest were the group of kids we met across the street from us: Louis, Kevin, Byron, Stormy and Martin. I’d really like to thank them for their hospitality around the fire, the shots, the insight into life in South Africa and all around good time.

The blue plastic toilets here flush. If there’s anything I’d like to bring home to the Folk Festival it is this.

Swaziland

With relief we crossed the border from Mozambique into the Kingdom of Swaziland, with a friendly border guard and a 50 Rand ($5 CDN) road fee for Britzie.

The drive immediately became saner, although everything is a matter of perspective. Looking back now Swaziland was not quite as modern as we thought that day. The roads are still pot-holed and there’s still a lot of slowing down and speeding up, but it was better than last week.

We had three choices for leaving Mozambique – to Kruger Park again, south along the east coast of South Africa and some amazing looking coastline, or through Swaziland. We elected this route because we are heading up into the Drakensberg Mountains, for a music fest, some hiking and some relief from the heat. We’ve also heard that Swaziland is teeming with animals.

This country is ruled by a Swazi king. Most everyone here is Swazi and speaks only that language and English. I heard real pride in the country when I spoke to people. The money is on par with the Rand, in fact I got mixed currency from the ATM here. The economy seems to be quite good, with tourism being a major contributor.

Swaziland turned out not to be our cup of tea. There may be animals everywhere, but they are not for the free-wheeling Britzie types. The country is full of private game reserves, one of which we camped at – Nisela Safaris.  Turns out there’s no way to actually see these animals unless you pay to be taken to them. We had a caged zebra to pet (and don’t tell anyone but we fed him our carrots). They told us the zebra had been rescued as a baby. We had a very expensive restaurant on site, so we had wine, cheese and olives for dinner again. We were the only guests at this resort and it just wasn’t the nicest of places. Just to add to the miserable-ness, it rained.

Maybe we missed the best of Swaziland, or maybe it just didn’t suit us but we hightailed it out of the country in the morning through the closest exit – heading up into the mountains.