I’m quite the Christmas person. Seriously. By Mid-November I’m already singing carols and asking when the tree is being put up. So of course, this year by default wasn’t supposed to be any different. The thing is, I was raised in a very sentimental home. Our family adopted a culture of celebrating everything. And I really mean EVERYTHING. Therefore, when the TV ads and the city started to a look a lot like Christmas, I should’ve been caught up in the hype of it too. But somehow, this year, I felt no excitement for the conventional happy holidays that the media has grown so accustomed to selling us. You know, the one where Santa is King and we are all putting up the same décor and excited about the same typical seven colour customary lunch. This year, this girl was feeling open to something different. Or better yet, something new.
I had spent the entire year planning a trip with my best friend. We had chosen Maputo as our destination and after counting coins and checking savings we were ready to pack our bags and head on out. I wasn’t planning the trip because I was trying avoid the usual family crowd that seemed to have the same criteria of nosey questions as you got older. From back in university, struggling through a semester and being asked how school is going, to being a working millennial who seems to have everything moving as milestones should yet no plus one at family functions. I’m sure someone can relate. No. I was simply hungry for a new festive tradition. A tradition that was my own. A tradition with a twist.
Our itinerary was very simple: Restaurants, social markets, city excursions, a few art galleries and showing off our summer bodies at the beach. Don’t judge us. We had invested so much in our fitness this year that we weren’t going to pass up an opportunity to recreate a Miami vice scene on our mini holiday. We were amped. I’d surely run out of fingers if I were to tell you the number of travel bloggers I had followed on twitter this year alone. Constantly reading through their threads and gawking my eyes out at pictures of them at various destinations. Mentally bookmarking the ones I felt were necessary on my own list. (The list for when I become a millionaire of course) I was ready to toss out the old musical lights and forgo never ending Christmas movie marathons. I wanted something that bordered on discovery, reflection, thrill and expeditions because that’s all that comes to mind when I hear the word summer. However, just a few days ago, we decided to halt our South east Africa travel plans and instead, decided to seek amusement in our country’s own backyard and man has planning that been more fun.
Growing up in a country that is as micro as Eswatini is, it’s easy to adopt a belief that in order to find excitement, one must cross over their own border. However, if our list of stops and must-see places are anything to go by, the whole world should be jumping on planes and making their way over to our little gem of a country to celebrate Christmas here. Summer is all about flavour and making memories that not only look good on social media but are great to take home too. I love food. And not in the “Lets quickly snap a picture of this and post it up” kind of way but let’s dig in. So, when I stumbled across the Smoke &Grill at Mantenga craft and lifestyle centre, it was only imperative that it be high up on our agenda ‘cause let’s be honest; is it really Christmas without a barbeque? We then also scheduled a pop in for all the other amazing places within the centre; a definite yes for the Wine boutique that’s rumoured to house an exquisite collection, their interesting craft stores and Pizza Vessuvio, with its wood fired oven and devilishly mouth-watering pizza selection.
In actual fact, we drew up a good activity map that works its way from the Malolotja canopy tour up north, down the scenic MR1 route with those gorgeous mountains in the backdrop, stopping a little by the old Mine shaft just five minutes from city that’s now filled with the most gorgeously turquoise waters at this time of the year. We call it the secret pool. Passing through Mbabane to the valley; grabbing a bite to eat at fun places on the way, and finally settling at Mlilwane for some safari vibes. We might get overly excited and hike the historically ghastly execution rock, or cycle through a few rugged bush trails. We might just also edit our map to lead us down to Malandelas; who knows. I suppose this is what it means to let wanderlust lead the way.
I really am a Christmas person. That will forever stand and I am excited about opening the gifts that currently sit under my tree. However, I am not going to wait around for a rerun of old-school festivities and their nostalgia. This girl is going wherever the experience is. Discovering and exploring along the way. Creating moments that will make up the abstract scrapbook of my life. You can miss me with your famous seven colours and mundane routine on the day ‘cause I will be out in the sun, eating Eswatini up; one town to the next and I absolutely cannot wait.
I wonder if you’ll care to join me; the road awaits.