It was only one year ago that my mom and sister were here in Swaziland visiting me.Whoever said time goes fast lied.Last year seems like a distant memory with everything else going on.Last year I spent my Easter weekend on a game reserve searching for elephants, rhinos, and giraffes, then a night in my hut, and another night in the beautiful Mountain Inn resort.
This year was a bit different.I spent my weekend with 11 other Peace Corps Volunteers hiking and camping in the mountains of the Malolotja Nature Reserve, a nature reserve northwest of the capitol city.In preparation for the trip, I knew that this was going to be the toughest camping trip I have ever done, the type of camping where you have to carry everything for the weekend in your backpack: tent, sleeping bag, food, pots, pans, water purifiers, toilet paper.Where we were going there was no kitchen, we would cook on an open fire; no shelter, we must bring our own tents; and no toilet, we must dig our own hole.
The group hiking in to Malolotja
Upon arriving to Malolotja, the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, rolling mountain covered in grass dotted with small trees and bushes and small rock outcroppings.We were excited, but nervously anticipating the hike to the bottom.Our packs were heavy with food and supplies.
The hike took 4 ½ hours.I was sore in places I haven’t felt since soccer tryouts back in high school.Our campsite was a small clearing next to a river with a sheer rock face on the opposite river bank.We popped our tents, started a fire, and took time to relax after such a long hike.At this point I was very thankful for my Girl Scout training.Popping tents and cooking on open fires seems like no big deal to me anymore.
My Girl Scout training at work: starting the fire to make coffee for everyone.
The next day we spent at the waterfall that was a 10-minute walk down river.I wish I knew more adjectives for breathtaking, but everything was just so beautiful.A few of us climbed down the rock face to go swimming.I swam under the waterfall.There was space between the rock and the water.We could look up and see the sun shining through.The water falling down sparkled like diamonds.
At the top of the waterfall.
There was a scary part when another group of hikers came long.They were on their way down to come swimming.One girl was overconfident, walking too fast, and too close to the edge.She slipped and fell off the edge into the waterfall.She was a bit shaken but completely uninjured when she emerged.
We left the next morning, a day early, scared of the changing weather conditions.It was another 4 ½ hour hike up to get out.It was as tiring mentally as it was physically.I kept doubting myself whether I could finish.My lungs were burning, my muscles were sore, and my pack although lighter than before still felt heavy.
Exhausted on the hike out
The trip, although very difficult, was a very good experience.I really enjoyed spending time with my fellow Volunteers.With just over 100 days left in Swaziland I am trying to take in every experience and memory I can, making every moment count.And now as the pain in my muscles fades away, so does the memory of the how difficult the hike was making me believe that I could do it again if I wanted.Now what is left is the memory of the good times I shared down in that valley with my friends.
Update:Last month, I wrote that I wanted to extend my service for another year, but the opportunity I was looking for has not presented itself.So I have made the decision to not extend.I will finish my service with the rest of my group and I will be home by August.At that point I will work on what my next step will be.
Also, Camp GLOW preparations are in full effect.Camp will begin April 29.I am also preparing for an HIV workshop in my community to benefit HIV positive members of my community to help them live a healthier Positive lifestyle.So here I am wrapping up my projects and not taking any day for granted.