It was Survivor; Swazi style. There we were at 8 am, at the foot of the mighty Sibebe rock, towering above us in all her morning-glory. Mbabane might be a sleepy backwater in many ways but it is also home to the world’s biggest granite rock. That, they tell me, is why the electric storms are so spectacular in summer. Once a year people gather from miles around to walk the Sibebe challenge. It is basically a casual stroll up the backside of Sibebe and then around and down, skirting the actual granite globe itself. However people take it very seriously. They sport corporate logos, t-shirts, silly wigs, you name it. It is seen as THE team building exercise of the year. I spotted this team dressed as Shaka Zulu meets Heidi on the Austrian Alps.
Benoit carried Emil in a backpack while I walked up with Leo. Leo was game for the first bit but soon reckoned his own limits so I turned against the tide and headed back. Each person we passed made a similar comment: “You are not a survivor, you haven’t been to the top”, failing perhaps to notice he was a three-year old wearing rather large croc shoes. I realised this is a big deal to people here; people who otherwise never walk in the mountain. The crowd was full of hearty good cheer. And what festive occasion is complete nowadays without the, yes, you guessed it, vuvuzela.
Leo and I ended up at the back with those who were never going to make it up either because they were too busy drinking beer or because their heels and fashion tracksuits were never going to allow it. Wandering down, in the opposite direction from the throng, we fell into step with a woman carrying a large blanket. I commented that she didn’t seem to be part of the whole survivor challenge thing. “No,” she replied, “I’m from the funeral” and disappeared over a fence back to her homestead. A reminder of the realities of life here amongst the splendour of the rocks.