In Part One of this Blog : ‘The Birth of a Writer’ I shared the experience of the Master Your Writing Genius workshop with William Whitecloud.
In Part Two I am excited to share the aspect of the experience of our destinations in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa with borders to South Africa to the north, west and south, and Mozambique in the east.
Our meeting point for the writers retreat was the Emperor’s Palace Complex near the Tambo International Airport in Johannesberg.
Our Writers Retreat began with a beautiful dinner at a delightful restaurant called Tribes. It made me especially happy as it offered one of my favourite meals Beef Wellington which I thoroughly enjoyed and went back for more of on my return from MYD.
We had 48 Writers for the retreat and probably half of the attendees had done William’s work before, so the energy was rather like a family reunion, though heart warmingly a family welcoming of its new cousins.
The retreat was to be a dry event between the welcome dinner and the farewell dinner 8 nights later. With an upcoming drought to deal with, the reputation of writers gone by as lushes was upheld quite well, and to be sure I carried my share of the load. I can proudly say too I was among the last five to leave the restaurant, and again proudly was holding my liquor better than most of the stragglers.
The Trip to Swaziland
Our group was up and in reception at 8:00am for the full day trip to Swaziland our Day 0.
The bus trip was through interesting country, rocky hills and pine forests on the South African side of the border, and then after we navigated Swazi Immigration we made our way to a small gifts and café centre called Swazi Candles for lunch. The ladies and men looking for gifts to buy for wives found an amazing scarf shop in the complex and bought literally half of its stock.
The bus trip was peppered with William jumping up to share interesting facts, stories, and jokes masquerading as true stories as we wound our way towards the Swazi Reserves that would be our home for 8 nights for the writers, and then another 9 nights for Master Your Destiny.
Being winter the drive through most of the Swaziland country was pretty dry, though the rocky hills continued to make an interesting vista.
MYWG & Magadzavane Lodge, Mlawula Nature Reserve
We arrived at our home for the writers retreat, Magadzavane Lodge amidst the Mlawula Nature Reserve just after dark, and amidst low lying cloud that obscured our visibility to about 100 metres. We were allocated quite spacious cabins with two beds on the ground level and two on a mezzanine in a high A-Framed cabins with a bathroom and basic kitchen facilities.
We awoke to Day 1 of the Retreat, our first content day with a magnificent vista in front of us. From high on our mountain top, we looked down a valley to the plains that lay below. Again winter had rendered the vista somewhat brown and grey, with a vast majority of trees being deciduous and bare in August, yet it didn’t seem to matter and the beauty of the valley was something that was felt as much as seen.
Our lodge complex turned out to be stunning. Its 20 chalet were lined spaciously across probably 500 metres of hillside with uninterrupted views of the valley. The large Open Air Dining room looked down on an infinity edged pool that in turn looked down on the valley.
The Conference Room where we did our training looked down the valley too, though William was clever enough to face the view himself and position the writers chairs looking at him and the back of the room. Our tea breaks though were always a joy on the terrace in the sun basking in the African sun looking down the valley.
There was a beautiful bar that we got to use only on the last night that sat high above the pool with a polished timber bar going all around the perimeter looking down the valley.
The only downside of our beautiful lodge was the wifi. I don’t know what technology it used, but when a good proportion of 48 people tried to hit it simultaneously in breaks it felt like a 2400 Baud Dial Up Modem sitting behind the wifi. It also had a rather peculiar unnecessary page that came up every time you went to use it with a continue button and no other apparent function of this welcome page. That wouldn’t have been so bad, except the method of communicating to too many people that the facility was overloaded was by the continue button doing not very much.
On another note the 50 metres around the wifi facility seemed to attract an interesting phenomena of writers with electronic devices saying “fuck fuck fuck”.
The upside of the overloaded wifi was we soon resolved ourselves to only checking in on the outside world less frequently.
The highlight of the days outside the extraordinary content of our days was the dawn and dusk Game Drives. We donned our overcoats, beanies, and scarves and drove down the escarpment into the valley where we regularly saw Zebras, Njala (like a Deer), Wilderbeasts Wart Hogs, Monkeys, Baboons, and Giraffes.
One of my favourite experiences in the light of the rising or setting sun was capturing the beauty of the flat topped Acacia Tree that so represents my vision of African Flora.
As a lover of top down motoring it rekindled for me the joy of my 2002 Jeep Wrangler as we drove through the night air standing up holding the roll bar, obviously not a great idea in the event of a roll, but a lot of fun and low risk at the speed we were doing.
The experience of starting or ending the days getting in touch with the land, the space, the sunrises, the sunsets, and the animals was heart opening. The animals tended to stay at a distance from the people up in the lodge, though the hyenas could be heard in the bush around us in the night, and the walk along the gravel paths to the lodges at night was never without an awareness that there were no fences between us and the animals of the reserve. Thankfully most of them made their home in the bottom of the valley closer to the river.
Our seven days at Writers went so quickly! I was so glad when it came to our last evening that I had decided to take the bonus Master Your Destiny special offer that William had offered all of the writers and that around 25 of us took up.
Our farewell dinner was a wonderful night, and we were treated to a performance by indigenous dancers and musicians that ranks as the best I have seen. Most amazing was the Swazi high kick dance where the leg is brought down in a drum like move that is perfectly timed with a booming hit on multiple massive drums by the musicians is magical to watch, and you would swear it is the dancers leg that is making the drumming noise on the ground.
The dancers somehow identified me as a good candidate to sing their songs with them, so repeating the Swazi words, as best I could hear them, I sang the roof off which was captured on video by a number of the writers and earned me some kudos with the Swazis and writers alike.
The next morning the twenty or so writers who had previously done Master Your Destiny and weren’t going to do it again, plus those unable to stay said their sad goodbyes, and those of us going on to MYD made our way down through our own valley reserve, and into the MBuluzi Game Reserve that we had visited on one of the night drives. For Master Your Destiny this was to be our home.
MYD and MBuluzi Game Reserve
MBuluzi was a dramatically different set up. Five new people joined the 25 odd writers, and we spread ourselves among five privately owned lodges all in riverfront positions on the Mlawula River.
One of the things to note about Swazi names is that if you were playing Wheel of Fortune you could save some money by never needing to buy a vowel to guess a second letter.
Down in this valley we were truly in the thick of nature. We would commonly wake up to Njala Bulls and Bucks wandering the lawns.
My lodge mates were John, Nancy, Bernie, Deb, and two of the new girls Sonia and Gabrielle, or put another way, we had four Aussies, and two Expat Londoners. We stayed in Nkhankanka Lodge one of the oldest, but really tasteful and solid with a two bedroom main house with two bathrooms and a two bedroom separate guest house with two bathrooms.
Our lodge was the one to get some baboon action during our week there when we came home from dinner at Singwe Lodge on our first night to find the baboons had broken our outdoor table and tried to prise open the door.
The lodges were spread across several kilometres. Three inside about 800 metres of one another, and Singwe quite removed with two river crossings and an enchanted forest between us. Each lodge had a vehicle and two lucky lodges had open top landrover game vehicles. The other three had two Toyota Vans and a Hyundai People Mover all of which had just enough ground clearance to get over 95% of the jumps and bumps of the tracks, and not quite enough for the other 5% of the bumps which made good fodder for the passengers to tease the driver when we bottomed. I was a driver.
Each morning after a funded, but self catered breakfast of our choosing we would drive to Tambuti Tented Lodge that each day played host to our workshop where we would sit on a magnificent timber deck around a pool looking down onto the Mlawula River and as we learned hearing Njala game enough to splash in the river shallows, and baboons traversing the far bank.
At lunch we would drive the several kilometres to a catered lunch at Singwe spotting Giraffes, Njala, Zebra, and Baboons, and then back again with full bellies. The animals in the reserves in Swaziland are well protected.
After our afternoon session there would usually be time for a sunset game drive, or pre-dinner nap. Then around 7:00pm we’d head over to Singwe through all the game again to look down on the river bend in the dusk light from its deck and enjoy a catered dinner.
Usually a late night game drive in the land rovers would be on offer again too.
On our second night at MBuluzi we had a very special experience when we went out to a local cane fire. I’ve witnessed a cane fire some 25 years ago in North Queensland, but to most of the group it was a new experience and certainly the size of this field made it a special one which we experienced at close enough range to feel our skin going close to turning to crackling.
The other key event of the week was the cultural day that the writers experienced on the Wednesday, between the move down from Magadzavane and MBuluzi on the Tuesday and the commencement of MYD on the Thursday. There were two main experiences in this day. We did a three hour game drive in HLane Game Reserve where we got to see Lions and a Lion Cubs, and Elephants, which we had not experienced in the other reserves. I was staggered by the wastelands created by the elephants as they pulled down trees in wide swathes of territory. It looked like Mad Max country. It was a humbling experience to have a large bull elephant coming towards our vehicle with the power to squash us or push our vehicle over. Our driver stayed at a safe and respectful distance, but it is a special experience to be reminded that we are not nature’s most powerful creature without our technologies.
For the afternoon our Cultural Tour made our way up to Shewula Mountain Camp a truly representative rural village. We were treated to another Swazi dance, not quite as perfected as the one from the Writers Dinner, but performed by the young people of the village with heart, who invited us to join them and who certainly outshone us. We enjoyed a beautiful curry lunch, and then made visits to a number of homesteads where we took some food staples, for the families, and some soccer balls and chuppa chups for the kids. We had a fascinating conversation with a very old village elder about some of the highlights of his life in one of the homesteads, and finished at a homestead where those game enough tried the very cloudy home brew beer.
Our time at MBuluzi was truly special! We were on the land, we were among wild animals, we even witnessed a crock try to take an Njala Bull on the causeway before the enchanted forest on the way to dinner on our second last night. We experienced one another through all the processes of Master Your Destiny with our feet on the ground of Mother Africa in her midst. It was the perfect place to be with ourselves, to experience ourselves in a different and more simple context.
I did let myself connect with the outside world, with my beloved wife Pj at home, and to share a little of what we were experiencing each day by photo. I found it hard not to. I could take the piss out of my ego in some way around that, but in this context I don’t need to. I genuinely want more people to know these experiences can be had. I want to encourage others to live a rich life and to claim experiences like these for themselves.
Master Your Destiny – The Experience
In Part Three of this blog I will share what every person should be claiming for themselves, their destiny. At Master Your Destiny 30 souls went through deep and powerful journies to create a vision for the life that is our soul’s desire, that is rich with meaning and abundance, and coming to an understanding of how we use our inner genius and structure and tension to resolve choices in favour of our vision over our current reality and limiting beliefs. To get a glimpse into what has been a turning point in my life, read Part Three.
Ura P Auckland
Writer, Social Entrepreneur,
Authegrity Pty Ltd