Rock of Execution- eSwatini (Swaziland)
Trails: 7/10 Facilities: 8/10
eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), is an often forgotten, land-locked neighbour, but if you ride mountain bikes and like exploring, you should place it at the top of your bucket list.
There is a weird thing about borders. Although you only travel a few meters, maybe 100 at best, so many things seem to change.
Food, roads, language, culture, these are not small things, but they all seem to change when you cross a border and this was our experience in eSwatini.
We had a very specific mission in mind when we planned our trip, and that was to ride and hike our way to the top of the Rock of Execution, in Mlilwane Game Reserve, then ride back down.
Years ago I had visited this same chunk of Granite thrust into the sky, and I always knew that I had to come back to ride it on my mountain bike, so here we are. We teamed up with local adventure guru, Darron Raw, from Swazi Trails, himself and avid rider, to help us plan our trip and join us for the ride. Darron very kindly put us up in his home, but you can also stay in his vibey backpackers nearby.
Before we talk about the Rock, we need to mention that Mlilwane is a great place for riding bikes, no matter what you skill or fitness level is. There are great tracks and trails in the flatlands below the hills, where you can see Wildebeest, Warthog, Impala, and various other plains game, making for a great wilderness ride on mellow trails. We even encountered some crocodile and Hippo at the large dam.
Once you start to climb, things do get steep, and the climb through the grassland, then forest, is certainly for the fitter crowd. It’s not that long in distance, but it packs a punch.
After the long climb, you are treated to some descending before you reach the picnic site and where most “normal” riders end their ride, but not us, we had a goal, and that was to continue along the difficult footpath to the base of the final climb. Sadly on this descent, our mate Dave had a bit of a tumble that ended up with a severely damaged ankle. Sorry mate.
At this point we had to sling our bikes on our backs and start hiking up the short but challenging granite steeps to get to the summit. To say the view from the top was rewarding, is a significant understatement. It was sublime. Seeing the valley stretch out below, teeming with game, having conquered out mountain, was a moment to savour.
As they say, the top is only half way, and soon we started the descent, riding as mush of the steeps as we could, before getting into easier trails and tracks, and getting down the mountain significantly faster that we went up!!
“At this point we had to sling our bikes on our backs and start hiking up the short but challenging granite steeps to get to the summit"
We set out with a specific riding goal, but along the way we had a great adventure, encountering friendly natured people, chicken dust street food, warm hospitality and of course, great riding, so put eSwatini on your bucket list for your next riding adventure holiday.
Big shout out to DSV Transport and Logistics for helping make this trip possible.
Riding amongst wildlife
Very scenic terrain/ mountains
Hospitality from Darron ( www.swazitrails.co.sz )
Crossing borders adds exotic flavour
This is not a plug and play location, IE, if you looking to just follow a marked route, you should probably go elsewhere.