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Cycling through Mahamba Swaziland border


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Hello hi,
TL/DR version - skip the first 2 paragraphs :)

I am travelling to Piet Retief in Mpumalanga for a few days this December. I'm planning on cycling through the border and doing a loop as indicated on the map attached. I should mention I'll be cycling alone (don't have a choice about this, or I should stay home). I'll have a family member with a passport on standby in Piet Retief, but I don't know if I'll have no reception inside Swaziland (MTN SA prepaid user).

I've cycled around 20km down the R543 before with the mtb about 2-3 years ago but was told afterwards it was a huge risk. I knew going onto the plantation jeep tracks was looking for death, but didn't know I should expect to be attacked just as likely on the road, or in fact any of the roads in the attached maps.
I've crossed this border before with a car, so had no unusual troubles. I was warned to stick to tar roads in Swaziland when cycling, but at this point I'm thinking of taking the road bike (for more range during daylight!) so would have to anyways. I'm unfamiliar with the border outposts outside of Mahamba. I've attached 3 maps labelled route 1, 2 & 3. I'm expecting to do route 1 which is 187km (unless the white roads are dirt roads!), but route 3 seems the most scenic and fun! (at 300km though, so a day outing requiring more nutrition prepping). Route 2 is the shortest at 110km, but I think the road to the border to the North may be much more dodgy and busy.

First question is if anyone has done a similar route around the same area or same roads? Any experiences or suggestions regarding the R543, the border and a bike+camelback? Has anyone stayed overnight somewhere near the routes indicated and cycled a longer distance?
I'd appreciate any insight regarding the concerns mentioned above please.


Ideally I'd want to cycling the inner perimeter of Swaziland on the road, but I haven't had time to plan accordingly. This is a plan for 2019.


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The ride from Piet Retief to Mahamba is uphill, eat well, pack water en byt vas pappa! On the way back make sure your brakes are working properly!


The border is busy with timber trucks and goods lorries, be very careful on the road there and at the border post itself.


Clearing advice SARS: declare your laptops, your bicycle and any valuable items you have, any doubts about declared property, ask at SARS desk. You will be checked on your return and the SARS customs agents at this border will check your declarations.


Once through Eswatini border and all the way to Nhlangano, timber trucks on the road are still plentiful so again be careful. 


From Mhlosheni to Hlatikulu onthe MR10 is dirt road, back the dikwiel or the gravel grinder.


There are lots of hilly stuff on the loop you want to ride so allow time.


Accommodation: Eswatini is really well advertised on AirBnB, so if you do it beforehand or on a lunch break you will find something. The area is semi rural, no big cities around, so expect to find that class of accommodation on all three options of your travel.


Eswatini is a really nice place with cool, friendly people. The last bike tourer I talked to while passing through told me he pitched his tent at the Police post in Big Bend.


Have fun!

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I rode in the area in 2016.

My route was from Mbabane south to Bhunya, Mankayana, Sicunusa, Nhlangano, Hlatikulu, Manzini and ending at Malkerns. I was travelling by myself (girl alone) and did not experience any dangerous situation or unwelcome attention. Be ready for a lot of climbing, I am convinced I haven't cycled ANY flat sections!!


I camped at the police station in Bhunya. Stayed at the Phumula Farm Guesthous in Nhlangano. Had a dodgy hotel in Hlatikulu which turned out not to be that bad and ended at Malandela in Malkerns (highly recommended)


I did only paved road and hitched a ride for the dirt road section past Gege, which had roadworks and lots of dust.

Edited by hopefield
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Jis, @Ed-Zulu and @hopefield, thank you for those amazingly insightful shares. I appreciate the time you both took to type all of that and it has given me a great deal of guidance and peace of mind :thumbup:

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