No one told me there would be running.
Wednesday started again at 5 a.m., so I could arrive at Lobamba at 6:30 a.m. Around 7:30 a.m. we lined up near the Royal Kraal for the opening ceremony. The queen mother was in attendance, which I didn’t know until I saw her on the news that evening.
The head of the imbali regiment and the eldest princess led the songs. It was hard to dance in such a tightly packed location. We were finally told the march could begin after men carrying rolled grass mats on their heads left the residence.
A group of us in matching emahiya jumped into the group a few lines behind the leaders and a clip of me dancing here made the news. We ended up being the last line in the first group of the march, or shuca.
As soon as we got to the road, the running started. At least it was downhill. When we turned off the road onto a dirt road made for us, we stopped running.
We largely spent the 15 km or so in a free-form walk and occasional run, egged on by the traditional officers guarding us. They were yelling, “Hamba!” (Go) and threatening us with their sticks.
The first line set the pace and each group chose songs to sing. These were usually chosen by the loud and excellent group in the second section behind us.
It was hot and I was so happy to have brought my bag with two liters of water, which I had finished before we got to Engabezweni.
When we crossed under the MR3 highway, the road changed from dirt and gravel to pavement. Our guard also increased at this point from our traditional guards armed with clubs and police and military guards to also include two tanks with armed guards.
We finally made it to Engabezweni around 12 p.m. We were given a shirt, backpack, bread, water, soda, another unidentifed drink, and pads. We had a few hours to rest before we had to kuhlehla (parade) again.
After a few hours, I decided to just go home rather than wait for the busses all participants would be taking.
This was quite the march, and it was really spectacular to look back at the long line of timbali behind us. The newspaper reported 80,000 registrants, and I can believe that number.