On the Way to Swaziland

Getting there through Germany

Lightning flashes outside my window and thunder rolls through the valleys of Bulembu, across the borders of Swaziland, and into the Drakenberg mountains of nearby South Africa. I have dutifully unplugged my laptop against electrical havoc. Rooibus tea is at my elbow. Spring rain is falling and the computer battery is still working. I’m back in Swaziland.

Exactly one year ago, I spent two months here in the northwest corner of the Kingdom of Swaziland. Through photography documentation and some grant proposal writing, I made a very small contribution to the town of Bulembu. Mostly Bulembu affected me. Surrounded by a dedicated staff, mostly volunteers, you can’t help being inspired by their efforts to turn this abandoned mining town into a village of loving, nurturing care for orphans and abandoned children, all the victims of an HIV/AIDS pandemic measured not so much in percentages and statistics, but in a child without a single living relative left.

Hopscotch is a universal game, with a lively match going on at the brand-new Dvudusi housing project. Each of the newly renovated buildings is home to six children and a house "auntie".

For some of those children, Bulembu is their lifeboat. Last year, people told me of the amazing changes in 2007-2008 to the town that once was home to 10,000 people. The story is already told in detail at www.bulembu.org. For me another year has gone by, and the changes already here in 2009 are wonderful. Last year, my most journalistic endeavor was a newsletter , sent home to family. This year, I hope to tell the Bulembu story with a more regular photo blog, probably more pictures and captions than essay. Here goes!

GETTING THERE -- October 19-31, 2009

Frankfurt International Airport is the halfway point between San Francisco and Johannesburg, South Africa, about a ten hour flight for each leg. This year, I stopped for a few days in Germany where I had lived for a couple of years long ago.  Before getting back to Bulembu, here's some photographs taken while touring parts of the country I lived in for two years many years ago. It was great to see old friends and accomodate to the nine hour time-zone change.

Trains leave for all over Europe from just below the Frankfurt airport, with a stop here at the Cologne station. The silver Inter City Express (background) approaches 200 miles per hour on tracks smooth as silk, while the red regional trains take you to every hamlet and burg.

For the Lympa Log, what could be more appropriate than a visit to the Leica factory? I saw the brand-new digital Leica M9 being hand-assemled and meticulously quality tested. Alas, no free samples!

Since this is intended to be a photo blog, then here is a salute to Albert Haganauer who gave a fine tour of the Leica factory in Solmes. We are standing in front of the Leica Family Tree, with an example of every camera model since the Ur-Leica of 1923, which was a primary influence in the shape of cameras and the size of 35mm film for years to come.


Walks along the Rhine in Duesseldorf reminded me of the Willamette River that flows through my hometown of Portland, Oregon, only our buildings and monuments were not as old!


Travels took me farther south to the Bavarian village of Bad Hindelang where I worked at the Prinz Luitpoldbad Hotel as an apprentice waiter in 1965 (“bad” in German means “bath”).

Bad Oberstdorf is the little village just below the hotel, hardly changed in the 45 years since I worked as an apprentice waiter at Hotel Prinz Luitpoldbad.


The server bar where I started my apprenticeship is still there, remodeled and handsomely staffed.

Every day I enjoyed alpine walks in the Allgau region of Bavaria, with well-kept trails meandering through valleys and forest.

Snow had fallen just a week before my arrival, with runoff turning the grass a bright green while autumn showed in the trees – a mix of spring and fall colors in one landscape.


Articles and photographs copyright Gary Todoroff. For licensed use, call (707) 445-8425 or contact him by email.