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First Trip to AZW Battlefields - Seeking Guidance
DylanC


Joined: 17 Dec 2018
Posts: 2
Location: Virginia, USA
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Hello all -

I'm from the States, with an interest in the Zulu War that goes back more than a decade. I've read as many of the books as I can get my hands on, seen the films (of course) and documentaries, and even used a school trip to Scotland as an excuse to travel all the way down to Brecon just to spend one unforgettable day at the RRW Museum.

Now I am looking to put together a trip - a pilgrimage, really - to the battlefields themselves for this summer, and as I've never been to South Africa before, I thought this would be a good place to start.

The few parameters I know for certain are:

1) I will be coming from Nairobi, Kenya (after leaving initially from the States), as I have family there and will spend a few days visiting them before SA

2) I intend to stay at and arrange tours through Fugitive's Drift Lodge, having read so much about it here and elsewhere over the years

3) I intend to travel some time in May/June/July 2019, when it's winter in SA and rates at the Lodge are cheaper

Beyond that, I have a few questions...in no particular order:

-- Of the winter months (May/June/July) are some better for making the trip than others?

-- Is it better to fly into Durban or Johannesburg?

-- Should I rent a car or arrange an airport transfer?

-- Might the Rattrays offer any sort of "budget" accommodations beyond what's advertised on their website? I'm a (relatively) young man traveling light, and not in need of many creature comforts. I'm far more interested in absorbing the history. I'd gladly sleep on a cot in a backroom or even in a tent outside if they'd let me - as long as I get to stand where Durnford fell at Isandhlwana and where the Indunas looked down at Rorke's Drift on the Shiyane. Besides, any money saved on accommodation I'd be more than happy to spend at the bar!

Thank you all in advance for whatever help you can provide - it is greatly appreciated.

All the best,

Dylan
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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Posts: 208
Location: Dundee, KZN
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Dylan,

If you are looking for budget accommodation, FDL is not really the place. It is an upmarket establishment and one of the best in the business. If you want to stay there, I would suggest going for a spot in the uMzinyathi cottage on top. Check out their website by all means. Andrew, Doug and Brian are the guides, and they are all very good, actually.

Another thing - our April, May and June months are the best times for a visit. That is, if you do not mind the heat. We have registered temperatures of up to 40 degrees this year. It is also very dry. We are sort of into the third year of a serious drought here.

Get a car. Do not rely on transfers. They are notoriously expensive. British Air flies into Durban now. Forget about Johannesburg.

I would sent FDL an email if I were you. Feel free to come back if you have any more questions. many of the guys here are seasoned battlefield travellers, and they can also assist.

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Johannes N. (Johnny) Hamman (KZN 0897)
Treasurer of the KZN Tour Guide Association Battlefields Region
History's Walk Battlefield Tours
Dundee
KZN
"Where Past and Present comes together..."
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Alan
Site Admin

Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1400
Location: Wales
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Johnny,

do you have contact details for FDL and Rorke's Drift Lodge for Dylan?

Are there any near you in Dundee? Even if short of money, a guide is worth
considering although, they seem to be getting thin on the ground nowadays.

Is Isandlwana Lodge still open for business?

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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Posts: 208
Location: Dundee, KZN
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That we certainly are. Pat is still there, the old ****, I am, and one others. If I may suggest something, take a look at www.tourdundee.co.za and www.battlefieldsregionguides.co.za

The first website will give you a list of accommodation providers in and around Dundee. FDL will be on there.

Evan Jones has retired, and Mike Nel has relocated to the Cape.

I did an extensive tour for Isandlwana Lodge yesterday, and they are most certainly still open for business.

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Johannes N. (Johnny) Hamman (KZN 0897)
Treasurer of the KZN Tour Guide Association Battlefields Region
History's Walk Battlefield Tours
Dundee
KZN
"Where Past and Present comes together..."
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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Posts: 208
Location: Dundee, KZN
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You can find Fugitives' Drift Lodge at their quite extensive website

https://www.fugitivesdrift.com/

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Johannes N. (Johnny) Hamman (KZN 0897)
Treasurer of the KZN Tour Guide Association Battlefields Region
History's Walk Battlefield Tours
Dundee
KZN
"Where Past and Present comes together..."
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Alan
Site Admin

Joined: 30 Aug 2005
Posts: 1400
Location: Wales
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Johnny, last time we spoke Pat was in America, I thought for good. Are you saying she's back there?

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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Posts: 208
Location: Dundee, KZN
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Goodness, no, not at all, Alan, I am referring to my old colleague and co-warhorse Pat Rundgren....!!!!!

No, not Pat Stubbs...she is still in the USA as far as I know, and I doubt if she will come back here...

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Johannes N. (Johnny) Hamman (KZN 0897)
Treasurer of the KZN Tour Guide Association Battlefields Region
History's Walk Battlefield Tours
Dundee
KZN
"Where Past and Present comes together..."
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David Rae


Joined: 20 Feb 2019
Posts: 9
Location: Melksham UK
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Hello, depending on where you finally decide to stay you might consider something with higher ground clearance or short wheel base if hiring a car as some of the tracks are a bit rough. The main gravel roads are fine. Car hire insurance doesn't usually cover off road so again be wary and careful if you do venture off road. I don't wish to teach you to suck eggs but if you do hire a car perhaps get an annual cdw excess policy before you go. We got one for about 50 whereas if you wait until you pick up the car they will try to get you to pay hundreds on top of the fee you have already budgeted for.

We had an unfortunate incident with local teenagers which sounds isolated but we were travelling the gravel roads to Isandlwana between 3 and 4pm when the local pupils are going home from schools. The transport drops them every few km or so and they then walk onwards or back to their homes. Most waved and smiled at us as we crawled past but at one point we had to stop as a group of scowling teenagers completely blocked the road and then surrounded us tugging at the doors which were locked. A bit scary as we did not know if they were messing or intent on something else. Luckily we could then move forward but I would advise against tempting fate and make sure all is locked and everything in the boot (trunk) with nothing on show. Not quite Zulu Wars but more of a skirmish where Japanese technology prevailed over youthful exuberance. I was later told this was a completely out of the normal incident.
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Johnny Hamman


Joined: 11 Feb 2006
Posts: 208
Location: Dundee, KZN
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It certainly was an out of the ordinary incident. I have been travelling these roads on an almost daily base, and had never had any issues like this in almost 15 years. The locals had certainly been more than friendly, but this may have been during the so-called Siege of Rorke's Drift, when the community blocked the roads in protest against lack of electricity

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Johannes N. (Johnny) Hamman (KZN 0897)
Treasurer of the KZN Tour Guide Association Battlefields Region
History's Walk Battlefield Tours
Dundee
KZN
"Where Past and Present comes together..."
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DylanC


Joined: 17 Dec 2018
Posts: 2
Location: Virginia, USA
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Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions!

David - or anyone else who knows - what's a CDW excess policy? You're not teaching me how to suck eggs at all, I've never heard of it. I did my car rental through Expedia for pickup at Durban airport. Can I get one of these policies through them?
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David Rae


Joined: 20 Feb 2019
Posts: 9
Location: Melksham UK
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DylanC wrote:
Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions!

David - or anyone else who knows - what's a CDW excess policy? You're not teaching me how to suck eggs at all, I've never heard of it. I did my car rental through Expedia for pickup at Durban airport. Can I get one of these policies through them?


DylanC, Hi, CDW stands for collision damage waver. The hire cars in South Africa (and most of the world) come with cdw included in the hire price which most people think covers them against paying for any damage in the event of an accident. However, if you read the small print of the agreement you will find that there is an excess for which you are responsible, when we went in January this was typically 850 I guess about $1200. So, if you have an accident you pay the first $1200. When you pick up the car (not before) they will try to get you to pay extra insurance to cover this excess, but the cost was about $25 per day. That could double your car hire price. There are companies online who will sell you an annual policy which will cover that excess. It is very cheap, around $60 for us and that covers the excess in the event of an accident. You can see why companies do this as it allows them to advertise a low price for car hire on line which they then try to enlarge when you are in the rather vulnerable position of picking up the car. Get yourself an annual policy or just one to cover the time you are in SA before you actually go and then ignore the hire car rep's pleas for you to buy it from him!
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David Rae


Joined: 20 Feb 2019
Posts: 9
Location: Melksham UK
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PS DylanC, You need not get it from Expedia, in fact if you hired the car through them they may well have already offered you this and you may have it. But check on their price if not , as they may well not be offering a very good deal. Just google cdw excess insurance to get some quotes.
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First Trip to AZW Battlefields - Seeking Guidance
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