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visit to Zululand October 2002
Sat. Day 1. Arrived Durban 13.30, picked up the car from the airport and spent the afternoon chilling out around the seafront area.
Sun. Day 2. Drove to the Mont Aux Sources hotel in the Northern Drakensberg to visit the Amphitheatre, location for the film ‘Zulu’. The hotel is first class offering good food and a friendly atmosphere. The scenery from the grounds of the hotel is stunning with views of the Amphitheatre and the mountain which doubled as Isandlwana in the films opening scenes. The Amphitheatre is in the Royal Natal Park about two miles from the hotel. (The road passes the fields where the Isandlwana scene was shot.)
The really big surprise is that the wedding kraal set is only about two hundred yards further up the road tucked away over to the right. It is much smaller than it appears on the film. There are also bits of it still there. If you are a fan of the film it really is worth going out of the way to visit this area. Apart from some undergrowth nothing has changed and it really is a case of Deja Vu.
Tues. Day 4. Travelled to Penny Farthing Farm via Ladysmith. Stopped off for lunch at the George Hotel in Dundee. Well worthwhile to see all the Zulu War memorabilia that is displayed around the Hotel. Penny Farthing is owned by Foy Vermaak a registered Guide whose family established the farm early last century. It is situated on a large reserve and being only four kilometres from Helpmakaar it is a good base for the Rorkes Drift area.
5. Down the escarpment to Rorkes Drift. This is a very scenic
drive with a marvellous view of Isandlwana down below in the distance.
Walked around the marked out defence perimeters and stood at the rocky
ledge and again wondered about the events there so long ago. When we
climbed up to the terraces I was surprised at how far they actually
are from the British position. Surely the range would have been too
great for the old rifles the Zulus are supposed to have used from there?
6. To Isandlwana Lodge.
It goes without saying that Isandlwana is the main reason that most people visit Zululand and to walk around that area knowing what happened is almost beyond words. Enough said.
Fri. Day 7. Walked the Fugitives Trail. For those who have done it you know the score. For those who haven’t, then do it and ponder on what it must have been like on that day in 1879. These days there is a lot of thornbush around which restricts the views in certain places, but the first part of the walk down to the Manzimyama River is very poignant as you come upon the small clusters of graves scattered along the trail.
Sat. Day 8. From Isandlwana we drove to Babanango Valley Lodge via Isipezi Hill where Zulu Dawn was filmed. The Lodge is owned by John Turner and is literally in a valley reached by driving down a 12 Kilometre dirt road. And a more peaceful, tranquil place would be hard to find.
Sun. Day 9. There are two ways to get to Devils Pass at Hlobane. (Three if you can ride a horse.) You can either walk up to the summit and then walk along the top to the Pass and then walk back and down again, (all day job) or you can go with John Turner in his 4 wheel drive. I really don’t think we missed anything by not walking up as the top of Hlobane is quite featureless until you get to the Pass itself. We more or less followed Bullers ascent (with a short detour to the grave of Campbell and Lloyd) and as we travelled along the undulating top we lost site of the surrounding countryside. I wondered how Buller had managed to find his way to the Pass in the first place. On reaching the edge of the Pass I was amazed that he could have considered getting down it with horses. Talk about desperation.
John then took us to Kambula. It was not long before some of the locals joined us to trade “goodies”. As remote as it is, there was one surreal moment when a Zulu gentleman who was obviously stoned out of his head, appeared and stood by the memorial playing a guitar. And not a bad job he was making of it. I thought I’d show him how to play some Beatle stuff and then, immediately becoming the new centre of attraction, I struck the first chord and, Lennon and McCartney not, realised to my horror that he had tuned the guitar in a totally different way known only to himself. It took a few minutes of retuning before battle honours were restored.
10. To Ulundi.
In the afternoon we visited Ondini and the Cultural Museum.
Tues. Day 11. Full day in Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Park. We drove from Ulundi to the Cengeni Gate entrance about 30 kilometers. Take care if you use this route as the road can be a little “gravelly”. Like many of the roads we travelled on in Zululand it is not a case of needing a 4 wheel drive (the gravel roads were quite flat with only a small number of potholes) but I feel that an additional extra spare wheel would go a long way in easing the tension from the threat of punctures from the sharp stones. Even though I had a mobile phone, It is always on your mind that two punctures within quick succession would cripple you. The extra wheel would give you a better than good chance of getting to your destination on such roads.
Weds. Day 12. To Durban via Shaka Land. I was pleasantly surprised at the way this theme village is presented and is well worth visiting as a half day trip.
Overall I can say that after reading the books and seeing the films over so many years, this trip has been the experience of a lifetime ( a pilgrimage even) and we have made some new friends to visit when we return and yes, we took the sweets. They were really appreciated by the children.