We awoke early
this morning to travel to Isandhlwana,
a site rich with history, and also the site where some 1,500 men
we were lucky enough to be taken on this tour by Steve, who drove
us first across the Buffalo
River where Lord Chelmsford's column crossed the river, and
then onto Sihayo's Kraal,
the site of the first encounters between the Zulu and British armies.
the hill the Zulu's attacked from
We then drove
on towards Isandhlwana,
and first drove up to the hill where the Zulu's came down into the
camp. The view of the battlefield was amazing. We then drove down
and through the gate that enters the battlefield and drove along
the road that skirts the mountain. A lone Union Jack flies here,
with two empty flag poles either side. All around us were small
groups of white stones, piled into mounds, known as Cairns.
to be everywhere, and marked the spot where British soldiers fell
and were buried. There was also a small cluster of memorials that
could be seen.
We parked the
Land Rover and started to walk up the side of the mountain. We found
a tree with some shade to sit under, as even at 9.30am, it was getting
pretty hot. By about midday the temperature would be almost 35 degrees
We then proceeded
to hear the sometimes very moving story of the battle of Isandhlwana.
The very fact that we were sitting there, on a day not unlike the
one that the battle took place on, indeed 122 years and 1 day after
the battle, made it all the more special. We heard how Chelmsford
went off in search of the Zulus, and split his force, and how the
20,000 strong force of Zulus was found resting in a nearby valley
by Major Raw and his men on a scouting mission.
The story then
unravelled for us, in front of our eyes, and at each moment we were
able to see for ourselves exactly how and where the Zulus had approached
and how the British had reacted.
the story of Isandhlwana
Road to Isandhlwana
one of many Cairns
moving account told how an officer, Younghusband, was to find himself
on the side of Isandhlwana,
with Zulus rapidly approaching from all sides, with seemingly nowhere
to go. Seeing that the inevitable was at hand, he came down and
shook hands with each of his men. On seeing this, the Zulu commander
who was himself advancing up the hill, told his men to stop, and
allowed Younghusband to shake hands with each man, and then issue
the command to advance. The men then ran at the Zulus, most falling
at that moment under Assegai. Younghusband however, made it down
the side of the hill to the ammunition cart, and fought the Zulus
off, at first with volleys of rifle file, and then with his bayonet.
The Zulu account
tells of this brave man fighting with such gusto that he was thought
to be the "first white warrior". He was eventually killed by a single
musket shot to his head. He fell, but instead of letting him lie
where he was, the Zulu Warriors placed him on a shield and carried
him to be with his men, on the side of Isandhlwana. The shield was
found under his body later. This was a real honour afforded by the
Zulus, and one which shows their respect. The Zulu culture still
reveres him today, as they named an animal as a "spirit animal"
after him, a small bird. This honour is not normally bestowed, but
it seems he earned the right in battle.
We heard how,
unlike many stories I have heard, the Zulus were proud to have fought
such a brave group of soldiers, and honoured them by spearing their
dead bodies (a typical custom normally applied to Zulu warriers)
as if to say "You may be dead, but you still fight as a warrior".
The Cairns we
had seen seemed to grow in numbers as the morning went on, and I
must admit to shedding a tear or two whilst hearing the story.
We also visited
the museum, which is well stocked with interesting pieces. All the
while, children were going about their school and work.
The memorial to
the 24th Regiment at Isandhlwana, unveiled in 1914.
The bell on Oskarsberg,
where the first Zulu appeared at Rorke's Drift
The view from the
bell on Oskarsberg towards Rorke's Drift
We then returned
Drift Lodge, and rested a while. David Rattray then took a group
of us on a two and a half hour walk around the reserve. We were
lucky enough to see Zebra and Impala, as well as a huge selection
of flora. We eventually emerged onto a rocky outcrop overlooking
the Buffalo River, the views from which were spectacular. The hills
disappeared slowly into the distance, getting bluer the further
they went, and we spent a while spotting animals on the other hills
we could see.
spotting his wildlife over the Buffalo River
point I would like to make is that we in the West use phrases like
"awesome", "fantastic" etc, but I am sure that we don't know the
meanings until we experience a trip like this one. Even if your
interest wasn't in the battles, you would have walked away a richer
That is, I believe,
what happened with Matt.
We spent the
evening regretting the fact that we would be leaving the next day,
and saying goodbye to everyone we had met and become friends with.
I also managed to purchase a few books I had been looking for, for