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Trip to South Africa - May 2005
By Alan Critchley

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It was the death of my brother's mother-in-law in Port Elizabeth which prompted me to go again. Sad as the reason, I had the opportunity to again visit people and places which by now are fairly familiar.

I arrived in PE and attended the funeral. I took the opportunity to visit Dalton 's grave in Russell Road cemetery. It's still in good condition but the rest of the sparcely populated graveyard was a little grubby. Not far away was the relocated statue to the role the horse played in conflicts. In St.

George's Park there was an 'Art in the Park' event. When browsing the flee market section I found an oil painting, a version of Lady Butler's Rorke's drift. It was A3 size and not bad although not the same painting technique. It was framed and cost 20 rand (about £1.70). The glass I later put in it cost more! There is also a fountain in the park dedicated to the locally raised Prince Alfred's Guard Regiment.

26th May I flew to Durban and stayed at the Oyster Box hotel with a room overlooking the Indian Ocean. Beautiful!

The next day I hired a car to drive up to Zululand . On the way I stopped off to say hello to Ron Lock (the famous author and historian). The 'natives' are very friendly on the whole. In a roadside café, the waitress wrote a little note on the back of the bill saying it had had been a pleasure serving and hoped that God would go with me. Cynics may say it was to get a bigger tip!

Arrived at Isandhlwana around 5.30 to stay at the lodge. As usual, the welcome was warm and genuine. I met people I had met on previous visits including Nelly, Glenrose, Beauty, Rob Gerrard and the owner, Pat Stubbs. I've stayed at a few places but Isandlwana Lodge takes some beating for quality of service and accommodation. I've never had my car cleaned without my knowing or a hot water-bottle put in my bed before I retired. The bathroom is brilliant!


Next day went Rorke's Drift. Did something I hadn't done before and clambered up to the bell tower. Sitting at the top looking down just as a Zulu would have in 1879. Enjoying the solitude at the crest and along walked Patrick. A local boy who was just wandering around up there. That afternoon I went to Isandhlwana. I was interested in looking again at the unusual rock formations which are on the Southern slopes. At this time of the year there aren't many visitors, the only other one being a Sri Lankan lady who lives in Luton . I can't remember how many times I've been here, but each time the feeling is the same. As if time has stood still and something has just lifted the evidence of the battle to leave the bare canvas.

The lodge was also very quiet because of the time of year and the only other guest to arrive while I was there was the Chairwoman of the Travel Writers' Guild, Melisa. On her trip she'd only met two other English people, strangely enough they were from Hertford (where I live). I attempted to visit the Prince Imperial site but the roads were so bad that I feared for my suspension and teeth and turned back. The children often wave to you as you drive past them. It's a bit embarrassing to then look in the rear view mirror to see them becoming engulfed in the dust of your passing.

On Sunday I decided to head back to Durban taking the route through Ulundi. There I visited the Zulu Cultural Centre on the site of Cetshwayo's homestead. A statue of him stands at the entrance to the enclosure. The reconstructed huts, were there with one rebuilt over the floor of Cetshwayo's original. Two boys took me around and back to the museum. I went to the monument again which sits in the centre of a square garden which marks the extent of the British square on July 4, 1879. An elderly man was inside the monument and he dug out a battered visitors' book for me to sign. I was unable to find the reconstructed site of King mPande's homestead in Ulundi which Prince Joseph had shown to me on my last visit.


Continuing my journey to Durban I passed through Eshowe and Ginginlova (for ease the locals shorten it to Gingi on signs). Back to Umhlanga Rocks to stay.

Monday I thought I'd go to Pietermaritzburg to trace a fountain I have heard about and also the grave of Durnford. The Rorke's Drift VC site, in conjunction with Ron lock and Peter Quantrill, paid for the restoration of the grave. Unfortunately I was unable to contact Ron to find out where it was. The fountain, I now discover, is in Pretoria and not PMB. Still, it was interested to see PMB and take some photographs.

My trip could have been more useful had I had more notice (24 hours was all I had).

Next time.

Alan Critchley