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Sunday 21st January

We leave for Rorke's Drift at the unholy hour of 8am. This, it turns out, is a good idea as the journey takes over four hours. We travel down through Nigel, Standerton, Newcastle and Dundee to finally reach the road to Rorke's Drift. Now, we were under the impression that this would be a tarred road. It was far from. The boulders that we were driving over were threatening to seriously dent the car, and our pockets via the excess payments!

Oskarsberg, also known as Shiyane
Oskarsberg, taken from the road to Rorke's Drift
After travelling for around 8km, we come across a T-Junction, where we turn left and promptly had to stop due to herd of cattle being herded by a young woman with her chest out. Now, to western men, this was a little odd. It's one thing meeting some cattle, but women in the west simply don't walk around with their breasts out. We were certainly now in Zululand. I was struck by the confidence that she walked around with, and well she should, as there is not actually anything wrong with the practice, simply our perceptions.

We move on, getting closer to Rorke's Drift, and can now see Oskarsberg in the distance. The anticipation is quite unnerving. Suddenly we are upon the sign, "Rorke's Drift". We are here! 6,500 miles to come to a dusty group of buildings in a remote part of South Africa. People would consider us a little detached (I suppose that's nothing when compared to 800 miles to take one photo of Dalton's grave!). We briefly stop, and then continue on towards Fugitive's Drift, a further 8km away, as we plan to come back later that day.

As we move further into the area around Rorke's Drift and Fugitive's Drift, the landscape gets more beautiful and the people are remarkably friendly, typically waving before we get the chance to. The road dips gently down into a valley, then up towards a gate. As we approach, a man walks out to open it for us, we are now entering the Fugitive's Drift Game Reserve.

We go along the track, admiring the views that are presented to us and eventually pull up at Fugitive's Drift Lodge. We are greeted by Sheila, who warmly welcomes us to the Lodge, and shows us to our rooms. An fact unknown to me was that H.R.H Prince Charles stayed here in 1997 on a tour of the area.

Approaching Fugitives Drift, the views were spectacular.

The Lodge

After a brief rest, we lunch and then are told we are to visit Rorke's Drift to have a tour that afternoon. Our guide will be David Charles. We climb into a Land-Rover and are driven by David to Rorke's Drift, all the while listening to the excellent "Day of the Dead Moon" series of cassettes by David Rattray, owner of the Fugitive's Drift Game Reserve.

David Charles, who gave us the tour at Rorke's Drift

This quickly takes on the feeling of a religious experience. Finally, I am going to see Rorke's Drift with my own eyes, and sit where those brave men fought and died. It fulfils the brief. The talk given by David was riveting and graphic. The bravery of the Zulu's was well recalled and the opportunity to experience the actual distances and place was unsurpassed.

For example, the run that Hook took when ferrying the injured from the hospital wore me out the first time I did it, and he did it many times, under fire!

There were also stone markings in the ground to show where the original buildings were.

After two hours, we are tired but happy, and have experienced Rorke's Drift for ourselves. We plan to come back again and take photos and walk around the site on our own.

We return to the Lodge, looking forward to a hearty meal and are surprised to meet Martin Everett, curator of the South Wales Borderers Museum, someone who has been very helpful with the website. After discovering who we all were, we enjoyed an evening of long discussion, even though the electricity only lasts for four hours!

Alan CritchleyMatt Chambers
The group listened intently to the story, with the hospital in the background
Cattle Kraal
The cattle kraal
Rorke's drift from the bell tower on Oskarsberg


Go to Monday 22nd January

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