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Tuesday 23rd January

We awoke early this morning to travel to Isandhlwana, a site rich with history, and also the site where some 1,500 men perished.

Once again, 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.

Sihayo's Kraal

The Saddle, where the British were camped
Isandhlwana, from 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.

They seemed 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 C.

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.

Steve, recalling the story of Isandhlwana

Road to Isandhlwana

Isandhlwana and one of many Cairns

One particularly 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 drove back to the Lodge, and lunched. My Dad, Martin Everett and myself then went back down to Rorke's Drift, in order to get proper photographs of the memorial to the Zulu Warriors and the Rorke's Drift monument. I also went up Oskarsberg to stand where the first Zulu was spotted, a place which is marked by a Bell today.

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 HospitalThe StorehouseJim Rorke's Grave
The view from the bell on Oskarsberg towards Rorke's Drift


We then returned to Fugitive's 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.

David Rattray, spotting his wildlife over the Buffalo River

One interesting 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 person.

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 a while.


Go to Wednesday 24th January

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