South Africa: Wandering in Zululand and the Battlefields Route

It was on the drive up through Zululand that I started to really see what a magnificent country South Africa is. In Eshowe I stayed at The George Hotel and thought I might have slipped into an episode of The League of Gentlemen when I went down to the bar in the evening.

The host was a bit of a living legend in his own backyard but turned out to be truly hospitable, taking me out to show me some of the country I wouldn’t otherwise have seen and telling some good stories. Standing on the hill beside the memorial cross to the first christian Zulu martyr was a sobering experience, as was looking out over the richly fertile valleys of Zululand – in the distance a glimpse of the Indian Ocean.

From Shaka country I travelled through amazingly beautiful countryside up into the dry lands again to see the evocative Anglo-Zulu battlefields. The Battlefields Route in South Africa is a popular tourist drive, with 82 battlefields, museums and old fortifications that serve to remember a fierce resistance by the Zulu nation to British invasion. I only visited a couple of sites but it was a very interesting insight into part of South Africa’s history.

This is Rorke’s Drift, immortalised in the 1964 film Zulu (you could almost hear the understated voice of Michael Caine here). Famous battles were fought around the hospital here and at nearby Isandlwana on the same day, 22 January 1879. The small British force at Rorke’s Drift fought off a large Zulu force but the British army ultimately suffered a humiliating defeat against the Zulu nation fighting under King Cetshwayo at Isandlwana.

This photo is of Isandlwana, where white-painted cairns mark the places where British soldiers fell. It is a lonely spot and there is also a memorial to the bravery of the fallen of the Zulu impi.

By Natasha von Geldern

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