King Shaka’s Way
Our story of the battlefields starts with a young boy, outcast from his clan, forced to find a home for himself and his mother. The young Shaka was to develop into great warrior, chief and finally King of the Zulus. His leadership bound all the clans of the uNguni people into the greatest nation known today, The Zulu!
Let us take you through the beautiful rolling hills and valleys that make up KwaZulu-Natal and which was once home to the mighty King Shaka. Meet it’s friendly people, learn its intriguing history and experience its unique culture. This is a land of great beauty from its magnificent coastline, to its world class game reserves and heritage sites, through to the open rolling cattle plains of the north west. Explore the area around Stanger, Eshowe, Melmoth and northwards to Ulundi, King Cetshwayo’s royal residence, Opathe Game Reserve, and west towards Babanango. This hamlet reputedly got its name when younglads were sent to find some lost cattle. Upon discovering the lost animals, they proclaimed to their father ‘Baba Nango’- ‘Father, there they are’.
How true of this area – there it is, waiting for you to explore. It is rich in tradition and offers a little of the time honoured culture of ‘The People of Heaven’.
King Dingane was to witness the arrival of the Voortrekker wagons as they struggled down the escarpment from the highveld, intent on settling on the rolling plains of the northern Natal. Their leader Piet Retief and his men approached the Zulu King for permission to settle on land that is now KwaZulu-Natal.
A series of bloody encounters were to follow culminating in the battle of Ncome/Blood River. When you visit the brooding wagon laager at Blood River, visions of assegai wielding impis are sure to raise a shiver. On site is a full-size bronze replica of the wagon laager. The Ncome Museum is dedicated to fallen Zulu warriors and to Zulu culture. From Ulundi through to Vryheid, on to Paulpietersburg and Ithala Game Reserve there is stunning scenery, warm mineral fountains, battlefields, game viewing and culture galore. In a remote part of this region the last of the Bonaparte dynasty, Louis Napoleon Prince Imperial of France, met his fate as he fought with valour. He was one of many young men whose blood was spilled into the warm African soil as they fought for their beliefs. A monument between Isandlwana and Vryheid remembers his bravery.
The Siege Salute has a high concentration of historical sites encompassing Anglo Boer War and several Voortrekker- Zulu War sites. The major towns along the way are Ladysmith, Colenso, Escourt and Winterton, at Dundee it merges with Red Soldier’s March.
The now quiet grasslands belie a turbulent past. Famous figures such as Gandhi, Churchill and Louis Botha traversed the countryside and left their indelible footprints in the African soil.
You can begin this unique experience at any point along the route. In the west the Ukhahlamba Drakensburg World Heritage Site forms a dramatic backdrop to the theatre of war in its foothills. The Siege Salute overflows with beautiful landscapes, wildlife, birdlife and adventures. The area was first inhabited by the Bushmen people who were driven away by the rising Zulu nation (pre-1800). The arrival of the white settlers, the Voortrekkers (1836) announced the dawn of a new age followed shortly by British. The Anglo Boer War had a profound effect on almost every aspect of development in South Africa. No visitor is left untouched by the macabre facts of war.
No visit to the KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields would be complete without a visit to the famous Siege Museum. Winston Churchill’s historic reference to the town, “famous unto the uttermost ends of the earth”, though perhaps exaggerated, nevertheless, expresses the emotions of the British trying to relieve Ladysmith.
This land in KwaZulu-Natal is ancient. Sketches, paintings, engravings and tools of the Bushmen testify to early and long occupation of today’s battlefields. By the 18th century tribesmen had given this area the name “Honey Mountains” for life was sweet.
A lofty world of vast panoramas, this area can claim many titles: “No Man’s Land”, “The Turbulent Frontier”, “Crossroads of South African History”, “Land of the Covenant”, “Land of forts”, “Land of Missions”. Destiny marched with men along these winding roads and trough its steep, narrow passes where bloody battles were fought between Zulu, Boer and Brit. Boer confronted Zulu in 1838 and broke King Dingane’s Impi’s at Blood River. Proud Imperial Britain bit the dust at Isandlwana on 22 January 1879. That same day reputation was to be salvaged at Rorkes Drift. 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded – the highest number for a single engagement.
The initial battles of the Anglo boer War of 1879 are world renowned. However, there are more, not as well known, but as interesting to visit. At fugitives Drift you will find the memorial to Lts Coghill and Melvill, who saved the Queen’s Colours. From there you will have a view down into the Buffalo River valley where the survivors from Isandlwana struggled to cross the swollen river to reach Rorke’s Drift. With a guide make your way to the heights of Hlobane, not only a battlefield but, with a tremendous history of coal mining, Kambula and Intombi Drift. At the centre of this route, Dundee has a varied history which is depicted in the impressive Talana Museum, set in a 20 acre heritage park, on the outskirts of the town. History has been brought alive by evocative museums on site. Hire the resident museum guide to guide you around and bring the events of yesteryear alive.
The Remembrance Route – KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields
By the mid 1800’s Natal had been settled by the British and Cetshwayo was King of the Zulus. Although determined to live at peace with the British he had created his own demise in re-establishing the mighty military system founded by King Shaka. The Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 was to carve its name in history. Follow the Remembrance Route to the world- renowned battlefields of Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift, Fugitive’s Drift and on to Hlobane, Kambula and Ulundi. Colour, culture, character and the echoes of fierce clashes- all this and much more can be found in the tranquil and beautiful hills of northern KwaZulu-Natal. From Pietermaritzburg follow the R33 through Greytown, Tugela Ferry, Dundee, Vryheid and on to Ithala Game Reserve. Scenery, Zulu culture, battlefields and old mission stations are just some of the many wonders of this route.This is “far from the madding crowd” country. Take your time and discover the heartbeat of an area that appears to exist in a time warp. Here the people are hospitable, there is always someone to recount tales of the past, culture, or just chatting about life in our country.This is an area with an incredibly rich Zulu culture, a fascinating and hardy German culture and a resolute Afrikaner culture. Come meet our people and experience their lives, past and present.
Courtesy: Kwazulu Natal Tourism