Feel the Drama of the KZN Battlefields
By Lori Booth
A road trip to the rolling hills and sweeping plains of northern KwaZulu Natal promises adventures aplenty and stories rich with history and intrigue.
Get your vehicle prepared for the road trip there and back by fitting it with BOOXE Interior Floor and Boot Mats which you can easily lift out and shake clean or hose down. They’re made of anti-slip rubber and are tailor-made for each vehicle so they fit perfectly!
‘The Battlefields’ – it conjures up the smell of fear, the taste of blood and the sound of death. From the Battle of Blood River in 1838 where the Voortrekkers fought the Zulus, to the Battle of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift in 1879 where the British fought the Zulus, and the Battle of Spionkop in 1900 where the British fought the Boers, there are more battle sites in KZN than in the rest of South Africa collectively.
WAR ZONESNewcastle, Vryheid, Dundee, Ulundi, Ladysmith, Colenso, Escort, Greytown; all featured prominently in the South African wars, where historic museums and monuments are commonplace. These towns and the surrounding areas offer a varied selection of places to stay, from where you can explore, dig up history, hike, mountain bike or simply rest and rejuvenate. Guided horseback trails, walks, birding or photographic tours are also available, so book in advance. Although these scenes of terror and bloodshed occurred just over 100 years ago, there’s an eerily peaceful atmosphere that exists at each of the windswept battlefields today. On your road trip to the Battlefields, listen to The Day Of The Dead Moon, a 5 Part audio series of the Anglo Zulu War of 1879. Brilliantly narrated by the late historian David Rattray, it will set the scene for your battlefield tours.
To get the best experience from a tour to the battlefields, hire an accredited tour guide who will make the battles come alive. Most of the leading lodges in the area employ resident guides and several independent guides come highly recommended as authoritative in their fields. If you don’t take a guide you’ll do little more than stare at graves and get bored.
Some of the battlefields museums are modern, interactive institutions showcasing audiovisual displays and offering café food and retail therapy. Try any of these:
Talana Museum, R33, just outside Dundee, 034-2122654 www.talana.co.za
Blood River Monument and Ncome Museum, off R33, North East of Dundee, 072 988 3544 www.bloodriver.co.za
Rorke’s Drift Battle Museum, off the R33, 46km southeast of Dundee, 034 642 1805 www.rorkesdrifttours.co.za
Ladysmith Siege Museum, 151 Murchison Street, Ladysmith 036 637 2992
WHERE TO STAY
Around 50 kilometres from Dundee is Isandlwana Lodge, a boutique hotel carved into the iNyoni rock formation, on top of which the Zulu commander stood during the Battle of Isandlwana in 1879. Soak up breathtaking views of the vast battlefield and Isandlwana Mountain from the lodge verandah and your private balcony. The Resident Guide will mesmerize you with personalized accounts of both the Battles of Isandlwana and the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in situ.
About 50 kilometres from Ladysmith, positioned atop a hill surrounded by the towering Drakensberg Mountains to the west and Spionkop to the east, is Three Tree Hill Lodge, a quaint and luxurious boutique hotel. Quintessentially “Out-of-Africa” and teeming with historical memorabilia, you’ll also find modern comfort and wholesome cuisine at this authentic ‘wood-and-iron” lodge. Spionkop Mountain, overlooking the Drakensburg, was the site of the most futile and bloodiest battle fought to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith during the Anglo-Boer war of 1900, and owner Simon Blackburn’s walking tour of this site is enthralling.
Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Association offers numerous camping sites situated in and around the battlefields from where you can tour the area quite easily. Rustic, affordable accommodation can be found at Elandsheim in the Isandlwana area.
WHERE TO EAT
Bingalela offers contemporary-classic dining in the charmingly rustic surrounds of a period farmhouse. For organic fare try Lennox Cottage, open to the public by appointment only. Lunch at Fugitives Drift, an award-winning luxury lodge, is by appointment only for non-residents, but worth the stopover.
The Boer War” Pub at Buller’s Rest Lodge is filled with military memorabilia, or eat on the sun deck with views over the majestic Drakensberg mountains.
Make sure you have your BOOXE Emergency Kit and First Aid Pack neatly stored in your BOOXE Boot Box – you never know what sudden crisis might happen along the way. Keep maps, cell phone chargers and other documents as well as your padkos for the road trip there and back stored neatly in your BOOXE Keep-it-tidy Caddy!
Get in touch
- Isandlwana Lodge, Isandlwana Village, R68 past Nqutu. 034 271 8301 www.isandlwana.co.za
- Three Tree Hill Lodge, Off D564, Bergville 036 448 1171 threetreehill.co.za
- Elandsheim in the Isandlwana area 034 642 1703 www.elandsheim.co.za Rates R320 pppn incl 3 meals.
- Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Association 033 845 1000 kznwildlife.com
- Bingalela, R74 3km from Bergville 036 448 1336 bingelela.co.za
- Lennox Cottage, ± 6km from Dundee on D108. 034 218 2201 lennox.co.za
- Fugitives Drift, D31, West Kirby Farm, Rorke’s Drift 034 642 1843 fugitivesdrift.com
- Buller’s Rest Lodge, 59 Cove Crescent, Ladysmith 082 920 8782 bullersrestlodge.co.za
LOCAL TOURIST OFFICE NOS AND CONTACTS