The next day had Pat and I up bright and early. We had a fantastic breakfast (my favorite meal of the day) and then were asked to wait by the dining area for the start of the 2nd part of the Zulu show.
I found the show fascinating as usual, and our guide was excellent in presenting everything from “spear making” to “beer making”. At one point I was offered the opportunity to throw the spear at a distant target, normally I get nowhere near the target but this time I was determined to change that. I was wrong.
We once again had a bit of driving to do to our next overnight accommodation spot, and I also wanted to show Pat some really fascinating spots; the Zulu chief Dingaan’s royal kraal site at uMgungundlovu, and the site of Piet Retief’s execution, both of which did much to shape the coming conflict between the Zulu’s and the British.
So after the Zulu show, we loaded our luggage, checked-out of Shakaland hotel and checked the map before heading off onto the next destination.
uMgungundlovu and Dingaan’s Royal Kraal
We started by heading directly to wards uMgungundlovo. It was here the Zulu king Dingane establish his Royal Kraal after Shaka was assassinated; Dingaan being one of the three men responsible for stabbing Shaka! Dingaan established his kraal in the Emakhosini Valley, naming the site uMgungundlovu – the place of the large elephant; a reference perhaps to the characteristic massive thighs of the house of Senzangakhona.
I had last been to uMgungundlovu many years ago, and walked up the hill among the typical Zulu beehive huts, but I was totally unprepared for what we now saw. It seems that some building had taken place, and there was now a large educational center built below the main site, a center that was just fantastic! For a small fee, we had our own specialized guide who walked us through the building, chatting to us about the history of the area and the Zulu’s as well as giving us insight into the day-to-day lives of the Zulu’s back in the 1800’s.
One part of the tour did give me the giggles though. We had to wait about 5 minutes for someone with matches to re-light the “eternal flame” as it apparently had gone out! That aside, it was a fantastic place to visit, and if we had more time I certainly would have stayed longer for the movie in the newly built and beautiful auditorium.
Pat was really taken in by the tapestries that hung on the wall depicting the life and times of the Zulu people, from their beginnings as a small tribe under the Chief of Zulu, to their final days at Isandlwana and Rorkes Drift!
We thanked our guide and headed towards the 2nd part of our visit to uMgungundlovu, namely “Execution Hill” where Piet Retief and 100 of his party met their deaths at the hands of the Zulu’s under Dingaan’s direct instructions.
The Site of Piet Retief’s Death and the Memorial
In January 1838, Piet Retief and 100 of his men including his son, visited Dingaan with the intention of negotiating for a tract of land for the newly arrived Boers. Unfortunately for Retief, Dingaan was extremely distrustful of the Boers and egged on by his official translator Jacob, saw to it that the Boers would worry him no more.
During the course of a ceremony the Zulu’s leapt upon Retief and his men on the shouted instructions of the King Dingaan, and dragged them to KwaMatiwane Hill (Execution Hill) where Retief was made to watch as each and every one of his men (including his son) were battered and strangled to death! Their remains were laid out in the open for the hyenas to clear, until re-discover and buried in December of that year.
The site is well maintained, and looking around does seem to attract it’s fair share of visitors. The site also looks onto the newly built and magnificent educational center, and I can’t help but wonder what Retief must think of that? A lonely place to die.
Rorkes Drift Hotel
It was onward to our hotel at Rorkes Drift, the aptly named “Rorkes Drift Hotel“. We traveled along the R68 which had been newly re-surfaced and was an absolute pleasure to drive along. As we followed the winding road through endless Pine and Saligna forests, Pat and I chatted the time away. We were both struck by the amount of schools we saw in these remote districts.
Pretty soon though we were at our destination, and not too soon as by now I was certainly feeling the effects fo the long drive. After checking in Pat and I took the time to recuperate for a little until dinner. I decided that before my 10 minute power nap (which I know would end up being far longer) I would grab the camera and start taking some shots of our beautiful surrounds.
Situated on the bank of the Buffalo River, not a stone’s throw away from the original pont site of Rorkes Drift, the hotel is newly built and just fantastic. It seemed we had the hotel to ourselves for the two nights which suited me and the hospitality was great. After a really enjoyable supper, it was an early night to bed as we had quite a long day planned ahead of us where we would stand on the flanks of Isandlwana and then Rorkes Drift to explore one of the most significant battle events in KwaZulu-Natal history.
A long day but well worth the effort!
Have a look at the gallery here for many more pictures of this trip.