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Walking In South Africa: On The Zulu Trail - Guy Rowland

Blog post   •   May 03, 2014 15:00 BST

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My wife and I arrived back today from 3 weeks on your KwaZulu Natal – A World Heritage Discovery grade D holiday.  We’ve been on 17 Ramblers holidays over the last 14 years and this, the 18th, was one of the very best. We thought it was unique among the Ramblers holidays we’ve been on.

We had thought of going on your parallel The Drakensberg Mountains grade D+ walking holiday.  However, we are so glad that we chose this instead.  The walking element was magnificent – glorious scenery.  But it was enhanced so much by the other elements of the holiday, particularly the days we spent guided around the wild life reserves of Hluhluwe and St Lucia.  This gave us the incentive and the skill to keep our eyes open for wildlife in the Drakensberg; and wildlife we saw there too, in particular herds of eland and tribes of baboons.

Part of the attraction of this holiday for those like us, who may not be able to afford to travel that far afield again, was the driving from Durban, between the four centres at which we stayed and then finally to Johannesburg.  We saw low veldt, high veldt, maize plains, sugar cane plantations, wetlands and the ‘big country’ of the Free State, as well as the magnificent Drakensberg.  Far from being a time waster, we really appreciated this opportunity to see a significant part of South Africa.

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All of this would have been much less interesting if we had not had such a good introduction to Zulu culture and history. We had never differentiated in our minds between the Boer-Zulu War (1838), the Anglo-Zulu War (ending 1879) and the Boer War (1899 -1902). Being guided round the battlefields of Blood River (Boer-Zulu), Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift (Anglo-Zulu), and Talana Hill, Ladysmith and Spion Kop (Anglo-Boer) gave us an appreciation of the complex and violent history of Natal, as two competing European peoples sought to assert their interests.

We had a white South African military historian to lead us round some of the battlefields but our Ramblers leader, Adrian Flatt, was something of an expert himself. With long experience of Africa, in particular the south, Adrian gave us a real insight into the Zulu people. For me, this was perhaps more stimulating than any other aspect of the holiday. The first day of the holiday had begun with a visit to a Zulu village to see and hear about the rural life of a Zulu community, and thereafter the Zulu theme recurred everywhere we went, whether it was trying out the few words of Zulu we’d been taught when talking to our waiters in the hotels or talking to our Zulu guide, Stanley, as he lead us walking in the Drakensberg.

This combination of walking and getting alongside and understanding the local people is, we think, a very important part of the Rambler ethos. KwaZulu Natal – A World Heritage Discovery was the best example of this. Please keep up this aspect of your holidays. It does require the right leaders, of course. Adrian had a very broad job description to fulfill. He topped our holiday by taking us to the Drakensberg School Boys Choir on his day off, our last day. It was very moving to hear this internationally renowned choir, with black and white Africans equally mixed, sing and dance with Zulu exuberance, and “To the glory of God”.

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