Thanda Private Game Reserve now offers a new package named ‘Battlefields and Bush‘ in cooperation with a place called Fugitives’ Drift. I went to have a look at this new package-partner and to take a few images which we will be able to use for our advertisement and for our social media messages. I did not have particular expectations as I knew very little of the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879 and I did not have any great interest in the subject before my visit.
But, it was amazing!
The art of storytelling, together with this fascinating part of South Africa’s and Britain’s history, combined with the stunning scenery of the battlefields made this one of my best trips in a long time. The Fugitives’ Drift lodge is very beautifully located on a 5,000ha heritage site. It is very comfortable with excellent food and very good service.
Below is a picture record of my stay. It documents me experiencing ‘The Day of The Dead Moon‘, which is the title of the story of this war, as it has been recorded, superbly told by David Rattray.
The audio record is available online at http://www.fugitivesdrift.com/shop.
The Battle of Isandlwana was the first major confrontation in the Anglo-Zulu war. On 22 January 1879, midday – in a very hot and humid summer climate and during an eclipse of the sun (which the Zulus call ‘The Day of the Dead Moon’) – the Zulu Nation won its greatest victory in this war and the British Empire experienced its most devastating defeat. Of the 1,412 British soldiers at the start of the battle only 55 survived. A disciplined army of over 20,000 Zulu warriors was victorious. The British camp was on the left-hand slope of the mountain. The viewpoint -from which this image was taken – was the ridge, from which the main body of the Zulu army moved towards the mountain and attacked the British position.
Just imagine how you would feel to be one the British soldiers (who were in average around 5’2″-5’4″ tall) standing in the high grass (which at the time was up to 6′ high) listening to the war cries and shield-bashing of 20,000 Zulu warriors advancing on you. And remember it was quite dark on that day as the moon blocked out part of the sun around the time of the battle.
… and this is an image of the memorial to the fallen Zulus. It represents a Zulu necklace, which is awarded to a Zulu warrior for exceptional valour in battle. It is arranged in a horn formation, which symbolizes the traditional attack structure of a Zulu army.
In the late afternoon (on the same day – 22 January 1879), and during the subsequent night, the British fought one of the most heroic battles in history (this story is the basis for the famous film ‘Zulu’). As we visited this site, where a mere 137 men defended the small mission station at Rorke’s Drift against thousands of Zulus, Doug Rattray was telling us the story of the second battle of this historical day. Only 16 of the British soldiers died in this fierce encounter. Victoria crosses were awarded to 12 of the British for their bravery, more than in any other battle in history. Doug’s excellent storytelling skills turned this afternoon into much more than just another visit to a historical site.
I also took a walk to the Buffalo River at Fugitives’ Drift, where some of the survivors from the Isandlwana disaster crossed on their flight from the pursuing Zulus at the same time as the Zulus started their assault on Rorke’s Drift. Dickon, our guide on this walk, told us the gripping story of the British soldiers who died in the attempt to save the Regimental Queens Colours. Two more Victoria crosses were awarded for bravery on this occasion.
As I left Fugitives’ Drift I was certain that I will be back. If you are interested in history and if you enjoy stunning scenery, then Fugitives’ Drift should be part of your agenda when visiting KwaZulu Natal.
All pictures: Christian Sperka Photography (C) 2015