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 Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.

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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:22 pm

A trip into Natal

Flying into King Shaka international just North of Durban I was fortunate for once to be on the correct side of the plane and instead of gazing out across the Indian Ocean luckily had a view inland across the rolling hills full of sugarcane.
No matter how many times I have journeyed into Zululand the same sense of excitement always permeates down the body through to the stomach and the familiar tingle makes me impatient to be out and on the tarmac.
Time drags as we bump down into the fairly warm sunlight and taxi to the impressive new terminal buildings. I travel light so know that once I’m out of the plane I won’t have the interminable wait for bags at the conveyors.
It doesn’t take long to find the funny little man with my name, mangled beyond belief holding up his piece of paper to signal that he was the bearer of the car keys. Quick formalities and I’m on the road heading along the coastal highway, air conditioner switched high to counter the heat outside.
I always travel in a high wheel based car, it seems to get me above the traffic and extend the views. A must in the area I’m about to venture into.
Twenty five minutes drive up the N2 freeway brings us to the traditional Zululand boundary of the Tugela River. Looking down on the river from the heights of the new bridge it seems impossible that the Hurricane Demoina in 1984 could have destroyed the old bridge. I had crossed it 20 minutes before it collapsed driving back from Isandlwana in my flooded car, but that’s a tale for later.
Now looking to the left is the Harold Johnston nature reserve and the site of Fort Pearson home to the Coastal column before the invasion of the 11th January. On the opposite bank the site of Fort Tennedos.  And in between the muddy waters of the treacherous river rushing past the sand banks.
The road meanders north through mile after mile of sugar cane until we reach the R66 and the turn of for Gingindlovu. The British soldiers christened it Gin Gin I love you. Through the village and a couple of kilometres on we cross the old battlefield. To the left is the battlefield marker and a few metres further the monument.
About half way to Eshowe we climb the side of the Wombane hill and the site of the Battle of the Nyezane, its strange driving over the tarred road knowing that a major battle was fought here and many lives lost. All that marks the spot now is a broken down and rusted signboard.
The Buffs with their volley fire and the Naval Brigade dealt out death with the Gatling gun on a scale never before witnessed by the hapless Zulus.
Enough of the melancholy and I resume my journey, but not for long. Every time I travel this route I turn off into Eshowe to visit a small traffic island in the middle of a none descript suburb. In the centre of the unkempt looking island is a simple stone with the inscription: ‘Memorial to Cetshewayo’. This the place he died, Gqikazi. A moment of reflection and respect for a badly misused victim of British imperialism.
On we travel past the Goedetrou Dam and into my favourite Road house, the Engen in Melmoth, folks without a doubt the fairest cheeseburger and best chillie chips in the land.  A moment sitting on the wall outside watching two Taxi drivers arguing over territorial rights, enjoying the food and the sights and sounds of Africa, Two ladies, at least two hundred yards apart having a conversation at the top of their voices, who needs cell phones.
Onwards and upwards, forever upwards through the hills and valleys, past the turnoff for Ulundi on the R34 we branch to the left and see the first sign for Babanango. In the centre of Babanango is a trading store, famous throughout the district for its covered stoep (Patio) with its TV set. Back in 95 I watched one of the World cup matches there with a calabash of local beer for company.
As the first signpost for Silutshane approaches I look to the left at the huge bulk of Siphezi and the site of the Zulu encampment on the night of the 20th January 1879. In front the area that Browne encountered the impi guards and his skirmish, then the area patrolled by Russell on the 22nd. Way of to the left on the horizon the first sign of Isandlwana. To the right the entrance to the Ngwebini valley, to the left the Quabe valley and the place Durnford turned back all those years ago. This is the area, steeped in the history of Zululand, its palpable almost oppressive. Standing outside the car away from the cooling fans the heat is strong. How could those soldiers from England have marched worked and fought in such alien conditions, dressed in serge carrying all their accoutrements. And on the opposite side, the Zulu, a skin round the waist, a shield and a couple of weapons. No long trail of wagons to support him, just an udibi boy to carry a blanket and food. And Chelmsford thought they were dumb! Boy was he ever wrong.
Heres the Ngwebini stream crossing the road leading to Isandlwana lodge. I’m tempted to follow it and drive past the battlefield and then RD on my way to Dundee, not common sense prevails. The battlefields been there 130 odd years it can wait for tomorrow.
Oh yes, the tale of the water logged car?
Back in 84 I came down this dirt track from Isandlwana in the middle of Demoina, the wind was screaming even this far inland. The rain was a solid sheet and visibility down to a matter of a couple of yards. I didn’t see the Ngwebini stream, so low and gentle an hour ago had flooded, I felt it when the car hit it and then spun of the low concrete ford into the water. I got carried down around thirty metres or so until I hit the bend and then started to haul myself out through the window. It was a matter of seconds before the population of the little village on the hillside saw my plight and ran down to help. The car was manhandled out of the water with lots of noise and laughter, probably about the stupid white idiot. No Nissan has every been bounced across a field like that one, doors flying open to let the water out, and onto the tarred road. I was ushered into the car and switched it on; to my surprise it started first time. So amid lots of ululation laughter and waving I drove of back to Durban.

Just a bit of a fun travelogue guys.
Springbok
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John

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PostSubject: Re: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Fri Oct 11, 2013 5:47 pm

Who did you go with!
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PostSubject: Re: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Fri Oct 11, 2013 7:25 pm

Hiya springbok, reckon there is a book in you.
cold,wind,and rain here,so i'm not a bit jealous
Hmmm. xhosa
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PostSubject: Re: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Fri Oct 11, 2013 7:29 pm

Springbok - what are you doing in Isandhlwana again? Obviously you have been there quite a few times before. Not what I would call a "fun" vacation destination!
I have been to a few battlefields and I have always been glad that I went - almost like a pilgrimmage - but I have found that I would not particularly want to return!
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90th

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PostSubject: Springboks Bertram Mitford Impersonation    Fri Oct 11, 2013 11:59 pm

Hi Springy .
Excellent work , I also can see a Novel , My Life and Times Through Zululand ! . You need to study mo  . Well done mate .
90th. Salute 
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PostSubject: You   Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:49 am

You.be nice!.
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PostSubject: You   Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:51 am

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PostSubject: Re: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Sat Oct 12, 2013 12:57 am

Salute Salute Salute .
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Frank Allewell

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PostSubject: Re: Springboks Bertram Mitford impersonation, with all due apologies.   Sat Oct 12, 2013 6:50 am

Morning all
Just about to leave RD and walk the bridle path to isandlwana, theroretically, at least according to Charles its the original route.

John
Im with my son and a friend from Dundee.

Koppie
Its not a visit, more like a pilgrimage, I have been doing it for as long as I can remember and there is allways something new to concentrate on.
Ask Neil, he comes here every year around the 22nd Jan.

Cheers
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