Driving 8 hours out of Joburg to look at a few old battlefields from the Anglo-Zulu war seemed like a dull way to spend a long weekend but it was recommended to us by a friend and we trust his judgement so off we went to Fugitive’s Drift Lodge in Kwazulunatal. And what an amazing trip this turned out to be!
The Anglo-Zulu war only lasted a little over 5 months, and the battlefields we visited, covered one particular, but momentous day in that war. The Battle of Isandwlana took place in the morning of 22 January 1879 and in the afternoon, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift was fought. If you have the time, I recommend taking the tours in the right order or you may become confused.
Fugitive’ s Drift Lodge is owned by the Rattray family. They have set the standard for battlefield tours in this country. Their guides – which include both sons of the late David Rattray – are amazing raconteurs with in-depth knowledge and passion about this war and – believe it or not – they are able to keep you mesmerized for 4 hours each day with their stories and unrelenting drama and suspense. Some parts of the stories are extremely moving. It truly is a one-man theater performance.
I will not get into the details of the battles, you can read about this war elsewhere on the web, but in my mind I could actually see thousands of Zulu warriors chasing the defeated English down to the Buffalo River, shouting their war-cry “Usuthu! Usuthu!”. After the morning tour at Isandwlana, we decided to hike the Fugitive’s Trail (a beautiful 8 mile walk through rocky forest) and our Zulu-guide had a ball reminding us over and over again, that we should look over our shoulder and imagine being chased by Zulu.
Both sides in this war had their heroes, fools and lots of old-fashioned bravery, and much of it has been documented or passed on orally in great detail from different perspectives, which makes the stories really come to life.
The Lodge itself is lovely in an old-fashioned way; the words “trendy” or “hip” do not spring to mind. The food and wines are excellent and the clientele tend to be like-minded people (euphemisim for well-educated 40+ people). Lunch and dinner are served at a communal table with good conversation. It was nice to see the Lodge employed a number of “guppies”, young fresh-faced university students from England who were working their way through the summer helping out with the guests.
Best: the Battlefield tours and Fugitives’ Trail
Worst: well, nothing really. Even the long drive to KZN was beautiful!
Booked: directly with Fugitives Drift Lodge