It was the final day, both for us and those involved in the battle of Isandwlana.
The 0830 breakfast was again appreciated as, while being more than rewarding, the three weeks of early starts was being felt and before long we were on our way to Rorke’s Drift. Rorke’s Drift is the location in Natal that the British Army were using as a permanent base and so the first to be attacked after the defeat at Isladwhana. Reggie immediately transported us back to the January night of 1879 and around us buildings that were since erected dissolved leaving only the buildings defended by the British and the history in their foundations.
Even the two buildings on which we focused showed us the true nature of SA. In the past it has been inhabited by Dutch and Germans, both of whom formed amiable relations with the Zulu tribes before the site was commandeered by the British. This is typical throughout what we have seen of the country as not one but many differing peoples have shaped its history.
During the next hour or so we followed Reggie around the site as battle cries filled the air and the ground became soaked with blood while the 110 remaining, isolated soldiers fought for their lives. He described the noise and fever of battle as each room fell to the advancing Zulus. 11 Victoria crosses were won that night while only a handful of Britains died and we heard each story. The battle was won and we were awestruck with the events. The ramifications of the battle stretched further still, it strengthened the resolve of the British invasion of Zululand, but more significantly, the different groups in the local community have come together to commemorate their shared past.
The afternoon was highly anticipated as we had been promised a shopping trip, and the first stop was not far. We visited a small farm where the owners had set up a business which was uplifting the whole community. They gave the local men and women the chance to earn a income making bead and wire decorations. We were amazed by the many different designs which brought traditional skills and patterns to the modern market with the products being shipped as far as China and the USA. The enterprise allowed families to work when they could, balancing production with other commitments within the community. The owners worked hard, the business taking time and money to set up, and the workers sometimes vanishing for weeks at a time, but their work has greatly benefitted the area.
We then went on to the sprawling urban scene of Dundee, where the shops ranged from Chinese markets to salons to a Spar, where everything from chocolate to knives could be bought provided you are able to cross the hectic highways.
Back at camp the evening was winding up with our final braai of the trip. Having feasted ourselves on the “traditional” food of the nation a round of fireball hockey was certainly in order.
The eventful game concluded (once the fires were extinguished) a brilliant final day to what has been an incredible and thought-provoking trip.