Day 9: A long drive across KwaZulu-Natal

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April 16th 2010
Published: April 20th 2010
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Day 9: Mkhozi to Drakensberg

With 600 km to drive today, we were up at 05h30 and were all packing up our tents. So efficient were we that we were able to set off at 07h00.

The first few miles took us along dirt tracks and windy roads, through hills and homesteads before we made it on to the main N2 and headed off, at speed, towards the Indian Ocean. On each side of the road, trees lined up awaiting their fate in the paper industry and eventually, even they disappeared, leaving savannah. Along side the road, fruit stalls provided their owners with meagre income from the truckers who stopped for a bite.

Running parallel with the Indian Ocean, we soon found ourselves in the Durban suburbs with grassland being replaced by shopping centres and DIY stores. Continuing on without stopping we turned north on the N3 and came to a stop at some services. Grabbing a take away coffee, we noticed in the papers stories about an Icelandic volcano having deposited enough steam and dust in the air such that all flights within Europe are banned for days, weeks or maybe months. Well, I can think of worse places to be stranded!

At 13h00, we arrived in the town of Howick and parked by the waterfalls where lunch was made ready. The striking thing about Howick was not the falls, nor the rather pleasant craft market, but the rubbish … and to see people just throwing their bottles and packaging on the ground rather than in the bin was disappointing.

Another claim to fame for the town is as the place where Nelson Mandela was captured in 1962, posing as a chauffeur for a white friend. This is recorded by a commemorative plaque unveiled by Mandela in 1996.

Moving on up the N3, we climbed through the hills and came out onto the central highlands, an area known as the Zulu Heartland. It was here that many of the great battles of the 19th century were held - Rorke's Drift, Ladysmith, Isandlwana, Blood River and Ulundi being but a few. Driving through, it was very easy to picture Zulu, Boer and British camped amongst the trees and, for many, this was to be their final resting place. We didn't have the luxury of time to visit any sites although we did pass close by to Spionkop.

Finally, at the end of the long day's travelling, we pulled into the Royal Natal National Park, with its very pleasant camp site (Mahai) situated in the North Drakensberg. Nestled in a valley, it is overlooked by the mighty grandeur of the Amphitheatre with its back to the Tugela River. Certainly, this is one of the best camp sites in which we've stayed.

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