Charley Boorman Log- Day 22

July 3, 2012

In which Charley and team reach the top of the dramatic Tugela Falls- and explore the myth behind Rorke’s Drift! Tugela 3

After a bad night of short dreams and little sleep, the orange light of dawn started to creep through the tent walls. We may not have slept well, but sunrise over the Falls would be a tragedy to miss.

With sore backs, stiff limbs and fuzzy heads we pulled on cold clothes and broke down the tents, braced against the biting wind which had wreaked so much havoc with them during the night.

Trudging across the snow, we finally reached the lip of the Falls and were rewarded with the most stunning view. The smoke from the constant grass fires clung to the ground and the sun, still low in the sky, cast it in a magical light. The dark ridges of hills rose above this glowing landscape like islands on in a mist covered sea.

We marveled at our surroundings for as long as we could stand the cold. To our right, a thin sliver of water fell from the frozen head of waterfall, via several iced up ledges to the distant ground below.

Descending from the Amphitheatre via the same iron ladders (worse on the way down) we gratefully stripped off layers as the air got warmer the further we went.

But our epic day wasn’t over. Nearby was the historic hilltop battlefield of Spion Kop, where the British suffered a huge defeat during the second Boer War. Local expert Raymon Heron showed us around the hill. Supremely knowledgable and passionate about his subject, he told us the story of the failed British charge and stalemate in the hill to the accompaniment of a beautiful sunset. There was something fitting about watching the graves of the dead as the orange sunlight turned into twilight around us.

Rorke's DriftThis part of the KZN is littered with battlefields thanks to the disputed history of the region. A comparatively short ride from Spion Kop is Rorke’s Drift, one of South Africa’s most famous battlefields, thanks to the film Zulu. Like most war films, it’s not entirely accurate as Dave Sutcliffe, another local expert told us. Dressed in a replica red British uniform of the era, he took us around the hospital where a small group of British soldiers held out against the onslaught of an estimated 4000 Zulu warriors. It’s a dark period of South African history and while the questionable policies of British Colonialism colours any recount of this era, it’s impossible not to be moved by the bravery and heroism of the outnumbered and desperate British Soldiers.

Dave really brought the events of that night to life and clearly enjoyed telling us everything we could possibly want to know about the era.

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