Sunday, 4 November 2007

Battlefields, berg and beaches

Right, here's the post where I bore you with my holiday snaps - make yourself a cup of tea and settle down, because it won't be a short one. I also have some animal pictures (crocodiles, snakes, etc), which I'll put in a separate post tomorrow.

One of the first trips out that we had was to a park called Phezulu. It was a bit of a tourist trap, but had a great view over the Valley of a Thousand Hills, which is a traditional Zulu area. One of the attractions at this park was a visit to a mock-up of a Zulu village, where various aspects of Zulu culture were explained to us, culminating in the performance of a dance which showed the courtship and marriage of a young couple.

In this photo, the man is trying to woo the woman, who is disdainfully responding that he's not all that special and asking if he has the eleven cows for her bride-price. The edge of the performing area is a sheer drop into the Valley of a Thousand Hills.

Another of our trips was into Pietermaritzburg, which, although smaller than Durban, is actually the provincial capital. It's an attractive smallish town, with a lot of old colonial buildings displaying the typical cast-iron lacework known familiarly as broekie lace (literally "pantie lace") which was very popular here in late Victorian times.

This is the old courthouse, outside which to the left you can just see a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Here's a closer view of the statue - it was erected on the centenary of the occasion when Gandhi was thrown out of the first class compartment of a train in Pietermaritzburg because it was reserved for whites only. Gandhi described this incident as the starting point of his "active non-violence".

This is a memorial to the British soldiers who fell in battle against the Zulus in 1879. There was also a memorial to the British soldiers who fell in the Boer War - you can definitely tell this was a British colonial town.

This next picture is of the town hall, and is notable for two reasons. First, this is the largest red-brick building in the southern hemisphere. Second, both the national flag of South Africa and the springbok flag of South African rugby are flying from the town hall - this was taken a week after South Africa won the World Cup. I won't go into the politics, but rugby is traditionally a white sport, and it's practically unheard of for a local government which is dominated by the ANC to fly the springbok flag.

This quaint little tin-roofed building is the old Cathedral of the Holy Nativity, which I think has now been upgraded and extended (we saw the complex from front and back, but didn't have time to actually go in).

This is just a random street in Pietermaritzburg. I took it because it gave quite a good view of the purple blossomed jacaranda trees, which were everywhere and which I loved. They are not a native South African plant, though, which means no more can be planted. Fortunately, the ones which already exist are permitted to stay - there is another category of 'invasive alien' plants, which must be rooted up as soon as they are found.

Since this was New Man's first visit to South Africa, my brother and sister-in-law also took the opportunity to take us for a day trip to the place where they got married - a hotel in the Drakensburg Mountains. This is the view over the terrace - if you look at the mountains in the distance, the one in the middle is called the Bell, and the one immediately to its right is Cathedral Peak.

This is the little chapel at the hotel. When you go inside, the entire wall behind the altar is made of glass, so you really feel as though you're in the mountains. I saw on a wedding website the other day that this was listed as one of the top 10 most romantic wedding chapels in the world.

You'll see from the top of this next picture that I actually took it through the windscreen of a car. We were climbing down into a little river valley in the mountains, and passing small groups of schoolchildren on their way home from school. Over on the far slope, you can see a small group of Zulu homes. The Drakensburg Mountains are also very much Zulu country around here.

From there it was a short drive to Spion Kop, the site of a major battle in the Anglo-Boer War. Although the British eventually won the war, they suffered a significant defeat at this battle. Hundreds of soldiers were buried in the trenches where they fell, and there are several memorials to the fallen soldiers around the top of the hill.

The Liverpool FC football ground at Anfield is known as the Spion Kop (usually shortened to the Kop), after this hill.

Our final day out was into the centre of Durban. This is a picture of the very impressive war memorial, with the town hall in the background.

On the beach front at Durban, you always see a few people making sculptures out of sand. They pick out details in the sand with bits of shell, and make some fantastic models. Strangely, on this trip the majority of the sculptures seemed to have a rugby theme...


gemoftheocean said...

What an absolutely fabulous travelogue. Thank you for taking the time to post all that. More. More!!!

I especially liked those Jacarandas. They're not native here (San DIego) either...but were planted from wherever they come from. May is when they come into all their glory. It never occurred to me that down below the equator they'd naturally bloom in November. Just great. The sand sculptures are really something to admire. What beautiful mountains.

newhousenewjob said...

Thank you - I'm glad you enjoyed it. I don't think I've ever seen jacarandas anywhere else - if asked, I would have said they were native to South Africa, but I've been firmly told now that they aren't. It was definitely spring down there - some lovely warm weather interspersed with spectacular spring storms.

Mac McLernon said...

That is some holiday snaps album you have there! The camera is pretty snazzy too!! More photos please!

newhousenewjob said...

Thank you. The camera is very snazzy - I'm ridiculously chuffed with it, and highly recommend it to anyone.

gemoftheocean said...

I love those trees. The very first blogpost I ever made had one. You can see the tree here. Most of the year it doesn't look like much of anything. But for the 6 weeks or so they are in their glory, I think they are the most beautiful tree on earth. IF you follow the link, this tree doesn't make its home too far from my house. The Jacaranda is the official ornamental tree of San Diego. I LOVE the spring.

newhousenewjob said...


FloridaWife said...

You went to Africa!!! How TOTALLY cool!!!!! Those pictures are amazing!!!