The Natal Midlands
The Natal Midlands is absolutley gorgeous. If you have never visited the area, be sure to make a plan soon. The area is shrouded in mystery and history with plenty of activities from hiking advenures in the Drakensberg, fishing, biking and running.
How did the Natal Midlands get its name?
The Midlands is situated between two extremes-the warm coastal forest and the gaunt, snow covered heights of the Drakensberg mountains. It stretches for 200km. Through this undulating landscape of hills, the ground rises from sea level to 1200m at the foot of the Southern Drakensberg. The lower regions are always green with the higher regions changing to a reddish-brown during the frosty winter months when the sleeping grass is long and dry. And so the Natal Midlands got its name. A name that could easily be synonymous with the likes of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. And as equally magnificent.
Hills and deep river valleys
The Natal Midlands is all about countless hills and deep river valleys. Most of the rivers in Natal start their humble beginnings in the mighty Drakensberg mountains. They lose considerable altitude within a short distance creating waterfalls, rapids and deep gorges. One of the principle rivers is the Tugela which crashes 940m over the edge of the escarpment in the Amphitheatre region of the Northern Drakensberg. Other key rivers include the Mkomazi, Mgeni and Mzimkulu which together, with their tributaries, create some incredibly scenery, great fishing, water rafting and vast economical potential for agriculture.
The wildlife of the Midlands
In years gone past, great herds of wildlife migrated each winter from the highveld known as Transvaal and the Orange Free State and grazed on the sweet grass of the Natal Midlands. Eland, springbok, hartebeest and zebra wandered through the area. The remnants of these herds survice in the Giants Castle area. Bushman hunters followed the game, some migrating with the herds to escape the cold of the highveld, while others made their permanent homes in the foothills of the Drakensberg. Tribes would later follow these wandering people in the medieval times. There are many ancient bushman paintings, depicting the history of the area, to be found in the many caves of the these mystical mountains.
The 18th Century
The end of the 18th century was almost a fairy tale period in the story of KwaZulu Natal. Many legends, myths and superstitions originate from this time. Man lived close to nature. Rivers, watefalls and mountians all had their spirits. Diviners, mediums and Sangomas flourished. There were petty fights, live stock was stolen, but the tribes where to isolated to make waves in history. They had no knowledge of what lay beyond their territory. There was no trade and little curiosity as to what lie over the horizon of a world they where certain was flat, with themsleves living in the best part.
The era of Shaka Zulu
In 1818, distaster struck. Shaka Zulu began his war campaign to build the Zulu nation. The result was the fleeing of refugee groups in all directions. The Natal tribes where overwhelmed. At this point, the fiest Europeans reached Natal and found most of the land uninhabitated by resident tribes. Most of the tribes having fled south or up into the Lesotho highlands. British ivory traders settled on the coast and founded Durban. When Piet Retief and the Voortrekkers looked down on the Natal Midlands from their vantage point on the escarpment of the Central Plains, their hearts ached at the sight of the lovely, empty land.
Almost all of the people who came to Natal paid in blood for the land. From the Bushmen, to the British settlers who replaced the Voortrekkers, to the Zulu inhabitants, paid in blood for a land that captivated them at first sight.
The hills and valleys of Natal are the face of a beuatiful woman, destined to watch the deaths of many of her suitors. In her smile is a compassionate understanding of the enigma of mans inhumanity to his fellow creatures in a land large enough to sustain all of them.