Durban’s Old Fort (just next to Kingsmead Stadium) has had a long history tied to military action – the site having been first established as a military camp by the British back in May 1842, when 237 men of the 27th Regiment and Royal Artillery under Captain Thomas Charlton Smith were sent in to respond to an imminent Boer threat.
Following the ensuing retaliatory siege by the Boers after the failed British attack on Congella (lifted only be the arrival of the schooner Conch and the frigate HMS Southampton), a permanent fort was built on the site and a permanent British garrison was based there with a larger force being stationed outside Pietermaritzburg at Fort Napier.
Over the years a number of British Regiments did garrison duty in Durban and eventually the fort was later leased by the War Office to the Durban Light Infantry where it was at last converted into cottages for veterans. (Incidentally, the magazine was converted into a chapel and given the tranquil, lush nature of the grounds, the chapel has proven to be one of the city’s most popular wedding venues over the years!)
These days the grounds are open to the public, providing a quiet green space within the bustling city. There are old military relics scattered about to discover, and if you are somewhat of a military nerd, then the hugely informative Warrors Gate M.O.T.H. (Memorable Order of Tin Hats) Museum and Shrine (situated on the grounds) is an absolute must.
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Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in South African military history then.
I got to enjoy one of those rare occasions that Touchwork sends me out of the office at the start of February, sending me on a trip to Durban for a meeting with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (whose guest survey system runs atop our Kinetica platform) at their head office in Pietermaritzburg.
That part of the trip went pretty smoothly mind you. I slept over at my brother Ryan’s place in order to catch an early lift to Cape Town International, where the Mango flight to Durban went well, letting me touch down in the sweat inducing humidity of Durban right on scheduled time.
Kagiso from 3T Business Fusion joined me in my little hired Kia Picanto (which isn’t really that bad of a ride – much better than the little Honda Brio that I received the last time I needed to go to Pietermaritzburg), and following a non-eventful drive along the scenic N3, we made it just in time (literally) for the meeting, which pleasingly also went rather well.
However, that was just part one of my little business trip. As things worked out, Touchwork was once again deploying its Kinetica platform as Hypenica’s expo badge registration system for their 2017 edition of the KZN Construction Expo, and seeing as I was in the area, I was asked to join the team to make sure that everything ran smoothly in terms of the badge printing process on the day.
(Not a problem, especially if you consider that the team was to be based in the fabulous Hilton Hotel for the duration of the event! In case you are wondering why, it made logistical sense – literally next door to the Durban Exhibition Centre, where the expo was being held.)
Fancy hotel stay (and dinner arrangements) aside, the expo itself went very smoothly, my Kinetica system worked a charm (as per usual), and I of course made sure to saunter off every now and then to get some much desired sightseeing whenever I got a chance, resulting in strolls around the Gugu Dlamini Park, the Warrior’s Gate M.O.T.H. shrine and military museum, and the Old Fort grounds.
Oh, and for some reason I also slotted in a quick visit to Durban’s Mini Town, but only because there wasn’t any cricket scheduled at Kingsmead right next door.
So, a successful business trip then – though I would have felt a lot better had I not forgotten my long pants back in Cape Town…
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(Oh, and not having a 2 hour delay on the flight back home would have been rather nice as well.)
Built on the grounds of the old Kings Park Soccer Stadium in Stamford Hill, the Moses Mabhida Stadium sports a strikingly clean and elegant design, punctuated by its iconic arch that is representative of a once divided nation finally coming together.
Known affectionately as the hand basket stadium, the Moses Mabhida stadium has a variable seating design, that allows it to change spectator capacity to match event demand. This is achieved through the use of two permanent tiers of seating, with the ability to add temporary tiers if required.
The stadium roof consists of Teflon-coated, glass-fibre membrane which produce a translucent glow when the stadium is lit. These are attached to the arch by thick steel cables, with the ‘roof’ covering around 88% of the seats.
The stadium is primarily a sports stadium, having played host to games for both the 2010 FIFA World Cup and 2013 African Cup of Nations football tournaments. Outside of the local AmaZulu football games, the stadium also hosts the odd T20 international cricket game, and has even been utilized as a venue for the 2012, 2013, and 2014 Top Gear Festival live stadium shows.
It now eagerly awaits 2022, as Durban was awarded the rights to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, which no doubt will add yet another feather in this beautiful stadium’s cap.
The stadium also caters for tourism, offering guided stadium tours, the SkyCar – a funicular that travels up the arch, the People’s Park public space, Segway Gliding Tours, the Sky Walk, which is essentially a walk along the arch, and for those seeking a bit more adrenaline, the Big Rush Big Swing which allows you to swing off the arch itself! (The Big Swing is in fact the world’s only stadium swing, and also happens to be the largest swing of any kind anywhere!)
The Moses Mabhida Stadium has already won a number of awards for its design and innovation, and continues to be one of South Africa’s most beautiful stadiums.
A handy map for if you want to seek out this stadium yourself:
Situated on the north shore of Durban Bay, the Victoria Embankment, also know as Esplanade, is Durban’s main promenade, stretching all around the waterfront and offering great views of the harbour. More or less at the center of this promenade you will stumble across a beautiful bronze equestrian statue dating back to August 1915 – the statue of Dick King.
The statue commemorates Dick King and his heroic journey that is entwined in the history of Port Natal (now Durban).
Port Natal was a British trading station in the region now known as KwaZulu-Natal. Richard ‘Dick’ King was an English trader and colonist based there, who became famous following his epic horseback journey that saw him cover a distance of 960 kilometres in 10 days (a journey that would normally take 17), in order to request help for the besieged British garrison barricaded in at Itafa Malinde (now the Old Fort) of Port Natal from the British military outpost of Grahamstown.
25 May 1842. Having successfully slipped out from a ship moored in the bay and escaping the Boer republic of Natalia’s Andries Pretorius (who was spearheading the siege), Dick King, accompanied by his 16-year-old servant Ndongeni, set out into the wilderness on horseback, fording 120 rivers and dodging attacks from both Zulu and Boer forces alike.
Without a saddle or bridle, the young Ndongeni could only make it halfway, but Dick King pushed on, covering the distance in a mere ten days, but arriving in a state of complete exhaustion. His message was heard, and a month later King returned aboard one of the British vessels carrying the relief parties, arriving in time to save the Port Natal garrison from imminent surrender or starvation.
Later, Ndongeni would receive a farm at the Mzimkulu river and the humble King a farm at Isipingo for their services. On the 14 August 1915 this beautiful statue commemorating Dick King and his horse Somerset’s epic journey, and thus important piece of Durban’s history, was unveiled.
Surprisingly, Pietermaritzburg, capital and second-largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa doesn’t feature a huge amount of tourist attractions. However, it is home to one of the oldest botanical gardens in South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden.
Situated along Mayor’s Walk, in the western suburbs of Pietermaritzburg, the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden was first established back in 1874, with the garden being home to cultivated plants from both eastern South Africa and the Northern Hemisphere.
A member of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the garden features a century old lane of plane trees, leading northwards from the entrance, and a forested hillside with a number of footpaths. The Dorpspruit, a tributary of the Msunduze River, flows at the base of the hillside.
Other attractions include the Insect Hotel, Clivia Dam and theme gardens including the popular Zulu Demonstration Garden, Cycad Garden and a Permaculture Garden. It also boasts a Children’s Play Area, is one of only a few SANBI National Botanical Gardens that has braai facilities. (There is also a small restaurant on the premises, as well as a weekly Farmers Market that occurs on the grounds.)
As you might imagine, the is a lot of bird life to be spotted in the garden, with something like 180 species already noted as being present!
(One of the most interesting things that I saw in the garden was the so-called paper tree, with bark literally the texture and softness of damp paper!)
I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time in the garden as what I might have liked to (I was after all, only in the area due to a business meeting earlier that morning ), but this lush, green and shade soaked botanical garden is most definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area and crave a moment of peace and tranquility!
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Related Link: KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden
If you ever find yourself in the beautiful KwaZulu-Natal province in South Africa and you have a thing for waterfalls, then it is definitely worth your while to make the hike up to see the magnificent Tugela Falls.
The Tugela Falls is a complex of seasonal waterfalls located in the Drakensberg mountain range, and is one of the many natural attractions in the Royal Natal National Park. It is generally accepted as the world’s second-tallest waterfall following Venezuela’s Angel Falls (though there are a number of compelling arguments that it may in fact actually be taller).
The combined total drop of its five distinct free-leaping falls is 948 m (3,110 ft). At the right time of year, they are easily visible from the main road into the park, especially after a heavy rain. The source of the Tugela River (Zulu for ‘sudden’) is the Mont-Aux-Sources plateau which extends several kilometers beyond The Amphitheatre escarpment (itself a natural wonder of the area) from which the falls drop.
There are two trails to Tugela Falls. The most spectacular trail is to the top of Mont-Aux-Sources, which starts at “The Sentinel” car park (through Phuthaditjhaba on the R57, approximately two hours drive from Royal Natal National Park via the R74, 90 minutes from Harrismith via the R712, or 80 minutes from Golden Gate Highlands National Park). From here it is a relatively easy climb to the top of the Amphitheatre, however it does take about 4.5 to 8 hours round-trip depending on fitness level. Access to the summit is via two chain ladders. This is the only day hiking trail which leads to the top of the Drakensberg escarpment.
Another trail to the foot of the Tugela Falls starts at Royal Natal National Park. The easy 7 km (4.3 mi) gradient up the Tugela Gorge winds though indigenous forests. The last part of the hike to Tugela Falls is a boulder hop. A little chain ladder leads over the final stretch for a view of the falls rushing down the amphitheater in a series of five cascades.
Related Link: Wikipedia
Chantelle caught me for a complete sucker and surprised me for my 30th birthday by whisking me off to the picturesque Drakensberg, for a stay in the luxurious Inkungu Lodge.
Seriously, what a fabulous getaway, and one that I certainly wouldn’t mind doing again on the next big milestone birthday! :)
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