Day 13 – A thunder shower in the early part of last evening left the air cool and fresh, but except for the occasional puddle on the road, there was very little evidence of the rain as we made our way back to where we had stopped cycling the day before. I offloaded the bike and set off along the R602 towards Dundee. This is a pleasant stretch of road, taking us past the site of the Battle of Elandslaagte, which was one of the early battles of the Anglo-Boer War, taking place in 1899. The traffic was fairly light and although the road was narrow, it was a very pleasant ride.
I reached Dundee in well under two hours and we were well into the coalfields of KwaZulu Natal. Dundee was the site of the Battle of Talana during the Anglo-Boer War and this is commemorated by a unique museum located on the battlefield and embracing many of the forts and gun emplacements that were used during the battle.
Exiting Dundee, I turned on to the R68. This change made it seem like the “last leg” of the journey as the R68 will take us well on our way to the coast and is therefore something of a psychological boost.
But there is no end to the rolling hills! Up and down, up and down. I guess we are losing altitude, but my legs would disagree most strongly. This is the section of roadway popularly known as the Battlefields Route and it led us past the Rorke’s Drift turnoff, and later past the Isandhlwana turn off. These hills were the scene of several great battles during the Anglo-Zulu war, witness to great bravery on both sides, and also to the deaths of numerous soldiers on both sides.
Cycling along the strip of tarred road in the pleasant autumn sunshine, the red jackets and gunfire, the blood curdling yelling and the beating of spears on shields seemed light years away. The hills of KZN, it is said, are well fertilised with the blood of its people. So sad.
We were well into rural KwaZulu Natal where the villages that we passed through have names like Nqutu and Silushana, and the local folk are extremely friendly. There is much waving, whistling and shouted greetings. I guess a lone cyclist on this road is something of a novelty.
“Hey, where have you come from?” This from a chap on the side of the road, who sported a magnificent set of teeth that would have done any toothpaste advert proud.
“The west coast.”
“No, man! That’s too far!”
I eventually stopped the day’s ride just 20km short of Babanango and hitched the bike onto the back of the car. We drove into Babanango to find that the advertised B&B we had planned to stay at was closed, apparently as the lady of the house had taken herself off to have a baby. Babanango, which means “father, there it is”, a kind of “Eureka!” reference to a nearby hill, is a small village and there are not a lot of accommodation options. We back-tracked a short way, then followed the signboards to the Eagle’s View Lodge which we recalled seeing advertised on the way past. This superbly sited lodge is a long way off the R68 on a rather poor dirt road, but offers incredible views over a valley ringed by hills, which has “heritage site” status. We quickly settled down for a pleasant one night stay.