North of Howick, in the central part of the Midlands Meander, situated between Nottingham Road and Lidgetton, lies the hamlet of Balgowan, one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with weather that invariably rolls all four seasons into one, but which gives your visit an element of mystery, that makes this part of the world so attractive.
The Camperdown area includes the villages of Camperdown itself, Cato Ridge, Umlaas Road, Eston and Thornville. This area is the fastest developing area in the KwaZulu-Natal and is to become another Midrand.
It is only 60km from Durban and 30km from Pietermaritzburg and will soon join these two large cities together. It is already being caled the Corridor.
The Nationalist Government had big plans for the area in the late 60s. Camperdown was touted as being the administrative centre and its sister town of Cato Ridge was to have become a large industrial centre. They extended the rail network to facilitate what was the largest rail siding and shunting yards, with goods sheds, in the Province, but alas this was never realized.
The Camperdown area boasts a variety of attrations in and around its surrounding areas, sauch as Game & Nature Reserves, Churches, Bed and Breakfasts, Self-Catering Accommodation, and the Lion Park to name just a few.
There are also plenty of businesses. They range from industries and factories to shops, supermarkets, banks, accountants, doctors, and farm products.
A number of exciting annual events happen in and through the Camperdown area. There are the Eston Show, the Comrades Marathon and the Ama Shova Shova Bicycle Race amongst them.
The Camperdown area is totally self sufficient and has the added advantage of being only a short drive from Pieermaritzburg. May folks choose to live in this relaxed atmosphere and commute to jobs in the city.
Curry’s Post is a beautifully scenic area, in the heart of the Midlands Meander, that lies between Mooi River and Howick. It has a quaint history, that involves the Curry Family, after whom Curry’s Post is named. They settled here, establishing an overnight wagon and cart stop - in essence a staging post. The beautiful Coach House, still in existence today, is where George Curry and his rather large extended family lived. He went on to have as many as 20 grandchildren. Curry’s Post was to play an important role as a ‘watering hole’, during the gold and diamond rushes, as the hustle of traffic - in the form of wagons, carts and weary travellers - made this their stop, en route to the old ‘Transvaal’ reef.
The Dargle Valley and conservancy area is set in the midst of the Midlands Meander, in the rolling foothills of the Southern Drakensberg. It is a land of magic waterfalls, river gorges, grasslands, indigenous forests, wild flowers and wetlands, and is home to a variety of bird species. It is also a major attraction to the fishing enthusiast - the area around Dargle, Fort Nottingham and Balgowan, is renowned for excellent fly-fishing.
The Dargle Valley experiences dry, cold winters - sometimes with snow - and hot, wet summers, with intermittent late afternoon thunder storms, followed by heavy rains. Its no surprise then, that the countryside has sprawling wattle and pine forests, and rock pools that invite closer scrutiny.
Often referred to as the ‘jewel of KwaZulu-Natal, Greytown lies in the forest-clad, rolling hills of the Natal Midlands, a picturesque little town, originally settled during the 1850s and subsequently awash with buildings of note, scenic drives and Boer history. Greytown originally enjoyed a fair amount of importance, playing ‘little elephant’ to Pietermaritzburg’s ‘place of the elephant’. Louis Botha, the country’s first Prime Minister and a famous Boer leader, was born on a farm just outside of Greytown, and some believe that the Liberation Struggle for a democratic South Africa began in Greytown, almost a century ago, with the Bambatha Rebellion. This uprising, against white authority, by a local Zulu chief, forced white residents to shelter in the town hall, built in 1897 and worth a visit, when in Greytown.
The distinctly English country village of Hilton, with its attractive sense of history, lies only 10 kilometres from Pietermaritzburg, at the start of the Midlands Meander. Its beginnings originated in the purchase of a large portion of the farm Ongegund, in 1857, by Joseph Henderson, whose wife called their farm ‘Hilton’.
Hilton is a good five degrees cooler than Pietermaritzburg, and it is this access to fresh air, coupled with first sightings of the Drakensberg, that lures people to Hilton. The town may now be home to some 10 000 residents, but it manages to retain its village feel, right down to its meagre adherence to traffic control, with only two traffic lights, and some distinct examples of Tudor-style architecture. The Hilton area is renowned for its misty conditions.
Karkloof is a beautiful range of hills, stretching for over 50 kilometres, between Rietvlei, Curry’s Post and Howick, in the Midlands of Natal. This area includes a steep, flat-topped kloof and an extensive range of mist belt forests. It is home to the Karkloof blue Orachrysops ariadne - a small, blue butterfly classified as ‘vulnerable’, with only five colonies of the species ever recorded - which occurs only in this, the most beautiful area in the province.
Right in Lidgetton, is the historical building of St Matthews, definitely worth a visit, whilst local trout fishing in dams and rivers around the Kamberg - about 30 minutes from Lidgetton - is reputed to be excellent. The Caversham Valley provides horse riding opportunities, whilst those after a round of golf ,have a choice of either Boschhoek, or Sakubula golf courses
The little hamlet of Lions River lies between Lidgetton and Howick, right in the heart of the Natal Midlands, about an hour’s drive from Durban. It is a tiny, modest, ‘if you blink you might miss it’ village, with not much beyond a trading store to lure you to stop. Lions River is a lot more than a tiny village. From Lions River, there are gorgeous views over the Dargle Valley and conservancy, that offer an element of country charm, that is the midlands of KwaZulu Natal - mistbelt grassland, rivers, dam, veld and an incredible array of bird life, all contribute to the splendour. As part of a conservancy, the Dargle Valley has set out to protect the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area, in a bid to ensure that it remains that way, for future generations. With this in mind, a coalition of people living here, avidly promote conservation and try to maintain the rural character of the valley and its surrounds.
Shady, tree-lined suburbs, spacious red brick bungalows and upper-crust boarding schools, reinforce the colonial ambiance of "The Last Outpost of the British Empire", as Pietermaritzburg is affectionately known. The city has a wide range of shops, hotels and restaurants, providing the ideal gateway to the exceptional country inns, recreational resorts and game reserves of the Midlands and the Drakensberg.
Set in the heart of Zulu country, Pietermaritzburg is a city of charm and dignity, at its loveliest in spring, when masses of azaleas burst into bloom. When the first Voortrekkers arrived in 1837, they found a tranquil countryside, graced by forests, hills and valleys. They settled on a fertile tract of land beside the Umsindusi River and named it after two of their leaders, Gerrit Maritz and Piet Retief. Six years later, the British upgraded the village to a military garrison town. Today, numerous Victorian and Edwardian buildings, quaint pedestrian lanes and other landmarks, reflect the substantial British contribution to the development of the town.
Known as known as the place of many waterfalls, owing to the many tributaries of the uMngeni River, that tumble down gorges and over sharp inclines, on their way to the Indian Ocean, Howick is possibly best known as the place where Nelson Mandela was arrested, in August 1962, and most visited, because of the Howick falls.
The little village of Howick - a great place to find antiques, arts and crafts, and a part of the Midlands Meander - was named after Earl Grey, the British Colonial Secretary, who started out in life as the Viscount Howick. It remains fundamentally a farming town, that supplies the number of farms in the area, and people pass through here, on their way to the interior, or to Midmar Dam, just 7 kilometres away.
Howick Falls is a 100 metre cascade of water, practically in the centre of town. The falls were known by the Zulus as KwaNogqaza - place of the tall one - and first seen by European travellers on their way to trade from the coast, in the early 19th century. You can arrange to abseil alongside the falls, down the gorge and into the pool, if you’re in an adventurous frame of mind, and if not, there is a safer alternative, from a viewing platform above the falls, that is close to the car park.
Ixopo is the main centre of the Southern Midlands and forms part of an important sugar farming, and forestry area. Although originally called 'Stuartstown', the original Zulu name 'Ixopo' has prevailed. This charming town is not a major tourism 'hub', which makes it particularly attractive to those seeking to get away from it all. The surrounding countryside is breath-taking and there are many hiking trails and a few beautiful waterfalls along the Mzimkulu and Mkhomazi rivers. In the village, you can browse craft outlets and visit the welcoming restaurants and pubs. There are two 19th century churches and a seminary, all of which are still operational.
Nottingham Road is a village easily reached from the N3, between Johannesburg and Durban, only 20 minutes from the foothills of the Drakensberg. The landscape here is truly of the green rolling hills of Natal, dotted with fly-fishing dams and an ordered beauty, that has earned Nottingham Road its place in the heart of the Midlands Meander – an eclectic mix of arts and crafts, restaurants, and a wide range of sporting, environmental and historical pursuits, that were originally created to attract visitors off the beaten track.
This is a busy little town, including the villages of Baynesfield and the Byrne Valley.
The town of Richmond is situated on the banks of the upper Illovo River, in the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. Timber, sugarcane, poultry, citrus fruit and dairy goods are produced here.
It was established in 1850 as Beaullieu, by British Byrne Settlers, who were originally from Beaullieu, the seat of the Duke of Buccleuch in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The name was later changed to Richmond for ease of pronunciation.
The arrival of the settlers brought about a slow return of various remnants of the African people, who fled from the raiding Zulu armies. The Zulus called these refugees "amaBhaca", (people who hide). Although composed of elements of many different groups, the Bhaca have developed their own identity.
One of Natal's greatest tycoons, Joseph Baynes, a Yorkshireman by birth, was a pioneer the dairy industry. His Baynesfield Estate was bequeathed in his will to the nation of South Africa.
Rosetta is one of those little villages, that, until recently, would have been relegated to a passing glance, as you drove through it, on the way to elsewhere. Originally, the area was dominated by the Rosetta Farm, granted by the Crown in 1861, and the village possibly resulted from the colonial farm pioneering boom, that took place at the time in Natal. One can only hazard a guess that the local Mooi River, when in flood, reminded farmers of the Rosetta branch of the Nile, where the mighty river divides, north of Cairo. Today, Rosetta serves the surrounding smallholdings with little more than a small village mall, which includes a little shopping centre. One doesn’t come to Rosetta to shop. The dramatic views of the Drakensberg from here, and the ‘far from the madding crowd’ country getaway that it offers, are what draw people to Rosetta.the Rosetta Farm, granted by the Crown in 1861, and the village possibly resulted from the colonial.
Rosetta is best known for its excellent trout fishing.
The Northern and Central Drakensberg area has some of the most beautiful scenery that can be imagined. The area falls into four valleys, beginning with the Champagne Valley in the Central Berg, through the Cathedral Peak and Didima Valley, then the Royal Natal National Park and Amphitheatre Valley, and finally the Middledale Pass Valley in the Northern Berg. Each of the four valleys has its own kind of beauty and character; all have magnificent mountain views.
This is a very popular tourist and holiday destination and boasts dozens of resorts, hotels, lodges and bed and breakfat establishments. Most of the bigger resorts offer a plethora of sports, entertainments and attractions, like bowls, golf, tennis, horse ridig, fishing, hiking, and rock climbing, to name but a few.
Major resorts include favourites such as Bushman's Nek, Drakensberg Gardens, Loteni, Giant’s Castle, White Mountain Resort, Champagne Castle, Cathkin Peak, Drakensberg Sun, Alpine Heath, Sani Pass Hotel, The Nest, Champagne Sports, Cathedral Peak, The Cavern, Royal Natal National Park, Mont-Aux-Sources, Little Switzerland and Golden Gate.
Most of these destinations are close to a town, with all the normal facilities. The 3 major “Drakensberg Towns” are Underberg, Winterton and Bergville.
Himeville is a small village/town situated in the foothills of the picturesque Southern Drakensberg, approx 130 km from Pietermaritzburg. It is a landmark en-route to the world famous Sani Pass and the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park (UNESCO World Heritage Site). Himeville is the closest town to the Sani Pass, which links the town with Mokhotlong in Lesotho.
Himeville was named in 1902, after the then Prime Minister of Natal, Sir Albert Henry Hime, a road engineer elected as Prime Minister of Natal in 1889. The town was first established as a police outpost and a branch of the Border Mounted Rifles in 1890, following a spate of gun-running and cattle rustling in the area.
The stone buildings, which now comprise the Himeville Museum, were built in 1900 as the last of Natal's loop-holed forts, before housing prisoners until 1972. An open-air exhibition of settler and agricultural history is surrounded by many display rooms, housing themed exhibits.
Covering the Bulwer, Underberg and Himeville communities, it commemorates the way of life of all the erstwhile inhabitants of the last frontier of Natal and has a fairly extensive archives. Himeville Museum is one of the top rural museums in the country, due to its wide range of exhibits. From fossils and stone age artifacts, to a comprehensive display on the Bushmen, the early settlers, as well as African beadwork and artifacts.
The displays also cover the Anglo Boer War and the two World Wars. There is an old post office and a school room, wild life display and many farming implements and machinery, including a blacksmiths forge and a workshop.
The museum is housed in the old stone fort or laager, started in 1896, by the Border Mounted Rifles, sent to police the area, after the LeFleur Rebellion of 1895. Completed in 1899, it was only used once during the Bambata rebellion of 1906, although no fighting took place nearby. It was taken over by the Natal Mounted Police, after the Anglo Boer War and turned into a prison, by the addition of the warder’s house and magistrate’s court, along with a number of cells. Abandoned as a prison in 1972, it became a museum in 1976 and was declared a National Monument in 1978. It is now affiliated to the KZN Provincial Museum Service.
This is located on the corner of Arbuckle and Clayton streets, Himeville. It was built in 1898 and until recently, was in constant use as the Magistrate's residence, since construction.
Himeville Nature Reserve
The reserve stretches along the eastern boundary of Himeville Village and was proclaimed to its present size of 104 ha, in 1973.
Bergville is a small town, situated in the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains. It was established as Bergville Mountain Village in 1897 and is now the commercial centre for a 2,500 km² dairy and cattle ranching area. A blockhouse was built by the British in the town, during the Second Boer War.
Bergville is equidistant from Johannesburg and Durban and is also known as the gateway to the Northern Drakensberg. It lies on Route 74, which is a more scenic alternative to the Toll Road. This route takes you via the Oliviershoek Pass, traditionally used to access the Drakensberg, from Johannesburg and through Winterton, from Durban.
The Early Formation Of The Drakensberg Mountains
The geological shape of South Africa can be described simply as an interior highland surrounded in the west, east and south by escarpments. The mountain range of the Drakensberg is part of the eastern escarpment, reaching heights of almost 3500 metres. The highest mountain is the Thaba Ntlenyana peak (3482 m) in Lesotho.
The "Dragon Mountains", as the Boers called them, were not shaped by tectonic uplift, but rather through erosion. The mountain base had originally been part of the supercontinent Gondwanaland, which broke apart about 300 to 100 million years ago, to form the new continents. The continental drift that went on over millions of years was accompanied by arching, faulting, rifting, and extensive volcanism.
The land of today's KwaZulu Natal used to be covered with up to 1,000 metre thick layers of lava. When this mass solidified, the heavy granite stone pressed onto the layers of sandstone beneath. Due to the high relief and associated steep gradients to the Indian Ocean, significant erosion occurred. Alluvial streams and rivers deposited rubble at the base of the escarpments and carried away finer materials.
Through millions of years of constant erosion, the rugged steep slopes of the Drakensberg were shaped
The faming area of southern KwaZulu-Natal, commonly referred to as East Griqualand comprises the towns of Kokstad and Matatiele.
The Griquas were forced to travel over the Drakensberg, into a region earlier decimated by the great Zulu King, Chaka - thus its name "Nomansland". By the time the Griquas arrived in their new promised land eighteen months later, they were exhausted and most of their livestock had perished. The impoverished Griquas named the mountain where they settled Mount Currie, after Sir Walter Currie, who gave support to their efforts to settle here. Once settled, their leader, Adam Kok, renamed their new land East Griqualand. Every male Griqua, who settled in East Griqualand, was able to secure a 3,000 acre (12 km²) farm, but most of them sold their land cheaply to white settlers and squandered their money.
When, in 1869, the Reverend William Dower was asked by the Griquas to establish a mission, he agreed, on condition that they re-settle in a more suitable place, on the banks of the Mzimhlava river.
Two prominent European Settlers, George Brisley and Donald Strachan, played a major role in the early development of Kokstad and East Griqualand. Their trading store, Strachan and Co, introducing South Africa's first indigenous currency - a set of trade tokens, which circulated across the entire region, covering an area the size of Ireland.
In 1874 East Griqualand came into the possession of Cape Colony. The first hotel in Kokstad, The Royal, was opened by an African-American, who also started a newspaper (Kokstad Advertiser) in 1881. Kokstad became a municipality in 1892. 1904 the population was recorded at 2903, of whom a third were Griquas.
Matatiele is a mid-sized town serving the farming and trading communities of East Griqualand, in the foothills of the western Drakensberg, 20 km from the southern border of Lesotho. Dairy farming is the principal activity. Good trout fishing is to be had in the numerous streams of the area. As a town, Matatiele is the reference point for all of the northern Transkei.
The name "Matatiele" is clearly a Sotho word, based on the Sesotho phrase "matata aile" meaning "the ducks have gone" (but this suggestion runs into the problem that the town's name is [matati?la] and not *[matatiil?]). In Phuthi, the town name is pronounced "Madadiyela". The common informal name for the town in any of the languages mentioned, including English, is "Matats".
The residents in and around Matatiele, as in most of the northern Transkei region, are generally bilingual in Xhosa and Sotho. Many speak some English. Some also speak as a home language (or as a language of heritage) Phuthi, especially residents in Tsitsong and Tšepisong.
Evidence of Stone Age inhabitants in the form of art adorning rocks are found throughout the area. In the early 1860s, the Griquas settled there, after migrating across the Drakensberg, from Philippolis. The town was the centre of cattle rustling and gun-running and order was only restored in 1874, by the Cape Mounted Riflemen. The town became a municipality in 1904.
Recently, the town was annexed into the Eastern Cape, but the residents still prefer to be thought of as part of KwaZulu-Natal and are officially objecting to the ruling.