After a good day of rest yesterday with gallons of wine and an excellent braai it’s time on Day 32 to get our walking shoes back on and head out for our final hike at the Royal Natal National Park and it only seems right to take the Sunday Falls Hike on a glorious sunny Sunday.
It’s a much shorter walk than anything tackled previously with only a slight incline as our legs are still feeling it a bit after Fridays exploits at Tugela Falls. It’s a gorgeous day and it’s great to walk between the beautiful blossoms of the Protea flowers and the lush grass. The waterfall is gentle and its most striking feature is the strong copper coloured rocks of the riverbed.
South Africa has the finest pre-historic collection of rock art in the world with art in national parks and reserves around the country. The most important of these sites are found in the uKhahlmba Drakensberg Park, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site because of the importance of this cultural heritage as well as being an area of natural importance. There are approximately 20,668 individual paintings in about 500 caves and overhangs are heavily protected. Upon completion of our hike we visit the excellent visitor centre at the Royal Natal National Park and they organise a guide to take us on a hike to see the San Rock Art. This is too good an opportunity to see some of the oldest cave paintings in the world.
The San rock art is over 3,000 years old and the only place in the Royal Natal National Park where visitors can view it. Our guide, Sizwe is part of a group of community guides who lives in the village the other side of the Tugela River. He explains how San rock art depicts the religious beliefs and practises of the time, providing us with an insight into the lives of their lives. The San would draw the art in a trance-like state. This trance-like state was brought about through medicine, dancing and drumming. It was a way in which the artist could connect with their ancestors and the spiritual world.
The rock art is quite stunning and our first sight of it is very powerful. The hunter-gatherer San are among the oldest cultures on Earth and are thought to be descended from the first inhabitants of what is now Botswana and South Africa. The painting that are visible depict hunters and their animal prey. The San used red, brown and yellow pigments as paint. They made white paint from white clay or bird droppings, black from manganese minerals and charcoal. They never used blue and green. The blood of an Eland was often mixed with the pigments. They made their brushes from animal hair or bird feathers. It was fascinating to be able to view the rock art and understand the thinking behind it and the execution. We drive back to the hostel to start packing as we’re on the move tomorrow to the Battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift.
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