Rock Art of the San People

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
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Trip End Jun 01, 2012


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Flag of South Africa  , KwaZulu-Natal,
Tuesday, May 8, 2012

After our epic adventure in Zimbabwe and Botswana we had a short break in Jo'burg before hitting the road on the BazBus. The Bazbus is a minibus service which takes backpackers from hostel to hostel between Johannesburg and Cape Town, stopping along the coast at a number of places such as Durban, the wild coast, Port Elizabeth and the Garden route.
  
The first leg for us was to Pietermaritzburg where we stayed with my Gran in Howick and used that as a base to explore the region. Along the way we drove through the Northern Drakensberg which is an absolutely stunning mountainous area with panoramic views, and we drove past the ampitheatre of the Drakensberg before making our way into Pietermaritzburg itself. 

 We spent some time exploring Howick including a walk to the Howick falls with fairly low expectations only to be blown away by the beauty of it. The falls themselves are pretty impressive but the views from there are even better. We spent a bit of time exploring on foot and wondered around the Curio stores there which were really good. Howick is known for being a retirement village but it had far more to do than we had expected.

 My Gran drove us into the Drakensberg to an area called Kamberg, and from there we could go on a guided hike to see San rock art up in the mountains. It's a beautiful hike through the Drakensberg countryside and we went through caves, over springs, under waterfalls and past grazing Eland before the big climb up to the overhanging rock-face where the ancient San artwork can be found. From the top were breath-taking panoramic views across the Drakensberg mountains and it was strange to think that the bushmen would have had those same views hundreds of years ago when they used the area as a religious site.
 
It was quite a tough walk up, but we've decided that it's definitely the altitude that was the problem and not the fact that we're both pretty unfit. Our guide said that our destination was over 2000 metres above sea level which is pretty high if you ask me!
 
We reached the top and were talked through the artwork which is painted onto the rock-face. They think the art dates back to between 1500 and 3000 years old but it's hard to tell from archeology, apparently this site in Kamberg has been very important to historian's understanding of the bushmen who lived in the area and their way of life in the Drakensberg.

 Most of the paintings were of Eland, they are quite common in the Drakensberg and seen as very important to the bushmen. They are the biggest antelope in Africa and have a lot of fat making it a very valuable asset to the bushmen for looking after their tribes. The amount of fat also led the bushmen to believe that the Eland is a very sacred animal and they would get into a trance state during ceremony's involving dances which aim to capture the power of the Eland for themselves.  The San paintings depict some if this and are painted using Ocre, Fat, blood, water, crushed ostrich eggs and some of the lighter coloured sands. Unfortunately some of the paintings have had graffiti written on them in Zulu by a previous generation but still most are in good condition. 
 
When the dutch settlers moved into the Drakensberg they brought lifestock with them which were tied up and used for work and food. The Bushmen believed that all the animals were for everyone and drove the cattle away in the night. The settlers were furious as they felt they had been stolen which led to fighting and imprisonment of the bushmen and eventually the end of the bushmen way of life living in the Drakensberg. It was a really interesting but more than anything, it was a beautiful hike with stunning views across the Berg.
 
The drive into Kamberg is also quite stunning as we took the scenic route through the Midlands Meander. The countryside along this route reminded us a lot of England with neat green fields and rolling hills. Plus plenty of tea rooms and arts and craft shops along the way. 
 
What I didn't expect was to drive past the site where Nelson Mandela was captured before he was imprisoned. He lived in the Transkei and the road to Johannesburg went past Howick which is where the police pulled him over and arrested him. Hopefully we will see more of the significant Nelson Mandela sites along the route to Cape Town as we are hoping to go to Robben Island once we're there. 

 For now though, we head for Durban. 
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