I am going to write my thoughts, the bits and bobs that I remember of how it was for me, during my almost fifty years spent in South Africa.
Umzinto, Umkomaas, Umhlanga Rocks, Umlazi, Uvongo,Umlanga,
U is an unusually difficult one. Stick to towns and places, I thought, There are just no South African anythings starting with U. I had a friend once called Ulanda in primary school in Pretoria.
So, we can start at the highest point of my U’s and work our way down. Underberg, high in the Drakensberg mountains of Kwazulu, Natal.
I have to say all my memories of Underberg are wonderful; because it was one of my favourite holiday venues. When you live at the seaside, where else do you go for a short holiday? You can even go skiing in the winter in the berg, when the snow falls some winters.
Many a Sunday morning I sat here on the deck of this hotel Dakensberg Gardens Hotel after a weekend break and watched the organized race up the closest mountain: to the top and back by the local boys and any guest who wanted to join in. This place is now known for being a Spa and Golfing hotel.
My experiences were so different (but the rocks haven’t changed): in 1969 I visited with my best friend , then, to spend a last holiday of freedom before marriage!
No, that’s not us!
The following holiday I had kids in tow, all wanting to be everywhere and do everything at once, and the race up the hill happened on Sunday morning, just the same, after a leisurely breakfast. This must have been in the 80’s.
No, don’t be silly, I didn’t run!
The time after that was when I took my parents there, they played tennis, made fools of us; at their age it was amazing; and the race up the hill was still the Sunday morning entertainment after breakfast.
Sadly then, it was always time to take in the scenery once more, as we headed back home towards the coast. On the road homewards we passed the road to Bulwer, went through Ixopo and Dududu (look quick or you miss it).
When we saw signs to Umzinto, we knew we were nearly home!
Just a few kilometres inland from Park Rynie, on the Natal south coast is the town of Umzinto.
Umzinto grew up out of the growing sugar industry and boasted KwaZulu-Natal’s first publicly owned sugar company in 1858 – the same year the first Asiatic labourers arrived in South Africa, all part of an agreement.
Today’s Umzinto has lost it’s sugar mill, but is a thriving little commercial centre still populated predominantly by Indian people.
Legend has it that the town’s name is derived from the encounter of two gentlemen, one of whom was named Um. Upon encountering a stream, the two decided to cross it, but Um did not notice a crocodile lurking beneath the surface. Subsequently Um was attacked by the crocodile, and bitten in half. “Um’s in two!” his friend exclaimed. This is merely a fable written by Jonathan Swift.
It is a Zulu name meaning doer of things. But other history says it was named after a river, Mzinto River, which winds past the town.
Unofficially, Umzinto was at one time the ‘Capital’ of Alexandra County, a district that also includes the areas and suburbs surrounding the towns of Scottburgh, Umkomaas, and Sezela-Pennington.
When we join the coastal road at a T junction, a few miles from Umzinto, Cafe Erica is just across the road. A well known landmark, bakery and restuarant in 1980’s, where I spent many hours of my life.
We could choose to go home from there, turn left, or take a trip southwards to Uvongo. A place of great beauty when the sun bakes down.
But as predictable as the sun is on the South Coast, the unpredicable does happen. Then we find out that Africa is still boss! When it rains, really rains! The sea gets angry too. Rains that fall for days, much needed water, that the earth soaks up greedily until saturation. This picture is from 2007.
The need for water is not as dire at the coast as it is inland in Africa. It can be harsh and cruel and when it really rains, large drops fall, stinging your face, beating holes into the dry earth.
But the heady fragrance when it’s was all over, is amazing, running rivulets change the song of every bird, animal and insect. (that survives). Changing their Africa. Giving them life.
So I have to end with a song that should have been played under “T”. Africa by Toto. (Click picture to listen)
Please visit, the A-Z link at the top of page to read more of these experiences.