The Zulu warrior, bare chested, wearing only his cow hide ibheshu skirt, and traditional skins covering his biceps and shins, smashed his knobkerrie fighting stick against his shield. He cried out at the top of his voice what sounded like a battle cry. He stamped his feet and jumped high in the air. His small impi of men behind him shouted their encouragement while the Zulu ladies let out shrill calls to accompany their singing. He banged his fighting stick again against his shield before he charged us, feet stamping hard into the soft sand but barely making a sound. He stopped only a meter or so in front of us, like a lion making a mock charge.
We were at the Gooderson DumaZulu Lodge & Village and the mock charge was part of the climax to our tour around the on-site Zulu Village. The tour had started when we were met at the gates by a Zulu elder who greeted us in his native tongue. We spoke through our guide and translator and picked up one or two Zulu words to help us on our way. Before being allowed to pass beyond the gate drums were banged to let the villagers know we were there. Our guide waited for the drums to signal we could enter. She then led us through a thatched archway and back in time.
The village is surrounded by a fence which our guide told us is called a kraal, it is circular and constructed from branches of trees pushed into the ground. These fences were used to keep livestock in and wild animals out. Within the village there are a selection of traditional beehive huts built from wood, reeds and thatching grass. This is the type of home that the Zulu people traditionally lived in when European settlers first arrived in Zululand around three hundred years ago. The men in the village showed us how to make spears, both long throwing spears and shorter stabbing spears. The latter is known as an iklwa and when pronounced in Zulu it resembles the noise that the spear made as it was plunged into, them removed, from an enemy soldier during battle. After we were shown how to make the spears, we then got to launch the throwing spear ourselves.
Our next meeting was with the village’s sangoma. The sangoma or healer is highly respected, powerful, and responsible for the well being of the community. They can treat and advise on all matters. Being gifted with their abilities, various methods are adopted to treat a huge array of problems. They can converse with ancestors and use the throwing of bones, pebbles and sticks to aid their powers.
On meeting the ladies of the village, we learned of their crafts and the way that each of them was dressed. We were shown how clay pots, woven grass baskets, and traditional bead wear was skillfully made. Their skirts, their hats and other items of clothing told different stories and often depicted if the ladies were married or single.
After being taken to the centre of the village we were greeted by a warrior who prepared for us a homemade Zulu beer in a clay pot. Beer plays a big role in Zulu culture and recipes are handed down through the generations. After careful sieving and stirring we drank from the pot and thanked him for his warm welcome. Young warriors then demonstrated their stick fighting skills. The men and ladies then came together and sang. On my travels I have been lucky enough to hear Zulu singing many times. I am yet to meet a Zulu who cannot sing. However, this was as good as any that I have heard. The singing was accompanied by drumming and whistles and we found ourselves engrossed by the sounds. The dancing is always special and maybe one day I will be able to raise my legs high enough to silently stamp them down?
We stayed at the main lodge in our own traditional twin bed rondavel. Each room is dedicated to a different Southern African tribe. Our room was ‘Swazi Dlamini’ associated to the royal house of eSwatini, formerly Swaziland. The rooms are spacious and included a separate dressing room and en-suite bathroom. There is also a fridge along with tea & coffee making facilities. The accommodation, like the traditional village, is laid out in a circle amongst indigenous forest, where trees, like the marula, stood laden with fruit. Vervet monkeys and birds made the most of the abundant food supply. There were also masses of butterflies, of all sizes & colours, in the gardens and around the main lodge. The garden also has a fire pit area and swimming pool. We ate all meals in the restaurant and enjoyed a cold drink from the bar in the warm Zululand evening air. The dining area and bar are new, laid out and constructed with great thought and finished to an extremely high standard. The food was exceptional. Lunch and dinner served from a buffet, with staff on hand to talk you through each dish, and breakfast cooked to order. For lunch the stews, cooked in cast iron pots, served with traditional Zulu accompaniments included samp & beans, putu and creamed spinach. There was no shortage of anything, and buffets included, steak, boerewors, chicken, vegetables, salads, all served with beaming smiles.