Tips for outdoor wedding ceremonies in the Natal Midlands
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Bushman Rock Art of the Drakensberg
February 2, 2014
The Drakensberg offers the best examples of Bushman rock art in South Africa The Bushmen or San peoples were the origional inhabitants of South Africa and the recent history saw their downfall as this stone age people were over run by the Nguni tribes, Brittish settlers and Boer Farmers.Today all that remains of these facinating people are paintings on walls of rock in the Drakensberg Mountains.
The Meaning of the bushman paintings
Although many of the messages in the paintings are shrouded in mystery common themes include the bushman’s close relationship with nature; They painted what they saw as a record of their environment. Eland features prominently as it was their main souce of food and clothing. A spiritual dimension of bushman rock art can be seen too where there are transformations between human and animal a symbolism of passing into teh spiritual world. Many paintings depict the Pherianthrope’s and it is thought that they were painted in a trance like state by Sharman and therefore could depict scenes from the afterlife. Some paintings depict the passing history, as illustrated by wagon and horseman painting in Bamboo Mountain, and others, such as the cattle paintings in Dingaans Cave, and Black Ox Cave in the Champagne Valley seem to indicate a liaison with the Nguni tribes as the Bushmen did not keep cattle. Battle scenes and hunting scenes also feature prominently and a visit to Battle Cave in Injasuti can be a chilling reminder of man’s war like nature with it’s bleeding warriors and men folk being restraining form the battle by their womenfolk.
Rock Art Protocol
Cave sites may only be entered if accompanied by an IMAFA registered guide. Fortunately however some of the main sites have available guides and allow visitors.
Main Caves at Giants Castle
This painted shelter is easily accessed and is a short walk from the Giants Castle camp. The site is fenced and guided tours commence at the cave entrance hourly 9.00 am to 3.00 pm.
Fultons Rock at Highmoor
A 5 hour retun walk following the trail to Caracal Cave. At the Old ruins follow the small path down towands the river. Fultons Rock is tha huge bolder that seems like it rolled down the hill but just did not make it to the bottom. The excellent examples of rock art are found on the bottom side of the bolder.
Game Pass Shelter in Kam,berg Nature Reserve
By far the best examples of bushman rock art to be seen. There is a guide and tours run daily but you should get there before 12am. The walk to the rock art is a 3 hour return trip. There are 4 main panels of bushman rock paintings which are is supurb condition where the spiritual aspects of the rock art are quite clearly visible.
Battle Cave at Injasuti
This cave is located in the Injasuthi valley and is a strenuous 5 hour hike from the Injasuthi hutted camp. Guided hikes leave daily at 8.30 am. Booking essential – phone 036 4319000. The cave is fenced so cannot be accessed without a guide. It is famous for the extensive battle scene, a chilling reminder that the idealistic hunter gatherer lifestyle was occasionally marred by conflict. The battle panel shows women folk trying to restrain their kin from entering the battle, arrows flying in all directions, and wounded and dying warriors. There are also numerous other well preserved paintings and a visit to this cave is a must for anyone interested in their art and culture.
Cow Cave in the Champagne Valley ( also known as Boschrand)
This cave is accessed from The Oaks Supermarket in Dragon Peaks Park and is a guided trip leaving most mornings at 9.00 am. The path goes through private property and the paintings are on private property so a guide is essential. It is a pleasant round walk of approximately 3 hours. The panels are well preserved and depict several buck species and a painting of a cow, probably indicating contact between the Bushmen and the Nguni tribes.
Black Ox shelter in the Champagne Valley
This delightful cave, the beauty of which has been marred by alien vegetation encroachment, is situated on the way to Wonder Valley. It is named after the painting of a black ox once again indication a liaison with the Nguni tribes that lived in the area.
Maartens shelterin the Champagne Valley
This small site is situated on the path between Champagne Castle Hotel and The Sphinx path at Monks Cowl . It is on the Champagne Castle Hotel’s property so access is with permission of the hotel management. The site is well marked and is a small set of paintings of Mountain Reed Buck on the underside of a large fallen rock.
Dingaans cave in the Champagne Valley
There are 2, possibly 3, painted caves at Fernwood lodge of which one is easily accessible. It is fairly extensively painted with several panels of buck and some human figures, although they are very faded. Nevertheless, it is worth a visit but as it is on private property permission from the management is necessary.
Cat Cave at Monks Cowl
This painted cave is close to Zulu Cave. It requires a long walk up the Sphinx path to Breakfast Stream and on to Blind Man’s Corner and the contour path. Turn right at the contour path to Hlathikulu Neck taking the Keith Bush Camp turnoff. The path to Zulu Cave turns off to the right on the Keith Bush Camp path. An overnight stay is suggested as it is a long way.
Anton’s Shelter at Monks Cowl
This small shelter on top of the Little Berg overlooking the valley has a few good paintings. It is on the path past Stable Cave and is a long walk starting either at Monks Cowl or from above Berg View taking the Jacobs Ladder path.
Leopard Cave at Cathedral Peak
This cave lies on the edge of the Didima gorge half way between Monks Cowl and Didima/ Cathedral Peak. There is a single painting of a leopard chasing a man and by the closeness off the encounter it is definitely not a self portrait.
Eland Cave at Cathedral Peak
This extensively painted cave, one of the best painted sites in the country, is situated on the South Eastern side of the Didima valley. Special permission is required to visit this site. It can either be accessed from Monks Cowl or from the Didima / Cathedral Peak side. It is an extremely long hike from either side and should be done as an overnight trip. The paintings are well preserved and are numerous and varied. This cave is the last recorded contact with Bushmen and is the site where a bow and quivers were found in 1931.