town in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Dundee is a coal-mining town of 35,000 people (2011) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was the site of the Battle of Blood River in 1838 between 464 Voortrekkers ("Pioneers"), and an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 Zulu.

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Dutch Reformed Church

It is said that Blood River was so-named when its waters ran red with the blood of the slain warriors on its shores. The Blood River Commemorative Site marks the place where 470 Voortrekkers, led by Andries Pretorius, went into battle with 10,000-15,000 Zulus on 16 December 1838. There were around 3,000 Zulu mortalities, while three Voortrekker commandos were wounded in the battle, which was instigated by Voortrekker occupation of Zulu land.

Today the Heritage Site is a tribute to the Voortrekker victory and a dedication to the fallen Zulu warriors. An important part of South African history, the battle of Blood River had a resounding social and political effect, forming part of the legacy of racial divisions that scars the face of this country. In South Africa’s spirit of reconciliation, both sides are represented at the site. In keeping with the post-apartheid shift in politics, this is now a peaceful place and an interesting destination for all visitors.

The unbiased nature of the place is represented in the two museums on either side of the river. On the west is the Blood River granite monument and museum, which is considered an important part of Afrikaner cultural heritage in South Africa. Here, there is a bronze wagon memorial lager built on the site of the original lager - the formation of which was the decisive factor in the otherwise improbable Voortrekker victory - as well as three replica cannons. The museum has an interpretation centre, curio shop and restaurant in the style of an old Boer kitchen.

On the east is the Ncome Zulu Museum, constructed in the distinct Zulu ‘bull horns’ war formation. The Museum offers a different perspective on the events of the battle and its build-up, and insight into general Zulu history and custom.

The juxtaposition of these facilities gives visitors a comprehensive sense of the events that took place at the Battle of Blood River, and encourages an appreciation of the ‘new South Africa’. Once a day of celebration for Afrikaners, 16 December is now a national holiday and has been renamed Reconciliation Day. Scheduling a visit to the site on that day offers visitors the benefit of an annual re-enactment of the battle in full traditional dress by both sides – transporting guests back in time to witness the battle in action

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Map of Dundee and District

R33 between Dundee and Vryheid follow the road for 24 km turnoff at the signpost Ncome/Blood River. For 20 km on the gravel road you stop at the entrance of the Blood River Heritage Site.

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  • 1 Talana Museum (on the R33 about 3 km from the town centre in the direction of Vryheid), +27 34 212 265, . A museum set in a park that exhibits local history, industry and crafts. The museum also has a reconstruction of a local Zulu kraal.
  • 2 Ncome-Blood River Heritage Site, BloedRivier (just off the R33 between Dundee and Vryheid, about 43 km from Dundee), +27 34 271-8121, fax: +27 34 271-8124, . Open 08:30 to 16:30 daily, except Christmas day. Site of a major conflict on 16 December 1838 between the Zulu impi army under King Dingane and the Voortrekker forces under Andries Pretorius. On the western side of the Bloodriver is the Blood River monument and museum, commemorating the battle from a Afrikaner point of view. The monument consists of 64 full scale bronze replica oxwagons set up in a defensive circle. On the eastern side of the Bloodriver is the Ncome monument and museum, commemorating the same event from a Zulu perspective. The monument consists of a Zulu war horn formation display. 16 December is now a public holiday in South Africa, celebrated as Day of Reconciliation.    
One of the many mass graves on the Isandlwana battlefield
  • 3 Isandlwana Battlefield (take the R68 eastwards from Dundee for about 80 km (13 km after the sharp bend in Nqutu); the site is signposted from this point and follows dirt roads), +27 34 271 0634 (Visitor Centre). Daily except Good Friday and Christmas Day 09:00 - 16:00. On 22 January 1879 the British Camp at Isandlwana was overrun by 20,000 Zulu leaving 1357 British Soldiers and colonial auxiliaries dead. Two survivors managed to escape and warn the British Force at Rorke's Drift of an impending attack. Today the battlefield has memorials to those killed. A visitor centre and museum (where the entrance fee is paid) is about 1.5 km due north of the main battlefield. It is advised that the services of a guide be sought at the museum. R35 (adult), R20 (child).    
  • 4 Rorkes Drift Museum (From Dundee, take the R33 southwards for about 10  then follow the roadsigns. Rorke's Drift is about 20 km from the R33.), +27 34 642 1687. M-F 08:00-16:00, Sa Su 09:00-16:00. During the Battle of Rorke's Drift, about 150 British soldiers repelled repeated attacks by 4000 Zulu warriors for a period of 12 hours. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded, the most in any one day in British history. The museum is housed in what was Jim Rorke's trading post which was built in 1847. The film Zulu is about this battle and has a young Michael Caine in his first major role.    
  • 5 Prince Imperial Memorial (the memorial is at a remote location, about 20 km east of Nqutu; it is recommended that you get up-to-date directions prior to travel; Nqutu is on the R68 between Dundee and Melmoth). In 1871 the second French Empire collapsed and Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte fled to Britain. He died in 1873 and his son, Prince Louis Napoleon (the Prince Imperial) became the heir to the Bonapartist tradition. The Prince Imperial trained at Sandhurst and as the Zulu War was drawing to a close travelled to South Africa to see some action. Although there were strict instructions that he was not to be kept out of danger's way, a reconnaissance party of which he was a member was ambushed and he was killed. A monument, paid for by Queen Victoria, now marks the spot where he died.    

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  • The Smouswa Gift Shop (The Smouswa gift and curio shop). Open seven days a week. A shop where you can purchase commemorative items, books, post cards and other memorabilia.

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  • The Trekker Restaurant (in the Museum Building). Serves refreshments and light meals. Breakfast and evening meals can be booked. Group bookings, e.g. for Sunday meals, may also be made. Traditional 'Boere' dishes can be made by arrangements.'Vetkoek and mince' with traditional ginger beer are specialties.

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Head northwest to the industrial town of Newcastle.

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