Giant's Castle Valley

Artistic Treasure

Giant’s Castle Camp rivals Thendele for its spectacular location above the Bushman’s River and hemmed in by daunting peaks. Try to catch the sleeping valley at dawn when, as a Bushman once described, ‘the white bull tears the black blanket of the night with his red horns.’ But this place has not always known such peace. 

©Roger de la Harpe
View of Giants Castle and Bushman's River from Giants Castle Camp.

During the Langalibalele Rebellion of 1873 the crags rang with the sound of rifle shots as Colonel Durnford’s troops tried to overcome the amaHlubi impis. The colonel had a narrow escape during a skirmish on the summit, but a number of his men fell to the warriors’ assegais. Today some of the peaks bear their names.

For the Bushmen, this valley was also a last refuge before finally being expelled from the region by white settlers. A short walk from Giant’s Castle Camp is evidence of their presence. Main Caves is one of the artistic treasures of the Drakensberg. There’s a life-size rock art display featuring a domestic scene of Bushman figures. Behind them stands a shaman painting an eland on the rock face. It’s a window on their way of life, but the real drama is in the rock art in the next cave.

Running figures hunt eland and grey rhebok across a wall of sandstone, a leopard prowls along a fissure. The focal point is a procession of therianthropes – half-man, half-animal figures – that represent a mediation between this world and that of the spirit. Looking at the ghostly figures, you feel the acute power of the site. It’s easy to see how these mountains have had such a strong spiritual tug for hundreds of generations of humans, reaching far back into the mists of prehistory.

The religious world of the Bushmen appears strangely present in that cave, their connection to us far less tenuous than time and history would suggest. Standing in the mouth of the cave, a thought about modern humans’ need for a spiritual dimension to life comes to mind. Our connection to something greater than ourselves is through Nature. It could hardly get more affecting than the view from Main Caves on a sparking spring morning with the air pure Champagne and everything before you on a godly scale.

By Justin Fox

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