17-Mar-2002 -- I asked at the Empangeni guest house "Hill View Gardens" if it would be safe to go there. Betty, she runs the kitchen, bar and reservation, told me that it would be very dangerous and in no case I should go alone. When I told her, I would take a black man with me, she was shocked by this idea.
A bit later, Hein, the son of the owner of the guest house, came in and I asked him the same question. He said, he doesn't know this specific area, but he drove many times the road to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve's main entrance without any problem and he would just go there and have a look. When I would feel safe enough, I should just walk to the point. His wife or girlfriend mentioned that I could ask the local tourist information at Hluhluwe or I could also get information from the owner of the Hluhluwe hotel.
I decided to drive straight to the confluence point and to see what the area looked like, I thought that I could always drive back and hire a guide or a 4x4, in case I would not feel safe enough.
I started my tour from Empangeni, just after I had finished breakfast at about 8:30 am. I headed north to Hluhluwe (approx. 100 km north of Empageni) on the highway N2. The main roads in South Africa are in perfect condition and after about one hour's drive I reached Hluhluwe town. At Huhluwe, I topped-up with fuel, just to be save.
According to my map, the point 28S 32E appeared to be very close to a secondary road north of Huhluwe Game Park. I drove towards Hluhluwe's north gate (Memorial Gate), because I was not sure which of the many small dirt roads turning off from the main road to the north I should take. I ended up at the Hluhluwe Gate, where I turned back. At the gate, two Zulu-girls waved at me to get a lift. I decided to take them with me, they sat down on the rear seats and off we went. They where smiling at me, it must have been quite an experience to drive in a car with a white guy.
After a few kilometers, they asked me to stop and they got out of the car. We could not speak which each other, they didn't speak English and I could not understand Zulu. Before they went off, I asked them if I could take a photo. They agreed and I took a nice picture.
I drove on and a few kilometers ahead (approx. half way between the gate of the Park and Hluhluwe town), I turned left onto a gravel road heading to the North. The road was fine and the direction was ok, just as indicated on my map. From time to time I had to stop for cattle on the road, I was driving straight into Zulu-land. There was not much traffic on that road and the people that I passed-by waved and greeted me friendly. Many people were walking next to the road, all dressed up nicely. It was Sunday morning and they walked to the church.
As I came closer to the point, I decided to turn left onto an access road to a Zulu-village. I was just 0.6 km away from the point. I was not too sure if I should carry on, being just on my own. The road was in a very bad condition. I saw a car driving out of the village and I had to reverse to let them pass. I decided to continue to the end of that road and stopped in front of a group of small houses. A few children came out and looked at me as if I had come from Mars.
I parked and got out of the car, when I saw a young black man coming out of the house. I walked up to him and we greeted each other. He was Sphelele Mdaka. Sphelele spoke perfect English and I explained to him what I intended to do. When he saw my GPS, since this area is not developed at all, he thought that I came to look for the point where the water is. I explained to Sphelele that I drove out just for fun and I was just looking for the confluence point 28S 32E. He understood, however he could hardly believe that somebody drives to this place just for that.
I asked Sphelele to join me to walk to the point, which he did. While walking through the bush, we chatted a little bit. Sphelele told me that he had worked in Durban, Johannesburg and also in Pietermaritzburg. He explained to me that life is very difficult out there in the rural areas. The people do not have work and the youngsters depend on the old people's pensions.
The point was just a few hundred meters away from Sphelele's house. When we arrived, it was the 17th of March 2002, at about 11 am, I took some photos from the area and of us standing at the point. This was my first confluence point that I successfully visited and I was very glad to have reached the target. Last year, I had attempted a point in Brazil, but I couldn't make it because of mist and darkness forcing me to give up. I couldn't find time later to make a second approach.
Before driving back, I gave Sphelele the web-address and I wrote down my name, so that whenever he gets a possibility, he can look up the report in the internet.
On my way back I drove through Hluhluwe Game Reserve and to St. Lucia. I spent a perfect day out in beautiful Zulu-land. I decided for myself that I would certainly continue to visit more confluence points.
Coordinator's note: The GPS photo was taken 144 meters from the Confluence, but the main photographs were taken 50 meters away.