Rob Caskie is a man with a passion for the KwaZulu-Natal region, from its trout fishing to its historical battlefields. Acting as a storyteller, tour guide and historian, Rob has passed on his love and knowledge of the area to legions of visitors, including many guests of our luxurious oceanside property, The Oyster Box. We speak with him in a quiet moment between engagements to talk about history, KwaZulu-Natal and find out some of his favourite places to visit.
Rob, your speciality is the KwaZulu-Natal Battlefields. Where did this interest in history come from?
I have a deep interest in the Zulu people and their warrior past. This dates back to my school days – I had good history teachers – and my time serving with Zulu troops during my national service. Also, I grew up on a farm, initially in Middelrus, then Mooi River, and I learnt to speak Zulu before I went to school.
“When pressed, however, I always tell people that I am less interested in history than I am in human stories. It’s really the stories of human beings and their behaviour that intrigues me, particularly when the “chips are down”. In essence, I suppose it is impossible to separate human endeavour from history, but I’ve always been fascinated by human endeavour the world over.”
One notable figure in Zulu history is Shaka (1787-1828), king of the Zulus – tell us a bit about him.
“Shaka became an incredible warrior and military leader largely because of his alienation from his peers and his father’s community, along with his ruthless character. Always having to fend for himself, and being responsible for supporting his outspoken and unpopular mother, Nandi, I believe contributed to the man that Shaka became. It is interesting to note that he was developing similar tactics to Hannibal, leading many to think that he was a military genius, with many referring to him as Africa’s “Black Napoleon”.”
“His revolution of Zulu fighting tactics, and merciless crushing of any opposition would indicate that he was a leader who was obsessive and singularly focussed. Many people often ask me whether Shaka was a pleasant man; I do not believe he was. But were Napoleon or Julius Caesar pleasant men? Shaka’s success in forging a nation out of disparate Zulu clans, and his subsequent success as military dictator speak for themselves, in my opinion.”
KwaZulu-Natal is such a diverse province in South Africa… What is your favourite area and why?
“KwaZulu-Natal is a glorious part of the world, with so much to offer its residents and visitors. Having just cycled the 4-day iSimangaliso Mountain Bike event, which went through seven ecosystems, from the coast to the top of the Lebombo Mountains, I’ve been reminded of just how fantastic this area is.
If I had to pick my favourite area, however, it would have to be the Midlands and foothills of the Drakensberg. I grew up on dairy farms near Mooi River, which instilled a deep love of farming, particularly dairy farming, in me – as well as a respect and love of the area itself. And who wouldn’t love the temperate climate we enjoy and reasonable reliable rainfall we enjoy?”
“I also love being close to the mountains, which, in the Drakensberg area are just majestic. Also there are great trout fishing opportunities hereabouts. Plus, I’m always fond of the fact that in the Midlands area we have four distinct seasons, sometimes evident in one day’s weather!
Being relatively close to the mountains, the coast, and the game reserves, along with my beloved battlefields, makes the Midlands my first choice of places to live in KwaZulu-Natal. Of course, my favourite hotel and location on the KwaZulu-Natal coast has to be The Oyster Box – it’s my unequivocal favourite.”
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