Start your morning off with a cuppa Earl Grey – named after the second earl of that distinction, whose family seat was Howick Hall, Northumberland, England.
Now turn the world upside-down to find another Howick, situated in eastern South Africa (and another in New Zealand and another in Canada). Turned into a bustling European settlement by Early Grey, who had been recently awarded the title Lord Howick, and taking its name from that same Northumberland ancestral home, the town of Howick holds a place of no small significance in South African history. During the Boer War, the British established a concentration camp near Howick from 1899-1902; and, most popularly, Howick represents the site of the late Nelson Mandela‘s arrest on 5 August 1962, just off the R102.
But lest we be drawn into that story, which merits more time and an authoritative voice to do it justice, let’s instead turn to Howick: Tourist Destination. Its key highlight being the impressive Howick Falls.
The Umgeni/Mgeni River, sourced from my own Drakensberg mountains (home to Sani Pass), tumbles 95m before continuing its journey to the Indian Ocean, exiting the continent at Durban. The Zulu prefer their own name for the impressive falls, kwaNogqaza, which means ‘Place of the Tall One.’ At its base lies a serpentine creature – the inkanyamba – rendering it unsafe for anyone but powerful sangomas to approach and offer prayers to the ancestral spirits. This beast’s anger is believed to be the cause of many summer storms.
As a tourism highlight, Howick Falls is certainly beautiful and a welcome stop after a drive through the Midlands Meander. One can wander the many craft stalls and kitchyshops lining the streets and haggle down the ‘fixed prices’ of some beaded nick-nack.
But I was struck less by the falls and commerce, than by the sudden sense of orientation granted by a nearby signpost. To stop and read the distances between my feet and other well-known waterfalls around the world, suddenly I had an understanding of place in a way I hadn’t before. Just a little geography nerd-dom shining through 🙂