Riding on horseback for 10 days through hostile territory from Port Natal to British forces in Grahamstown to bring word of pending Boer attacks on his home garrison, Dick King’s epic journey through hostile territory nearly killed the frontiersman and his Zulu companion, who rode with him for part of the way.

Did you know?

Ten granite plinths were erected along the ‘Dick King route’ a century after Dick King's epic ride, to commemorate what he had done.

The route of South Africa’s most famous long-distance horse journey would take you through half of the modern-day provinces of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) and the Eastern Cape.

And you’d probably do it very comfortably in two days, with a pleasant stop in, say, Port St Johns, overnight.

However, the epic ride of Dick King – covering more than 950km in 10 days – took the Natal frontiersman through some of the wildest parts of South Africa in May and June 1842.

What is now the sunny South Coast of KZN – complete with beaches, restaurants, golf courses and surf spots – was a hardly charted series of rivers full of crocodiles, thickets full of predators and a Zulu nation not predisposed to colonists at the time.

But British forces at Port Natal (Durban) were besieged by Boers and King was commissioned – along with his 16-year-old servant, known as Ndongeni – to ride south to the British garrison at Grahamstown so a relief party could be organised.

By the 5th day, Ndongeni – who had ridden without stirrups – was exhausted and took refuge in a mission station in Pondoland before returning to Natal.

King rode on through the Eastern Cape and finally arrived in Grahamstown in shocking physical condition. While being questioned about conditions at Port Natal, he fell asleep from exhaustion.

British forces were dispatched by sea to Port Natal, and 1 month later King arrived on board the HMS Conch.

The man known as the ‘saviour of Natal’ was given some cash and a farm at Isipingo, where he managed a sugar mill until his death in 1871.

King, who had nearly perished crossing more than 100 rivers and being attacked by both Boers and Zulus en route, was self-effacing about it all while being interviewed by an adoring Natal press: ‘What is there to tell? I did no more than any Englishman would do for his country. I said I would get the message through, and I did it, and that's all there is to say ...’

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

KZN South Coast Tourism head office
Tel: +27 (0)39 682 7944
Email: admin@tourismsouthcoast.co.za

Makana (Grahamstown) Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)46 622 3241
Email: info@grahamstown.co.za

Wild Coast Holidays:
Tel: +27 (0)84 267 6354
Email: mailto:admin@wildcoastholidays.com.

How to get here

The Dick King route would take you from Durban to Grahamstown, crossing the N2 highway at various points. Granite plinths commemorating the ride were erected at various points along the route, including at Isipingo Beach, Port Shepstone, Butterworth, Komgha, King William's Town, Peddie and Bathurst. A marble plaque on the City Hall at Grahamstown records King's arrival there on 4 June 1842.

Best time to visit

Most of your route is on the coast. Any time of year is good to visit.

Tours to do

Check the Wild Coast Holidays website for tour guide information.

Get around

This route links the KZN South Coast to the Wild Coast of the Eastern Cape to Grahamstown. If you wanted to follow the route, you'd have to drive yourself.

Length of stay

The route could take you anything from 2 to 10 days, depending on how much time you want to spend at destinations along the way.

What to pack

Pack for the beach, the bush and possible showers – nothing formal.

Where to stay

See the listed South Coast, Wild Coast and Grahamstown websites for all your accommodation needs along the way.

What to eat

Catch of the day at the old family hotels along the Wild Coast.

What's happening

Check the listed websites for events along the route during your visit.

Best buys

Pondo crafts in and around Port St Johns.