TUGELA (" Startling"), a river of south-east Africa, the largest in Natal. It drains, with its tributaries, an area of about 8000 sq. m. The river valley is some 190 m. in length, the river, which has an exceedingly sinuous course is fully 300 m. long. It rises, at an altitude of nearly ii,000 ft. in the Drakensberg mountains on the eastern face of the Mont aux Sources, down which it leaps in a nearly perpendicular fall of 1800 ft.
The river, which starts its race to the ocean with a north-east course, soon bends more directly east, and, with many windings north and south, maintains this general direction across the tableland of north Natal until its junction with the Buffalo river, when it turns south. On its northern bank in its upper course are the heights of Spion Kop and Vaal Kranz, and on its southern bank, 56 m. east in a direct line from its source, is the village of Colenso, all three places being the scene of ineffectual attempts (Dec. 18 99Feb. 1900) by the British troops under General Sir Redvers Buller to dislodge the Boers who blocked the road to Ladysmith. Below Colenso are more waterfalls, and above the river is Pieter's Hill, the storming of which by the British, on the 27th of February 1900 at length led to the relief of Ladysmith. Six miles lower down the Tugela receives the Klip, which rises in the Drakensberg near Van Reenen's Pass and flows by Ladysmith. Another northern tributary is the Sunday's river, which rises in the Biggarsberg. From the south the river is increased by several affluents, the chief being the Mooi (Beautiful) river. The Tugela-Mooi confluence is 44 m. south-east of Colenso at the base of the Biggarsberg. Seven miles farther down the Tugela joins the Buffalo river, the united stream retaining, however, the name Tugela. The Buffalo has its origin in the Drakensberg near Majuba Hill and flows south with, also, a general trend to east. In its course, which is very winding, it receives numerous tributaries, one of them being the Ingogo, a small stream whose name recalls the fight on its banks on the 8th of February 1881, between British and Boers. The chief affluents are the Ingagani (from the south-west) and the Blood (from the north-east), the last-named so called after the defeat of the Zulu king Dingaan, on the 16th of December 1838, by the Boers under Andries Pretorius, when the river ran red with the blood of the Zulus. Eighteen miles in a direct line below the Blood confluence is Rorke's Drift, or ford across the river, and some 12 m. south-east of the drift is the hill of Isandhlwana, both places rendered famous in the Zulu War of 1878-79. The junction with the Tugela is 30 m. in a direct line, farther south, the Buffalo river in that distance passing through a wooded and hilly region.
Below the confluence of the two streams the Tugela flows southeast in a deep channel between lofty cliffs, or through wild, stonestrewn valleys until it reaches the narrow coast belt. Its mouth is nearly closed by a sand bar, formed by the action of the ocean. The Tugela is thus useless for navigation. About 6 m. above the mouth are two forts, Pearson and Tenedos, built by the British in 1879, during the war with the Zulus, to guard the passage of the river. Generally fordable in the winter months, the Tugela is, after the heavy rains of summer, a deep and rapid river. It is crossed, some 5 m. above the forts, by a railway bridge - the longest bridge in South Africa. From the junction of the Blood river with the Buffalo, that stream and subsequently the Tugela form the boundary between Natal and Zululand.
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