This map plots the settings and references in Cry, the Beloved Country

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Ixopo, KwaZulu Natal (KZN)
A view of Ixopo, from the Buddhist Retreat Centre
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumA view of Ixopo, from the Buddhist Retreat Centre - Credit: Buddhist Retreat Centre Ixopo

Ixopo is a small town in the interior of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. 

The area was surveyed in 1878 and was initially named Stuartstown.  The local Zulus however called it eXobo, capturing the sound of cattle squelching through the mud – the 'x' is pronounced as a click – and this proved the more enduring name.  The muddiness it evokes is appropriate – the town lies high up in the mountains, almost 2,000m above sea level, and the area is often shrouded in mist.

Ixopo hills
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumIxopo hills - Credit: Buddhist Retreat Centre Ixopo

The Umzinto–Donnybrook narrow gauge railway was built in 1908. It ran for 93 miles, from Kelso to Donnybrook, passing through Umzinto, Highflats and Ixopo.  The line was constructed using second-hand rails, salvaged from track upgrades on Cape gauge railways.  Various sections of the railway closed between 1985 and 1987.  The Ixopo to Umzinkulu branch was rebuilt in 2000 by the Paton’s Country Narrow Gauge Railway as a tourist attraction.

Misty morning in Ixopo
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumMisty morning in Ixopo - Credit: Buddhist Retreat Centre Ixopo

Places of interest near Ixopo include the Mariathal Mission and the Buddhist Retreat Centre.  The Retreat Centre has been awarded National Heritage status for its efforts to establish indigenous vegetation and provide a natural habitat for the endangered Blue Swallow.

The Carisbrooke Valley lies about 10 kilometres outside Ixopo, in the shade of Mount Nyeza.  The settlement of Ndotsheni in the novel is based on nearby Nokweja.  The dominant agricultural activities in the region are sugar cane cultivation and forestry, beef and dairy farming, and small scale subsistence farming.