MZIKI TRAIL

1- 4 September 2002

 

The Mziki Trail is part of a trail system planned to link St Lucia Estuary with Cape Vidal and has qualified to be included in the National Hiking Way.   It is about 40km in length, takes three days to cover, and is laid out in one of the most remarkable areas of South Africa.

Experiences on this trail are both varied and unique.   The walk along the northern KwaZulu-Natal seashore, the open grasslands of the Eastern Shores, the dense forests clothing the spectacular coastal dunes, when combined with the scintillating views of the Indian Ocean and the magic of the great St Lucia complex, all add up to a well-earned memory.    The trail is limited to 8 persons and on Sunday 1st September our group of 8 members, Campbell & Lorraine, Merle, Selven & Prema, Irene, Keith (leader) & Margaret met at Mission Rocks office at 11h00.   I had previously persuaded Dirk (the Officer in Charge) to allow us permission to drive our 4x4 vehicles to the Mount Tabor Base Camp (a Second World War converted RAF radar observation post) and this allowed us to take more goodies.    Without a 4x4 and the special permission it is about a 2km walk from the office to the hut at Mount Tabor and we had walked this carrying backpacks as well as cool boxes and daypacks on a previous occasion.

 

Three marked trail routes collectively make up the Mziki Trail, each starting from the hut at Mount Tabor.   There has always been an abundance of hippos and crocodiles  in the St Lucia Wetlands but since the recent introduction of other wild game species (including elephant), trailists have now to be accompanied by an armed Field Ranger.

 

We had glorious weather the whole time and after a leisurely lunch on the first day we set off on the Lake Trail which is about 10km long and initially heads in a westerly direction through indigenous forest, past the Mfazana freshwater pan.   We sat for a while at this pan watching many hippo and crocodile at very close quarters as well an abundance of bird-life with many species of waterfowl and several different species of antelope in the distance.   From this pan the trail goes over open grassland until it reaches the shore of Lake St Lucia.   At this point the trail swings north along the lakeshore for about 1,5km, before swinging back to Mount Tabor.   Trail users are advised to be cautious when near the pans or lake, as hippos are plentiful and often lie-up in the indigenous forest during the day. (This adds to the excitement of the trail).

 

We had an early start on the second day, ready to commence the longest trail which is about 20km.    Lorraine and Merle decided to have a leisurely day in the vicinity of the base camp.   This trail takes you through areas that are remote and relatively free of the sights and sounds of man.   It heads northwards along Mount Tabor ridge, then drops down into Bokkie Valley where reedbuck abound (we also saw several zebra and the spoor of a new herd of elephants which had only been introduced into the area this August).   From here the trail leads through forested dunes before returning  to Mount Tabor via a magnificent 8km stretch of uninhabited coastline.

 

On day three we did the other 10km trail which leads in a southerly direction.   The outbound section meanders through open hillsides, indigenous dune forest and pine plantation.   Most of the return leg is along rocky but beautiful coastline where tidal pools abound with interesting marine life.   During this walk we followed fresh elephant spoor and nearly had some close encounters which seemed to scare the armed Field Ranger far more than it did us.

 

Mount Tabor hut is comfortable and contains bunks, mattresses, a table, some benches, oil lamps, a three-burner gas hob, small fridge/freezer and some cooking and eating utensils. Rainwater is used for drinking & there is a primitive shower.   The hut commands magnificent views, as does the toilet.   This trail is highly commended & is a must for members who have not yet tried it.

Keith Ashton