UMGENI VALLEY HIKE
11 August 2002
It was a beautiful Sunday morning when 20 keen hikers met at the reserve offices at 08h30 After registering, Bea, Aris, Merle, Lynn, Deneys, Campbell, Jack and Joy, Libby, Noel and Morris, Martin and Erica, Carolyn, Tessa, Anne, Joan, Bridget, Margaret and Keith (Leader) made our way in vehicles to park at the Indulo Car Park. On the way we saw lovely views of the Howick falls from the far side and groups of Zebra and Blesbok.
We were soon hiking along the top of the escarpment looking towards Albert Falls Dam which we could see in the distance as well as magnificent views down into the Umgeni Valley. After about half an hour we reached the small picnic site complete with concrete table and benches. Whilst having a rest we were able to spot four giraffe, small herds of blue wildebeest and zebra, some nyala and impala in the valley below.
Next we retraced our steps for a short distance before descending steeply (including climbing down a ladder) to the Dwarfs Dawdle Trail, working our way gradually back along the base of sheer rock faces (ducking and diving under the indigenous vegetation) to the Indulo Car Park, where one of our group decided she would abort the hike, spend a leisurely day and wait for us to complete the day. However as we were less than one third of the distance into our planned hike the rest of us descended and admired the beautiful white blossom of the Dombeya trees (wild pear) on the way to Indulo Camp where we had a rest for drinks in the lovely shaded areas.
Further descent followed into the Umgeni Valley and after a short while crossed the Umgeni River using the primitive bridges (gum poles and slats with no handrails) which caused a little concern to some of our party. But we all got safely across and continued walking up river roughly parallel to it on this opposite side. After making our way through a dry bushveld area where Acacias (thorn trees) dominate we reached the confluence of the Rietspruit and Umgeni and had a well-earned rest and lunch besides the Rietspruit under the shade of the waterberry trees, which line the stream. There is a precarious rope swing above the stream at this point but none of our party braved this option (we must all be getting too old – or sensible).
After a good rest and cool off (it was a hot sunny day) we retraced our steps and eventually made our way back across the bridges, this time a bit more confidently before continuing up river on the right hand bank of the Umgeni through beautiful scenery and tree covered areas, admiring a variety of bird life on our way to the Inkonka Camp. Another nice rest was enjoyed here next to the huts and boma in the shade of the trees. As with Indulo Camp this camp facility has drinking water, flush toilets and showers. Next it was an uphill climb as part of the Black Eagle Trail; luckily in the shade of indigenous trees and bush, but we all soon got a sweat on as we climbed out of the valley. Before reaching the top of the escarpment we turned right through the shelter of more bush, climbing gently to the top of the escarpment for more fantastic views. It was a fairly easy walk along the top of the escarpment as we enjoyed great views and lovely blossoms all the back to Indulo Car Park.
We again met up with our other hiker who had had a lovely leisurely day, so everyone enjoyed a great day in the fresh air.