UMGENI VALLEY NATURE RESERVE - SUN 26 JAN 2014 - LEADER KEITH ASHTON

Report and photos courtesy of Keith Ashton
[CLICK ON PHOTOS TO VIEW FULL SIZE]


Sixteen of us met at the Umgeni Valley office at 08h00 on a beautiful Sunday morning but not too hot. We left our vehicles near the office & made our way down the grass track to the top of Shelter Falls Valley & then climbed down into the valley to the top of the falls to look straight down to the pool below - a magnificent wild view so close to Howick.

From here we walked upstream & then across it twice to get close to the "Cascades", another beautiful & peaceful spot - a bit of care was needed as the last section was a bit overgrown with slippery rocks in places (as Neville discovered when he slipped - but no real harm done). We re-traced our steps & then climbed out of the valley on the opposite side of the stream & continued on the grassy well maintained track above the valley which was lush & lovely & green with numerous wild flowers.(Shelter Falls Camp can be seen down in this valley).

Further along we had the impressive view of Howick Falls (far away from the normal tourist platform). I was then able to point out the Hydro Generating Plant building (well below the falls & right next to the Umgeni River) as well as all the history associated with it. After a while we reached a view point & then headed down-hill towards Inkonka Camp but turned off this track onto the Black Eagle Trail which runs high along the escarpment with great views looking down & along the Umgeni River & eventually Albert Falls Dam comes into view. From here we walked above the two cottages (which have lovely views & can be booked for a fee) & then down the steep track to Indulu Camp where we had a leisurely lunch & re-filled our water bottles.

Having done 7.5 km at this point I gave the group the option of returning via a different route to our vehicles (this would have meant a hike of about 15km total) or going a bit further to Cycad Camp - the consensus was to carry on to Cycad Camp, however after a short while one of our ladies' knees gave trouble so it was decided that 4 ladies would return via the "easiest" route & Neville kindly volunteered to accompany the ladies so all was well.

The remainder of our group carried on to Cycad Camp where we had a short rest & admired the surroundings as well as trying out the "swinging chairs". From here we made our way back via a different route along the Umgeni River to Inkonka Camp but this route had not been maintained & was quite overgrown but not really a problem. Inkonka Camp unfortunately has not been maintained for a year or two & gets further overgrown as time passes by (probably due to WESSA'S lack of funds) - this used to be a lovely camp. From here (after having already done many km) we had the challenging climb out of the valley (now also hot & humid) & several hikers took a bit of strain but after a bit of encouragement bravely carried on to finish a lovely hike of 18km.

Thanks to all the participants for your company & friendship on the hike & well done to everybody (Especially to James who was on his first hike with the club) - Thanks also to Neville for taking care of the ladies who returned from Indulu Camp.



1. Shelter Falls looking down onto pool
2. Ladies please don't jump
3. The Cascades - Shelter Stream
4. Penny looking happy after viewing the Cascades



5. Making our way back from the Cascades
6. The bottoms way to cross a stream
7. Nearly all safely across Shelter Stream
8. Climbing out of Shelter Stream Valley
9. Everything looking lush in the valley



10. Howick Falls from a distance
11. Closer view of Howick Falls
12. Keeping an eye on our group
13. Our happy group of hikers



14. Part of spectacular groups of watsonias
15. Watsonia close-up
16. Hillside covered with watsonias & wild agapanthus
17. Striking red plants amidst the green - botanists identify please



18. Marlise having a swinging time at Cycad Camp
19. Wendy looking apprehensive on a swing
20. General view at Cycad Camp
21. An unusual door handle to the sleeping quarters



22. This wildebeest has seen better days
23. The inevitable climb out of the valley
24. Still climbing
25. Will this climb ever end
26. Now only a few more km to complete our 18km hike

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