Wagendrift Dam - Estcourt
21-23 January 2011

Report by Christie Exall
Photos courtesy of Brian Henwood


Go no further than the WAGENDRIFT DAM & Nature Reserve just outside the town of Estcourt in Kwa Zulu Natal. The area is breathlessly beautiful & lush. Six hikers enjoyed this weekend with Brian Henwood, being the leader. Amongst them Libby’s delightful granddaughter Natalie.

Late Friday afternoon we pitched our tents right on the water’s edge on lush grassed camp sites. The camp site is spotless with very good & clean ablutions. After making ourselves comfortable we relaxed with a beer & enjoyed a braai followed by a swim at dusk.

Though rain was predicted, Saturday morning was cool and lightly overcast as we drove off to meet Linda & Jeff in the MOOR PARK Reserve about 10kms away to the South of the dam. We ventured onto the FURROW TRAIL which follows the course of an old irrigation furrow, built in 1903. We sighted quite a lot of game such as Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala & Blesbok. Towards the Southern side of the dam we came across exposed fossilised trees. Then a steep climb took us back to the road. By this time most of us had bleeding cuts & scratches due to plentiful thorn trees in the area & now pesky flies descended on us in large numbers.

Lunch was enjoyed halfway up the mountain also to the South of the dam. Jeff called it a “koppie” but I think he changed his mind about that after we set off again after lunch! By now Brian wanted to get to the top of this “koppie” but we settled for a steep climb up to the krantzes, which we followed for ages, or so it seemed. This “koppie” rises to 1 549 m above msl and is known as Makhabeni Hill. Information provided by KZN Wildlife says that the Guiness Book of Records describes the area as the site of the first known settlement in Southern Africa, around the eleventh century.

Natalie, who is only eight years old, became the star of our hike. She just kept on going, never complained! She completed the hike, which was long & taxing on the steep mountain slopes. Libby just kept on going, carrying her granddaughter’s backpack as well, loaded with nice pieces of wood & rocks which caught Natalie’s fancy.

Our hike was longer than we anticipated, our drinking water was running low & we were getting hot & tired. Linda & Jeff treated us with glasses of cold orange juice back at the cars…….bless your souls! What a wonderful gesture, it was just what we needed!

Once back at the camp site we quickly changed into our costumes, jumped into the water and oh….what bliss! Again a wonderful braai was had with dark clouds & rumbling thunder threatening. So it was off to bed in our cosy tents.

We woke up next morning at 06h00 with the sound of Brian’s tent poles being dismantled. I looked out of my tent and I saw that the sky towards the South-West was very dark with heavy clouds & big rains looming. We broke up camp in record time and so a wonderful weekend came sadly to an end with everyone leaving early.

Thanks again Brian, Libby, Jeff, Linda and the most important member of the team, Natalie. Natalie I really enjoyed your swimming with me!
Christie Exall