A Recce in the Valley

This week’s recce trip – between Nagle & Inanda Dams – written by Penny.

More wild Africa – it just gets better and better. The uMngeniRiver has carved the valley deeper and much wider here than the section above Nagle Dam. Here the river is in it’s old age stage, approaching the coastal plains. From the young, small, bubbling stream below the source, through the narrow steep sided valleys between Howick Falls and Nagle Dam, here it the river flows slow, spread out over wide areas, with a wide flat expanse alongside the river much of the way.

The narrow tar road winds down tortuously from Cato Ridge, and just before the Dusi River we turn off and cut towards the coast and the uMngeni River. A quick look down at the last view of the Dusi and I see the first of many sand mining operations that supplies “Umgeni sand” to building suppliers.

All around us, green hills rise up from the river, homesteads dotting the hills, vast areas of open, wild and natural bush between them. We pass a container size block of post boxes perched alone on a hill where the river can be seen far below. Monday – washing day, bright colours hanging on fences, and cattle resting on the road.

We crest a hill and the geology is suddenly different. Gone are the steep slopes topped by red sandstone cliffs below flat grasslands. Now these steep bush clad sides are broken by rounded granite outcrops, forming whole hills like “Old Baldy” – a whole mountain of bare smooth granite.

The hills take on a more “rolling” shape as the previously narrow valley opens up.

After all the recent rain, much of the granite gleams in the sunlight as trickles and sheets of water flow over the rock, either wetting the whole surface, or forming waterfalls.

We turn off on a dirt road and wind down, down, down to drive alongside and cross the river, then we are climbing up and up twisting and turning with unbelievable views over the valleys. The sand road, covered in fine loose stones, makes the wheels of the bakkie spin on some of the sharper corners where we have to slow to a crawl. In the far distance, TableMountain, or Mkambatini stands sentinel over it all. And then I see it – the infamous Mamba Gorge. This is where all canoeists get out and portage during the Dusi. This is an area that, so far, I have found no one yet who has walked or seen the gorge. A massive horse shoe bend, the wide slow river suddenly hits an outcropping of what I guess is more dolerite – from afar it looks white.  The river has carved out this rock over the millennia, finding a course over and between the rocks and round the massive bend. I have been told different stories about the gorge’s name – “it is as dangerous for canoeists as walking into a nest of Mambas”, “its because of all the mambas there”, “its named after the pair of breeding mambas in a certain thorn tree that all locals give a wide berth” are three of the reasons I have been given for the name.

Below Mamba Gorge, the splendour of the area hits me as I look downstream and all I see are wild green hills and valleys, seemingly untouched by mans hand – it is one of those moments when all you can say is WOW!

We pass kids hanging around on a pipeline, young men and their dogs resting from the midday heat in the shade of the trading store.

 And then the road climbs again as I stare out the window, awed into silence at the vastness of the rolling hills and valleys stretching as far as the eye can see. Crest the hill, and below lies Inanda Dam, with the ocean seemingly an arms length behind the dam.

How blessed am I to see all this, to have my roots so deep in this beautiful African soil and to be part of this beautiful land.


About Nikki Brighton

I live in Howick, between the river and the hills. I enjoy pre-dawn walks in the streets with my dog, sitting on the veranda with crochet and tea, and harvesting vegetables outside the kitchen door.
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